NLA Conference - Investing in Space

Last week, we attended the half-day conference ‘Investing in Place: How do we deliver public spaces for all Londoners?’ organised by New London Architecture (NLA), as part of their ongoing Placemaking & Public Realm programme.

The conference was chaired by Polly Plunket-Checkemian, Head of Strategy at Broadgate Estates and throughout the day we heard from a variety of interesting speakers, including Emma Cariaga, Senior Project Director for Canada Water, British Land; James Cooksey, Director of Central London, The Crown Estate; Katherine Fleming, Operations Director, The Northbank BID; Lucy Musgrave, Director of Publica; Martyn Evans, Founder of Uncommon; Sue Foster, Strategic Director Neighbourhoods and Growth, London Borough of Lambeth; Paul Harper, Area Manager Regeneration South London, Greater London Authority and Selina Mason, Board Director of LDA Design.

Emma Cariaga started off the morning speaking about investment in the public realm from her experiences of working for British Land in Canada Water. Cariaga really emphasised the importance of ‘3 golden rules’:
1. ‘Phase Zero’: Start master-planning and local community engagement early
2. Seed your project and then let it grow
3. Over-invest to create quality of place and long-term value

From The Crown Estate, James Cooksey talked about different approaches to evolving Central London and explained that ‘you need a complimentary series of uses in a place that work together in order to create value… its all about creating the right setting for retail, restaurants and offices to be able to work in unison’. Cooksey explained that the key to creating meaningful change in these spaces is to have a long-term perspective. Director of Publica, Lucy Musgrave agreed with this later in the day when she discussed that ‘the joy of being in an urban landscape is having a sheer variety of perspectives’.

From the London Borough of Lambeth, Sue Foster spoke of borough-led placemaking, explaining that Lambeth work as a facilitator with other collaborators in order to develop spaces. Foster explained that direct working with the local communities is key to the success of a place and it is also very important in terms of encouraging local buy-in.

Sustainability was another fundamental aspect discussed, with regards to developing the spaces in Lambeth, and so revenue systems are set up within public spaces where possible, for example cafés or workspace are built within parks in order to financially support the area for years to come. Foster stated that, ‘it can’t just be about physical change, but it’s about the people and how they use the space’.

It was refreshing that this concept seemed to be the overarching view from all of the speakers and Selina Mason summed up the day perfectly when she said that, ‘we experience cities as the spaces in between the buildings’. She emphasised that we ‘should push ourselves to really think about socially accessible and inclusive design,’ since our priorities in developing the urban landscape should always be ‘first life, then landscape and then buildings’.

Through supporting and commissioning local artists work placemaking is at the heart of Dais Contemporary's mission; to create beautiful and meaningful spaces in London and abroad.