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A Letter to Future Placemakers from Toni Dyer Miller

Posted on 22 November 2021

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Guest Author

For our new blog series ‘A Letter to Future Placemakers’, we’re showcasing letters that thoughtfully share learning points from your lived and/or professional experience with the placemakers of the future. Through this open call, we are asking you to define your audience and place to call your future placemakers to action. Who will shape the future of our towns and cities, and what do you want them to know?

Toni Dyer Miller shares her thoughts below.

Dear future placemakers,

You’re probably teenagers right now making your own little tweaks to your strict uniform rules, or maybe children making their way to the very top of the climbing frame – fearless! My message to you is don’t stop that. Don’t stop dreaming, don’t stop thinking outside of the box and being bold and fearless because your imagination can one day create great spaces.

The world is full of brilliant differences and diversity, and it is amazing when our spaces reflect that brilliance. With the uptake in collaborative design amongst architects, councils and other initiatives that test ideas and encourage a different approach to placemaking, such as;

Spaces are now being built or adapted for the communities that use them rather than communities adapting to spaces that aren’t fit for them.

Figure 1: “swing time” – 20 illuminated swings in three sizes designed by Höweler + Yoon.

Future placemakers should design so that people don’t have to demand space, and instead be able to experience space actively being created for them. To one day have space reflect a true sense of inclusivity, future placemakers should be willing to adapt to change. The demographics of people that occupy spaces change over time, and buildings should change with this. When someone comes over to visit, you’ll ask them “what would you like to eat?”, if they respond saying “nothing too spicy please, because I can’t take the heat” you’ll probably adapt the dish and not include chilli right? Well, if we want to welcome new communities into spaces properly, we need to allow spaces to evolve over time to suit these changing communities.

Spaces are now beginning to represent the people inside them. Design spaces that reflect the character of the community. A great example of space evolution to match cultural change is the Manchester LGBT+ centre. Below shows the before, a time when many of the LGBT+ community would experience prejudice and prefer to hide that part of their identity. The after shows the clear cultural shift that shows boldness and pride to encapsulate how society has changed to celebrate the LGBT+ community.

The Joyce Layland LGBT Centre
Image credit: Urbed

We have many young activists such as Greta Thunberg, a climate activist, Malala Yousafzai, womens’ and girls education activist, Marley Diaz, diverse representation activist, Desmond is Amazing, LGBTQ+ youth visibility activist and the list goes on! My message to our future placemakers is to join them in standing out, be brave and bold and let our buildings, neighbourhoods, playgrounds, parks, schools, high-streets and, restaurants be inviting to all and a reflection of all.

Be inclusive.

Toni Dyer Miller is a Marketing and Digital Communications professional. She is currently an Engagement Assistant at Karakusevic Carson Architects. She also freelances with The Glass-House.