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Towards a more open dialogue around place

Posted on 8 September 2014

Written by:

Sophia de Sousa

Recently many place organisations and institutions have met to discuss the desire for collective action and stewardship on place, prompted by The Farrell Review of Architecture + The Built Environment (1). Emerging from this is the idea of a new Place Alliance.

My vision for a Place Alliance is an open network of people and organisations that are passionate about the quality of place. This alliance should connect ideas, action and resources, creating a shared space for open and inclusive dialogue, encouraging and supporting cross-pollination and collaborative action, and drawing on a holistic view and experience of place.

It should invite the designers, users, custodians, managers and those who maintain place to be part of the conversation and part of the solution to improving the quality of our places. It would bring together built environment professionals with those who have led community-based initiatives, local authority chief executives or officers, parks maintenance providers, academics, students etc. Anyone who is passionate about this should simply be able to sign up and join in, regardless of their age, gender, ethnicity, profession and so on.

This approach is based on the notion of cultural change, of a movement of people and organisations standing up and saying that place is important and that they want to work together to make great places a reality for everyone.

To be free of any one organisation’s agenda, the structure to support this alliance should not sit within an existing body, though any new body should be small, nimble and there to support, rather than lead the alliance.

At a time in which we are all striving towards sustainability, and towards making the most out of our ever more challenged resources, let’s look at what we have and how best to use it. All over the UK we have individuals and organisations leading by example in place. The question is how best we can harness that energy, knowledge and action and help it grow.


(1) The Farrell Review of Architecture + The Built Environment was undertaken in 2013 by Sir Terry Farrell by invitation of Ed Vaizey MP, Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries. The review looked at collective efforts in the UK to plan and design the built environment and engaged government, institutions, agencies, industry and members of the public.

In July 2014, The Big Meet event was held at Bartlett UCL, convened by Professor Matthew Carmona.  This event brought together representatives from some 80 organisations with an interest in quality of place to explore the recommendations of the Farrell Review and what a new place leadership for England might look like.