The Glass-House Debate Series 2015/16, A Place for Everyone? took place in Edinburgh, Manchester, Nottingham and London, exploring themes of sharing, belonging, rights and responsibilities and the elements that come together to make a place thrive.

Project date: 2015-16

The story

The theme ‘A Place for Everyone?’ emerged from many different conversations we were having in our work around the common elements in place that bring us together, the points of tension within them, and the role of the individual and the community.

Working in partnership with the Open University and the Academy of Urbanism, we explored how we design and shape our environment today to create a place for everyone and what that means for concepts like shared assets and common good, alongside individual aspirations, ownership, diversity and, rights and responsibilities. As always, we addressed different facets of the theme in four cities across the UK, with interaction through our online networks throughout the series.

Place: designed for sharing? // Edinburgh, 21 October 2015
In Edinburgh, speakers Riccardo Marini (Gehl Architects), Catriona Macaulay (Scottish Government) and Sandra Sutton (Twechar Community Action) shared deeply personal experiences of trying to create spaces for sharing and interacting, tackling obstacles ranging from prejudices to technical guidelines, social policy and funding gaps. Panellists and audience members spoke with passion about the need for us to look beyond the accepted norms and preconceived notions about how places should look and feel, how they should operate and who they should serve. There was consensus in the room that we should always start with people and their physical, emotional and social needs, and find ways to create spaces that offer something to people, rather than fulfilling targets or strategies.

Place: the sum of parts? // Manchester, 11 November 2015
Speakers David Rudlin (URBED), Matt Fenton (Contact) and Lynda Shillaw (Manchester Airport Group) picked up the theme of agency again, but also the organic changes that happen to places over time. We considered the need to think differently about how we shape places, based not just on what we know about the past, but also our present and our future. We explored how new and unlikely collaborations that cross disciplines and sectors could be catalysts for us interacting differently with our environment. In the same way, a building or space could be a catalyst for social transformation and could help build connections, confidence and opportunity.

Place: a shared responsibility? // Nottingham, 3 February 2016
Our speakers Michelle Saxton (Broxtowe Education, Skills and Training), Cllr Graham Chapman (Nottingham City Council) and Robert Evans (Evans Vettori Architects) explored the balance between our rights and responsibilities as members of a community to play a role in shaping our environment. A key message that emerged from the open discussion with the audience was that many felt they did not have the agency, a sense of permission and opportunity, to change the environment around them and that the paternalistic relationship between local authorities and their communities needs to change.

Place: who belongs here? // London, 9 March 2016
Amina Gichinga (Take Back The City), Des Bourne ( Skanska) and Radhika Bynon, (The Young Foundation) sparked a lively discussion about our sense of belonging and ownership in our neighbourhoods. People spoke of the risk of new development driving out local tradition and culture, but also the potential for regeneration and development to be positive catalysts for change. Members of the audience spoke of the importance of community-led alternatives to large-scale housing development and shared stories of the development and maintenance of small spaces managed by local people and embedded in local activities and networks.


A Place for Everyone? built on a long-standing interest at The Glass-House in how we perceive our role in shaping the places around us, both as individuals and a collective. The strength of emotion, the frustrations but also the dogged optimism of the people who joined our Debate discussions was striking.

The strongest theme across the Series was around agency. What rights do we have when it comes to shaping places, either through formal development and regeneration or through organic and incremental change? Do we feel empowered to take up those rights, and if not, what is standing in our way? How much of agency is reliant on our own confidence, but also sense of responsibility to take us and use our power to change?

The Glass-House continues to explore all of these questions through our work. They remain at the heart of our championing and innovation in empowering design practices.


Place: designed for sharing?
Podcast // Round-up // Think piece #1

Place: the sum of parts?
Podcast // Round-up // Think piece #1 #2 #3

Place: a shared responsibility
Podcast // Round-up // Think piece #1 #2 #3

Place: who belongs here?
Podcast // Round-up // Think piece #1 #2 #3