Place Potential, The Glass-House Debate Series 2013/14 asked a series of questions aimed at encouraging people to think differently about how to unlock potential in people and places.

Project date: 2013-2014

The Story

Place potential means a lot to The Glass-House Community Led Design. Unlocking the potential of a place to provide the best possible environment in which people can thrive is at the heart of everything we do. We wanted to encourage people to think differently about how to reach place potential so we challenged our panels and audiences to consider what each of them could do, with whom and how they collaborate differently.

Can we improve health through placemaking? // Edinburgh, 9 October 2013
The Scottish government’s strategy linking the impact of our places with our health and wellbeing, Good Places, Better Health, was a key driver for this debate and the discussion explored the challenges of carrying that through to the local level. Speakers Sheila Beck (NHS Scotland), Andrew Burrell (The Burrell Company) and Linda McLean (Bespoken network member) highlighted the failure to connect the dots and collaborate in order to improve our places – and consequently – our wellbeing. Better education could raise awareness of the relationship between health and our environment, the differences in how we live and the effect that we have on our environment.

Can young people be placemakers? // Newcastle, 20 November 2013
‘Yes!’ was the resounding cry from our panel and audience alike at the second debate in this series featuring Kevin Franks from Regional Youth Work North East, Nasim Nejabat, an ArchiGRAD volunteer, Leah Spoor, Board Director and volunteer at Blakelaw Ward Community Partnership and Dhruv Sookhoo, Head of Design at Home Group. We explored some of the barriers to engagement for young people including language, labels and the way in which adults’ aspirations and values are often superimposed onto young people. Some in the room argued for an intergenerational approach to engagement, pointing out that older people often face similar issues to young people in terms of their inclusion (or lack thereof) in design processes. Ideas for leading change included supporting a peer-led approach that upskills young people to work with other young people to lead and inform change.

Should we build less and reuse more? // Bristol, 5 February 2014
In this debate we explored the challenges of building more sustainably, with an acknowledgement that while we need to build more to house a growing global population, we also need to build better. Speaker Kieran Lilley of architecture practice Stride Treglown reflected on the challenges of negotiating design briefs that are focused on short-term gains rather than long-term adaptive futures, while developer Kevin Bridge (Cubex Land) showed how creative retrofitting leads to cheaper running costs over time. People were frustrated that when we have so much knowledge about how to create great places, we are failing to deliver them. According to Chris Chalkley (People’s Republic of Stokes Croft) we need to address equality and liberty if we want to affect real change.

Can housing be a catalyst for great places? // London, 12 March 2014
With speakers Elspeth McKenzie (Thrive Homes), Angela Moore (Tabot Centre), architect Fran Balaam and Cllr Fiona Colley (Southwark), this debate explored how the quality of housing affects the overall quality of a place. Successful places are fluid and respond to change and while housing is often an anchor to a place, local amenities and public spaces are also critical to great places where people want to live, as is community participation and management. In a London-based event it was impossible to ignore the economic imperative in the production of housing, but there was a call to unlock the opportunities that this offers to invest in and empower communities through these processes, to challenge the fear of risk-taking and to let people in.

GH13-14 debate series flyer


The four debates each covered a theme that we could have dedicated an entire series to. As well as our four debates in Edinburgh, Newcastle, Bristol and London, the Series brought together a range of viewpoints and ideas through guest think pieces and social media engagement. You can read the think pieces in our Explore section.

Our Debate Series challenges people to think and act differently and In Edinburgh, we were delighted that 100% of our audience said they would do something differently as result of the debate. The range of voices and perspectives in the room was what our Bristol audience most valued about the debate.


Place Potential
Reflections from The Glass-House Debate Series 2013/14

Can we improve health through placemaking?
Podcast / Round-up / Think piece #1Think piece #2

Can young people be placemakers?
Podcast / Round-up / Think piece #1Think piece #2

Should we build less and reuse more?
Podcast / Round-up / Think piece #1

Can housing be a catalyst for great places?
Podcast / Round-up /  Think piece #1Think piece #2Think piece #3