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Visioning Sustainable Places during Green Sky Thinking week

Posted on 26 April 2013

Written by:

Melissa Lacide

As part of Open City’s ‘Green Sky Thinking’ week (15-19 April), we ran a breakfast workshop ‘People, Place and Value: Visioning Sustainable Places’ at the distinctive 3 Space Hub, at Victoria Embankment in Blackfriars.  ‘Mapping Sustainable London’ was the theme for Green Sky Thinking 2013 and our workshop explored how we can collaborate to develop a sustainable vision for neighbourhoods as well as consider spatial complexities and the value of creating places with people.

The room brought together a mix of community groups members, students, and professionals in the design, housing and charity sectors.  Each participant was given a stakeholder role and then divided into three themed groups –  ‘people’, place’ or ‘value’ – where themes from green spaces and wayfinding to local services and employment were explored in their attempts to create a vision for a sustainable neighbourhood.

This group created a neighbourhood that initially focused on homes and explored this in relation to schools, services, accessibility and mobility.  There were discussions about the potential conflict of different users and uses of space as well as the location of buildings.  The outcome was a central and social space for people to gather.

The group reflected on the importance of a need for common ground and an understanding of people’s priorities in order to work towards creating a clear vision.

This group initially approached building a neighbourhood by looking at space in an everyday way (with consideration of bus stops, green spaces, retail spaces and a hospital).  They also reviewed the functionality of space to think about how people and values integrate.

During the process, challenges were considered around what is aspirational and practical alongside what is wanted and needed in a neighbourhood.  Questions were raised about a sense of place and how it can be generated as well as around physical boundaries and scale.

This group built a place first and then added the values afterwards, particularly conscious about values that are shared (social, spatial, financial and environmental).  The group moved towards creating a neighbourhood that mixed both values and spaces more fairly and established opportunities for employment and local economy.

Throughout the process alliances and negotiations started to take place between stakeholders.  This was around mutual exchanges as well as the allocation of space for green transport, environmental groups, local businesses and parks.  One participant asked “Why build up?  Why not plan to encourage people to walk to work?”. The group reflected that some values are missed when a number of stakeholders are excluded and there is a need for independently facilitated discussions that enable other viewpoints to be heard.

The discussions were engaging and left us all thinking more deeply and sensitively about:
•    What are the enablers and barriers to collaborative placemaking?
•    How do different user groups use and respond to place?
•    What are the different values that exist and what are the differences in these values?
•    What is a sustainable place?