public art

A Place for Creativity? Conference review

By Tom Evans

The third annual conference on art and urban design organised by RUDI, in partnership with Milton Keynes Gallery and David Lock Associates, took place on 15th July to explore creativity in placemaking and the input of art and other creative activity in place development.

Creativity in placemaking: who can make good spaces happen?

By Juliana O'Rourke

Unlocking creativity in placemaking doesn't need to depend on huge budgets or complex megaplans. Successful places inspire, engage and surprise. Urban environments that make the most of existing place assets and ‘energise’ or activate our places and spaces is what most of us are looking for.

We know that this doesn't need to be rocket science. We've seen popular, creative places emerge before our very eyes – often created on tiny budgets. We like the recent spate of 'pop-up' amenities, from a Lido on the roof of London's Hayward Gallery; an outdoor community living room in a disused rooftop carpark; community gardens in neglected council-owned green spaces; play areas on mothballed development sites; a summertime urban forest on a public riverside walkway and numerous creative galleries and workshop hubs housed in recession-hit empty high street shops.

The Urban Room: Who is responsible for creativity in public space?

In London, says architect Michel Mossessian, it is currently city planners who are responsible for defining (and defending) public spaces, but in reality their role is that of negotiator: they negotiate with property developers to guarantee the requisite contribution to the public realm, which is quantified through categories such as public art, green space and so on. This leaves little margin for creative thinking.

Shouldn't it be the role and responsibility of the architect to think through and define public spaces? he asks.

Shared space: a proper Peer review

By John Dales

John Dales is on the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment’s enabling panel and is also the independent design advisor on streets to the city of Edinburgh Council. He is director of transport and movement at urban design consultant Urban Initiatives.

Even their Lordships are, quite literally, getting in on the debate

Good urban design: never more important

By John Dales

John Dales is on the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment’s enabling panel and is also the independent design advisor on streets to the city of Edinburgh Council. He is director of transport and movement at urban design consultant Urban Initiatives.

‘Added value’ is not just doing more for the same money, sometimes, spending a little more on top of the initial assumed budget will achieve additional positive outcomes out of proportion to the extra spend

Managing activities, harnessing opportunities

There is a range of interventions that can enhance and animate urban spaces and places, from energizing commercial activity and encouraging new forms of retail to promoting specific events and themed activity in the quest to make places distinctive and engaging. Tom Evans and Peter Stonham look at the response of urban centres to recent challenges
Once upon a time high streets, public squares and other parts of the public environment seemed to almost manage themselves. Traditional activity in a town centre - movement, exchange of goods and diversions, such as street entertainment - just happened. Then came a much more structured regime of traffic and highway management, purpose designed shopping centres in the town centre, followed by competitive brand new environments created out of town.

Making spaces, living places

One of the most important defining features of mankind is the meaning it gives to specific places. Places give us meaning; they remind of us our past, they anchor us in our present and can inspire different futures, says Professor Cathy Parker, Development Director, IPM
The places we were born, where we move to live, study, work or travel to visit influence us, define us and can change us. There is a huge literature, spanning sociology, anthropology, psychology and geography underpinning the importance of place. From a historical perspective, town and city centres have been at the heart of social, cultural, economic and civic life for over two millennia. Nevertheless, the British Retail Consortium reported in July that 1 in every eight shops is empty...

Meanwhile…no more lifeless streets and spaces

By Juliana O'Rourke

The Meanwhile initiative is working to re-animate empty and under-used spaces with temporary community-led projects
Something is happening on the high street. Empty shops are spreading as the recession bites, spoiling town centres and destroying social and economic value. Not willing to sit tight and let town centres remain blighted by empty properties until a commercial use reappears, forcing landlords to bear the cost of an unproductive asset and causing pedestrians to put up with shuttered facades and lifeless street, the Meanwhile initiative is working to re-animate these spaces with temporary projects. Meanwhile spaces allow local people and community groups to experiment with new projects and enterprises, relieve the burden for landlords of an empty property and support the surviving businesses on the high street by stimulating new footfall and users in the town centre.

Spaces and places in waiting?

By Juliana O’Rourke

How can we best use derelict land and ‘land in limbo’? Many organisations are exploring creative new possibilities for ‘interim landscapes’, creating amenity spaces rooted in community engagement

introduced into underused land in Sheffield, for example. However, says Baines, too few examples of this kind of scheme exist in the UK. Barriers to developing such sites, such as fixed mindsets and fear of risk, need to be overcome, he adds. Temporary uses such as markets and festivals can be as popular as other short-term proposals and should serve to enhance communities socially and environmentally. CABE’s Peter Neal agrees. ‘Not all public spaces have to be there forever,’ he says, ‘but we should seek to make them as attractive, exciting and interesting as possible.’