• 01 11 2017

Creating places and spaces that stand the test of time

Placemaking is a key consideration for any development; a crucial factor in the ultimate success or failure of any scheme. But while placemaking strategies have thankfully moved beyond pop-ups, yoga and free coffee, there’s still some way to go. We need to take a smarter approach.


Technology and connectivity  

Our ever-increasing reliance on technology - and what feels like a continuous parade of new proptech innovations – has opened the industry’s eyes to the fact that tech can, and will, reshape place as we know it. 

Tech has changed our expectations; in the not-so-distant future, we’ll expect our devices to seamlessly interact with our homes and offices, connecting communities and eventually entire cities. Sound futuristic? The technology is developing quickly; the property industry needs to keep pace.

Smart placemaking must be approached as an intrinsic part of any scheme, considered from the outset well before the first spade meets the ground. It must look to the future to ensure that buildings facilitate connectivity rather than impede it.


The importance of brand and identity

Smart placemaking recognises the importance of identity, whether a building, scheme or neighbourhood – what will the brand mean to those living and working there? It’s more than a logo and a strapline, it’s about how it makes people feel and what they will say to others about it. It will shape its future. 

A collaborative approach between developers and branding, design and marketing experts from a scheme’s very early stages is key to creating spaces and places that stand the test of time. How should people feel when visiting and working there? Does it feel inclusive? How will the brand fare in five, ten years’ time? Will it be relevant? Will people still feel proud to work there? 

Often a developer will commission a brand agency to create an identity and a marketing brochure for a scheme and that will be that, the single goal being to let or sell the space. But as buildings and boroughs become interconnected and our relationship with place changes, so too must attitudes to space. Developers are increasingly, and rightly so, seeing themselves as custodians, taking a more long-term view.


Using data to create a sense of place 

Data is central to smart placemaking; it offers the opportunity for developers to create places and spaces that enrich the lives of those working and spending time there, with businesses seeing the benefit on the bottom line in the form of a greater sense of wellness and improved productivity.  

Big data and clever analytics show us how people interact with their surroundings and, ultimately, what people want and need – the key is feeding this into the early-stage design process, creating schemes shaped specifically to the needs of those who will be working and spending time there.

Data can influence a whole host of aspects within a development, informing decisions large and small from amenities and services on offer through to wayfinding and the ethos of a scheme - not to mention early-stage brand identity. 


Taking a collaborative approach

How many of the buildings coming out of the ground as we speak will stand the test of time? Will they still be viable as technology continues to advance?

Key to smart placemaking and our ability to create schemes that are fit for the future is collaboration between developers. Developers must look beyond site boundaries and ownership to see the bigger picture - connecting buildings, commercial districts and neighbourhoods.

Forward-thinking cities are already taking a smarter approach, looking at place as a whole instead of its constituent parts. 


For those developers willing to take a collaborative approach and make early-stage investments in smart placemaking, a future-proof portfolio and improved profits will surely be the reward. 

 A version of this article has been published by Property Week