Sense of place…

… or, as we refer to it in architectural terms, the genius loci, is a fundamental consideration for any development. This post, prompted by a news article penned by the Planning Portal in response to a recent speech given by the Planning Minister, Nick Boles at a Town and Country Planning Association conference, is intended to provide a quick insight into how we utilise or even propose the creation of a sense of place to underpin our schemes.

The core approach of my practice and indeed the headline of my practice statement is ‘the consideration of how a sense of place can be provided for every project’ and it appears that Nick Boles recognises how important this is, particularly when one reads his statement. Nick advises that the aim of coalition in this area was a country where ‘we build beautiful new urban landscape full of affordable houses surrounded by green spaces’. These are sentiments we are fully in tune with.

Two of our schemes, one a current development proposal adjacent to ancient woodland and one a masterplan for an area of former agricultural land were conceived as the provision of spaces where people would want to live, in addition to providing our clients with the number of units they require to make a scheme commercially viable.

The development proposal, shown in the image below, proposes the retention of an area of grassed open space to the North of the site to act as a buffer between the new houses and the ancient woodland but also as a communal open space, for use by the occupants of the houses. We helped our client imagine how valuable such a resource would be when it comes to sell the houses by painting a picture of families meeting on the lawn for birthday parties or barbeques, their children playing together or just being able to look out from their homes and have long views of soft, natural edges as opposed to hard urban edges.

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The second scheme, a residential masterplan, had a core brief for the provision of as many units as possible. We added to the brief the creation of a place where people would want to live and proposed a series of green ‘squares’ be provided, each one akin to a traditional village green.

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It is a bold move for any developer to reduce the number of units on a site and provide open, green space but the role of any good architect, often in collaboration with a landscape architect is to demonstrate how this can be done and still provide an economically viable scheme.

The long view is that we must work to break the vicious cycle Nick Boles states in his speech… ‘because we don’t build beautifully, people don’t let us build much and because we don’t build much, we can’t afford to build beautiful’.

For those interested, a link to Nick Boles’ full speech can be found by visiting the Planning Portal here Open in new window

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