Category Archives: Public spaces and places

Down at the seaside…

MTUD have joined in with way finding architects, Placemarque to develop a way finding, identity and town centre investment framework for Littlehampton on the West Sussex coast. The project involves developing a strategy, which will link the town centre back into its seafront and beach and the new River Arun Promenade now under construction.

Chorlton Central moves forward…

The next stage of our Chorlton Central project kicked off this week with a start-up meeting for full client and design team. Brownies were served which was much appreciated. Earlier in the day we ventured up a scaffold tower to check the quality and state of the main hall roof, which has been hidden behind a dirty, suspended ceiling for over 30 years…

We are biased but it’s going to be great project and a real asset for Chorlton…

Happy By Design…

Earlier this week I was invited to give a talk on well being and urban design for the North West Region RTPI event, ‘Planning for a Healthy Future’.

Pages from Happy by design talk5

This is a subject I have been interested in for some time. Based on the New Economic Foundation’s 5 Ways to well-being the talk proposed  a new  approach and methodoogy for making new and happy communities. You can download it here: Happy by design

There is huge anmount of work being done on Happiness at the moment. It ties very closely with the emerging Mindfulness work which is spreading across the internet and, it seems, Waterstones in Deansgate.

For me its liberating and could be the basis for new ways of talking about design and place making over and above the usual design guidance we have. Its also very inclusive in that invites other professionals to get involved in design, particularly from the health sector. The 5 ways also puts the advantage back onto the developer and their design team to think more freely and  creatively about how we can make lasting places. I have always thought design guidance should invite and encourage what could be done rather than what can’t be done.

 Stay happy.

3 months in…

Today MTUD has been in business three months. It’s going well.

Being back in the city I have made contact with all my old friends, collaborators and colleagues. The new office is great too and I have made friends with barista in the new Albert Square Costa…

Projects are growing. I am working on an interesting strategy for Sandwell Country Park with the Leisure Consultancy, which seems to be leading to more work focusing on concept making and feasibility work.

I am also back designing churches with a nice project in Chorlton.

I am also out, giving talks and workshops. Last month saw me leading a workshop on well being at Lancaster University and next week I am giving a talk entitled Happy by Design for the NW Region RTPI event, ‘Planning for a Healthy Future’, at BDP on well-being and place making. This will be the first time I have put together well being as set out by the New Economics Foundation and place making design tactics…watch this space.

I have finally joined the establishment too. I have just been elected an Urban Academician (about time too) and then directly got roped in as local helper.  I have also become an Affiliate of the RTPI and an Ambassador for Placed based in Liverpool.

I am still drawing and making too. Here is the view from drawing table…

City view

Who is watching who…

I have just finished (again) George Orwell’s trio of English political novels, Coming up for Air (1939), Animal Farm (1945) and Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) Some of you know that Penguin have published new versions this year. Here are two of my copies of Nineteen Eighty-Four, ( I think I have about 4). On the left is my very first copy given to me at school while doing my CSE’s in 1974, 10 years before it was supposed to happen. It features a detail form William Roberts painting, ‘The Control Room, Civil Defence Headquarters. The other copy is this year’s Penguin, given to me for my birthday, designed by David Pearson.


Its brilliant in that its ‘redacted’ title (you can just see the words under the black in the right light) tells us more about where we are in relation to what Orwell wrote about regarding control, manipulation of truth and ‘Big Brother’. Of course many people take Orwell’s picture of a highly controlled society too literally. They say it’s never happened and that Big Brother doesn’t exist.

Plus those telescreens in Airstrip One, located everywhere, watching your every move, listening to everything you say and to whom, never really took off.

Well sitting on the tram this morning heading into the city I was completely struck by the countless number of people staring vacantly into their smartphones. Like the telescreens those things know who you are, where you are, what you are saying and to whom and through twitter, exactly what you are thinking – all the time. Unlike Winston Smith we all seem to be very willing participants.

The key question is who is watching it all?

Just saying…

A model of the future?

For some while now I have been interested in New Urbanism. Not so much the neo classical position taken by but the process of master planning undertaken by studios such as Urban Design Associates and Duanny Platter Zyberk. I like the plot driven approach, run in parallel with say something like a pattern book. With this approach we don’t have to rely too much on any place making attributes of the domestic architecture but more the landscape, streets, and open spaces.  Of course views, enclosure and vocabulary still play a vital role but doesn’t necessarily needs to be controlled and defined. A subtle effect can be achieved.

The plot driven process is ideally suited for lower density projects particularly semi-detached, detached and short terraces. It also ties in neatly with the way our UK house builders procure and sell their product.

Essentially this way of thinking continues what is the UK’s most important and place making innovative: the garden suburb. My own particular favourite is Chortlonville. Not stones throw from where I am writing this. Here is the original 1911 master plan, which merits a closer examination. First of all its clear where the centre of this community is: The Mead, a wonderful circular green space enclosed by villas. There is a primary street, which navigates around the whole place linking two other smaller green spaces. There are six main development parcels each divided into house plots. Two of the parcels have small south facing lanes, which serve little enclaves of houses also facing a tiny green.

The point is that the plan is its apparent legible and positive structure. Just a glance across the plan reveals it structure, hierarchy and purpose. There is a sense of purpose and intent, which we rarely see these days.




I spent a happy afternoon drawing some of the houses. Again they convey a sense of home, a sense of habitation related the locality. There are probably only about 5 or 6 house types but they way they are all composed together brings variety and delight.  We can learn a lot from these places. Have a look on Google Earth. It’s a joy.