Briefing for sustainable urban form

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Conor Moloney, Senior Associate at Urban Initiatives, will present a strategic approach to place-making at the Design Skills Symposium in Ayr. He will also facilitate a workshop demonstrating practical methods of brief-making for more sustainable urban form. This element is the Symposium is jointly hosted by SNH and A&DS as part of their ‘Sustainable Placemaking Programme’.

Conor is a planner and urban designer with a background in architecture and human geography. He has particular expertise in neighbourhood regeneration strategy. His diverse career includes urban, architectural, and housing design, social research, design education and design advocacy. He has worked throughout Britain and Ireland as well as in Europe, West Africa, and USA. He is a member of Design Council/Cabe’s Built Environment Expert panel.

Conor will focus on brief-making for sustainable urban form at whole-place and neighbourhood scales. Urban form is a product of numerous separate decisions about “what goes where”: these decisions shape how places work. Urban Initiatives opens up this process to scrutiny by modelling different spatial scenarios using a map-based process. This allows key assets of a place to be identified, spatial decisions to be visualised, and trade offs to be understood. This kind of visualisation exercise — at the scale of a street, district, or whole town — can enable corporate and stakeholder consensus to emerge. This in turn can lead to the preparation of better, more sustainable and place-orientated development plans, while also informing key aspects of development or investment briefs and the future nature of local service provision.
Urban Initiatives is a recognised leader in the shaping of urban form by design, and has developed a series of tools to guide spatial decision making through participation with communities, stakeholders, and decision-makers. One of these, the Integrated Spatial Model [Urban ISM], is a scenario tool which is used to develop and evaluate urban form options. This process takes a number of forms, from computer modelling to facilitated interactive workshops. In each context, the focus is on conversations between participants on the issues that matter to make the places work better and more sustainably.

Together with Scottish Natural Heritage [SNH], A&DS has been working with Urban Initiatives on a programme called ‘Sustainable Placemaking’. Already trialled with a number of Scottish Local Authorities, this programme targets the process of achieving more visionary and ambitious development plans and improving map-based plan decision-making. Later this year A&DS and SNH will publish a report on the outcomes, lessons learned, and suggestions as to how it could be replicated across Scotland. This element of the Design Skills Symposium is designed to be useful, practical and innovative as a learning opportunity for creating better plans and briefs to inform the design and delivery of better places.

Tickets for the conference are £75 and can be purchased online at


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