Creating Better Places design skills training

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CREATING PLACES, the policy statement on architecture and place for Scotland, identifies the role of design in making places for people as highlighted in the opening Jan Gehl quote: “First life, then spaces, then buildings: the other way around never works”. This theme also underpins the Scottish Government’s policy document on DESIGNING STREETS which promotes the design of streets as public spaces.

A learning event with Inverclyde planning authority, in association with Improvement Service, responded to a request for specific training on design principles – Unity & Order, Punctuation, Scale, Proportion, Harmony and Rhythm.

An introductory session looked at how environments are experienced, and noted the importance of user perception. Such experiential qualities are set out in the Scottish Government’s policy DESIGNING PLACES, e.g. identity, safe and pleasant, ease of movement, and welcoming.

The importance of environmental experience has been identified by Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer Sir Harry Burns who has highlighted the need to understand and make sense of the environment along with a need to enable social interaction and community connections.

The workshop considered two and three dimensional aspects of elevations, massing and form, context relationships, and dynamic street scene. The final part of the workshop scaled up the discussion, which had initially focussed on individual projects, to consider how schemes might consciously assist the implementation of broader strategies that foster liveability and high quality of life across settlements.

Key learning points evident from the event were:

  • Planning supports the making of places for people, and must consider how people perceive their environments
  • Environments need to be understandable and aid people connections – a public space plan is a good starting point
  • Design principles are relevant not only for Development Management’s assessment of a project, but also for policy planning in terms of making places as a whole
  • Projects help to deliver bigger placemaking strategies
  • There should be a proper balance between dominant focal points and good quality backdrop buildings
  • Places where people want to be should be supported by good quality backdrop buildings, and be easily accessible
  • Poor quality backdrop buildings and places (e.g. roads) hinder people enjoyment of their environment
  • Creating places for people, and a public space plan, should inform the development of site and place briefs

Place and leadership

The cross-party group of the Scottish Parliament on Architecture and the Built Environment were presented with the findings of...

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