Charlotte of Conductor explores some of the key elements that move great space to great place.
Charlotte Constance is the founder of Conductor, orchestrators of thriving societies whose purpose is to facilitate more conscious creation of spaces and places.
Great places, old and new, have firm foundations in sound planning. It starts with gathering insight into the needs and wants of those that are going to Participate in the place and then using this evidence coupled with predicted future trends, to design a place that caters specifically to those needs. Co-creation and collaboration with participants are key
Successful entrepreneur, prominent industry speaker and Non-Exec of Orbit Homes, Charlotte has 17 years’ experience in the property industry. After a 12-year career working within the built environment for highly regarded real estate businesses, Charlotte’s enterprising, entrepreneurial and empathetic nature led her to set up Conductor in 2014. Determined to set up a new type of business, focusing Clients on the participants of places and spaces as the starting point for development, Charlotte has built Conductor with firm foundations in research, understanding and evidencing the wants and desires of participants and the actual needs of communities. The aim of Conductor is to combine practice with industry leading development strategies to create the best social and financial returns.
What makes a great place? A broad and subjective question with varying answers depending on the person, their frame of mind and even the weather. However, as different models of housing are gaining popularity it is important to consider how placemaking improves their quality so that they can stand the test of time. What are the challenges and opportunities for PBSA, coliving and coworking developments and how can they improve their local areas and become high quality places themselves? Universities, student accommodation, coliving and coworking models all have the ability to lead regeneration in areas, which is turn enable the developments to be viable long-term investments, attracting and retaining residents. At MPIM earlier this year, Conductor wanted to investigate more and hosted a breakfast with SAY Property and work-shopped the question, ‘what makes a great place?’ – the 74 answers they received fell into 13 categories and 8P’s.
Planning – great places, old and new, have firm foundations in sound planning. It starts with gathering insight into the needs and wants of those that are going to Participate in the place and then using this evidence coupled with predicted future trends, to design a place that caters specifically to those needs. Co-creation and collaboration with participants are key.
Purpose – asking the question at the outset, “why does this place exist?”, and “so what?” is essential. Great places need a Personality (the 3rd P). Some call this authenticity or character, others “rarity value”. Call it what you like, this is essential, especially in new or regeneration places. There is always an existing story or history, inherent in a place; an existing and unique community to be rejuvenated or tapped into. It just takes some time, effort and thoughtfulness to tap into and once you uncover it, the purpose will be clear.
Participation – or actively taking part in the place. This creates stewardship, so whether participants are visiting, living or working there, they feel a sense of ownership and belonging and the benefits of this to the community and spaces within it, are boundless.
Feelings or Emotions associated with a place scored most highly (12%). This was followed by People and Safety (11%), then Community, Nature & Environment, Interaction and Buildings & Design (10%), and Lifestyle & Diversity (8%). Surprisingly, the lowest scoring categories were Accessibility (3%) and Technology (1%). 50% of the answers given were people-centered and 50% place-centered. How people experience and classify space as individuals and communities are just as important as the quality and composition of the built environment. The lack of answers regarding accessibility and technology was interesting – perhaps a reflection purely of attendee demographics and interests, or perhaps indicative of accessibility and integrated tech being seen less as added extras, and increasingly as standard expectations in the current/future-facing market.
Proximity – or convenience. This one has caused great debate within the Conductor team. Some of the best places are very remote but in an urban context of course, Proximity to transport and ease of being in the place, certainly contribute to perceptions of a place being great or not. Maybe not the most exciting of the “P’s” but necessary none the least.. Maybe not the most exciting of the “P’s” but necessary none the least.
Prosperity – not prosperity in the form of money or financial gains. Does the place feel like it is flourishing and has good fortune bestowed upon it? Are the participants fulfilled, is there community spirit? Are the conditions in the place favourable for all? Is the society thriving?
Preference – or choice. This relates back to Participation and Planning. Are there options and does the place cater to different demographics even if it is targeted at those with certain tastes and preferences? It’s not to say that places should be all things to all people, but that diversity and inclusion is the very fabric of a great place. In the beautiful tapestry of life, variety and different types of people are what attracts an interesting and most importantly, sustainable community.
This leads on to Pleasure (the 8th and final P) and is simply, what pleasure do participants derive from the place? There has to be a joyful and uplifting element to a place to create the feeling of it being truly great.
The physical fabric of a place is just as im-portant as the people within it, how people feel in a place will determine largely whether they think it is great or not and finally, each and every one of us will have a different perception of a place, so if one looks at a place that is planned, created or rejuvenated, it is worth thinking consciously about these 8Ps and making sure that these key attributes are covered.