Designing Healthy Places: PUBLIC REALM & URBAN SPACES Smart Class 2023 Retrospective


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The public realm performs a crucial role in fostering a sense of community, promoting inclusivity, enhancing quality of life, and contributing to local economies. There are also the competing demands of the urban environment, including vehicular movement, water management, services, access, maintenance, air quality and local microclimates.

“Public realm”, says Luke McGuinness, Associate Landscape and Urban Designer at Project Centre, “has a unique role in the creation of multifunctional urban places that play their part in physical, mental, and social wellbeing, while fostering connections to nature and promoting active lifestyles. These spaces need to be resilient and adaptable while providing a feeling of safety and security”.

Luke’s presentation at PUBLIC REALM & URBAN SPACES Smart Class 2023 discussed the elements involved in creating positive people focussed public realm, that balance the competing requirements of users while following the principles of current best practice in placemaking where pedestrians are prioritised. Examples were featured from delivered schemes which include elements of urban greening, water management, bio-diversity net-gain, school streets, low traffic neighbourhoods, active travel routes, placemaking and truly inclusive places.

Luke emphasised the importance of involving local communities at an early stage of the design process and demonstrated how close collaboration with wider technical teams helps to generate vibrant, attractive, thriving environments that create a sense of place and respect local context.

Technical Directors Bharati Ghodke and Tina Glover added their expert knowledge during Project Centre’s subsequent deep dive roundtable sessions with the delegates.

Presentation highlights:

  • Creating vibrant, healthy, people focussed public realm;
  • NHS Studies – What are the health benefits of physical activity?
  • Sports England Guidance – Walkable communities; Providing connected active travel routes; Mixing uses & co-locating facilities; Network of multi-functional open spaces; High-quality streets & spaces; Providing activity infrastructure; Active buildings, inside and out; Maintaining high-quality flexible spaces; Activating spaces;
  • Biodiversity Net Gain – What is it?
  • Urban Greening Factor – How the quality of different green surface-cover types can affect the UGF score;
  • The 15 Minute City – Environmental, social and economic benefits;
  • Parklets – San Francisco’s parklet programme has been replicated in cities across the world seeking to increase public space;

  • Liveable Neighbourhoods – Key to success of these schemes is delivering community-led designs, developed through and early and timely engagement with residents, partners and stakeholders;
  • Long-term benefits of Liveable Neighbourhood schemes – e.g. Transforming streets from being car-dominated to spacious and safe routes for locals; Developing outdoor seating and public space to promote and enable community events; Decreasing flooding liability and increasing bio-diversity; Increasing active travel and sustainable mobility; Improving air quality and the health of your local community;
  • School Streets – Project management steps: scoping, engagement, design, information, construction and monitoring;
  • Strategic Urban Design and Connected Public Realm Strategies;
  • Designing Healthy Places – Case Studies: Moreland Street (Islington), Old Bethnal Green Road (Tower Hamlets), Eastcote Town Centre, Hammersmith Grove, Dartford Brewery Square and Portland Road (Worthing)

If you satisfy our regular delegate qualification criteria but were unable to join us in Manchester on July 4th for the live in-person event at The Shipping Office (Lloyds House), CLICK HERE and complete the short “Download form” (located at the bottom of the post) to receive a unique link enabling free access to the presentation video recordings and slides (including the film footage and slides from Luke’s initial presentation).

Those qualifying to receive the rich presentation content from this event include commissioning, procurement, trialling, partnering and policy leads, senior influencers, strategic decision makers, planners, place makers, architects, green space managers, urban designers, highways & street scene, transport & mobility and high streets & regeneration professionals from councils and local authorities (city, borough, metropolitan, district, county and combined); people and place partnerships; developers, landowners and creators of privately owned public spaces; prime contractors and city centre management companies; DfT, DEFRA, MHCLG, EA and supporting governmental bodies; transport authorities, highways agencies and public transport operators; civic organisations and community groups; and other key players from the public realm ecosystem with responsibility for managing, maintaining and operating our streets, squares, forecourts, parks, pathways, retail centres, car parks, airports, ports, travel hubs, hospitals, housing estates, campuses, communal gardens and the assets contained within these public or semi-public spaces.

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PUBLIC REALM & URBAN SPACES Smart Classes show key buyer side stakeholders how to harness innovation, technology, data science, design and best practice to create the next generation of smarter spaces and places in our cities and regions. PUBLIC REALM & URBAN SPACES Smart Class 2023 will be hosted in Manchester on July 4th.


   Manchester, UK

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