What we do...
Healthy, resilient, and attractive places are created and reinvented through successful partnerships among the civic, public, political, and private sectors, coupled with a deep understanding of the various facets and dynamics of the place. For some time now, we have been interested in practical pathways to more regenerative and nature-based placemaking and urban design at the neighbourhood, streets, and plot scale. We advocate for and develop plans, policies and design codes prioritising compact house typologies, sociable streets and squares, passive solar design at masterplan,lot and plot scale, Certified Passivhaus Standard, and 'Building with Nature' accreditation.
Exploring pathways collectively and collaboratively to build more resilient, adaptive, and prosperous communities drives our practice. Thus, ImaginePlaces specialises in advising, designing, and delivering creative and effective co-design processes. A considered and thorough intelligence synthesis of place, people, and policy context, framed by inspiring best practices from elsewhere, plays a key role in how we work and shapes our project engagements with clients and communities. Sometimes, we lead projects, while often we are part of a broader team consisting of a wide range of spatial design-led disciplines.
'Participatory Planning' and 'Appreciative Inquiry' approaches form the foundation of our co-design work and how we practice 21st-century urban design. This foundation leads to plans, frameworks, masterplans, policies, and design codes that are carried, steadied, and delivered by local stakeholders. Continuous learning about resilient placemaking and placekeeping is ingrained in our design culture. Bespoke 3D place modelling and rapid prototyping workshops are the creative learning and innovation hubs of our participatory planning and design practice.
A few current/recent projects:
We are proud to lead on all matters of co-designing with the public and city-wide stakeholders across all sites in the multi-award-winning and trailblazing City of York's Housing Delivery Programme. In 2022, the whole programme and team, led by Mikhail Riches, received much national recognition. This included RTPI's Yorkshire and National Winner in the category ‘Excellence in Plan Making’ and the overall Silver Jubilee Cup of the Year. The judges remarked the following: “This scheme has been described as ‘arguably the most ambitious council housing programme in a generation’ (The Guardian). From inception, through the City of York Council’s (CYC) Housing Delivery Programme Design Manual and community engagement, to construction the scheme is a model of town planning on bringing forward difficult and challenging urban infill sites. The result is that all the homes, with a mix of sizes and tenures, will be built to Certified Passivhaus standards which are net zero in operational carbon. The scheme demonstrates how the UN Sustainable Development Goals can be achieved in practice to create mixed and inclusive communities that promote well-being and healthy lifestyles.”
As part of the National Design Code Pathfinder Programme, ImaginePlaces developed and drafted the Design Codes for Finsbury Park's Station Quarter. A challenging and complex undertaking that underlined the importance of a clear and ambitious vision, evidence to support it, and a focus on key moves in writing a wholly new chapter for this growing tall building cluster which is forming around one of North London's busiest and dysfunctional multimodal transport interchanges and town centre. The project was delivered on a small budget and made possible only by huge amounts of volunteer support from the community client and the wider community. We coded for instances for proper co-design work during future planning application stages, Passivhaus and 'Building with Nature' certifications for major development as well as mixed-use 'Built to Rent' tenures and indeed for a huge shift in quantity and quality of walking, wheeling and cycling provision. Together the draft codes seek to lead to the transformation into a 21st-century city centre with healthy and vibrant streets, spaces, and buildings around a multi-modal transport hub serving 100,000+ people on average and daily today.
With our colleagues at Lansdown Land and Development, we developed a masterplan, parameter plans, and design codes for 31 self- and custom-built homes at the rural edge of Harpenden firmly focused on rural identity, rewilding, and 31 Certified Passivhouses of all sizes. The project invites self-builders with a wide range of financial means to build their own home. Setting out a nature-positive landscape framework, rural building design codes, and low carbon benchmarks for the Certified Passivhaus homes. We trust in the ambitions and capabilities of self-builders, their teams, and a vibrant community spirit that will emerge from a strong and shared ambition.