INTRODUCING THE PLACED TEAM: India Morgan
First up we are hearing from our wonderful Project Officer, India! Check out the blog below to learn a little bit more about India’s thoughts on the built environment.
Full on confession: I hadn’t heard of the term ‘built environment’ before joining PLACED in 2020. I knew of architecture, town planning, interior design. I’ve been lucky to experience diverse landscapes and cityscapes around the world. But ‘built environment’? Not sure I knew what that meant without googling. Over my time at PLACED, I’ve come to realise that in fact I do. I just know it as parks, streets, my local shops, library, gallery, my house, garden, a city centre, that square I like to visit. Being new to the language of the sector has its benefits when it comes to our work in engaging people in conversation about placemaking. I feel empowered to communicate that they, like me, are experts in the places they live, work and spend time (to echo a PLACED mantra).
In leading our PLACED Academy and Education programmes, I have also gained insight into the breadth of jobs across the built environment sector and the many responsibilities in placemaking. Responsibilities we all have (not just the planners, designers, developers, policymakers) in shaping the spaces we occupy and addressing the challenges we face — social inequality, economic crisis, the climate emergency — to name a few. Recently, I have been having some fascinating conversations with different professionals from the sector who have shared their perspectives on how we could respond to some of these major issues.
For now, here are a few thoughts of my own:
The covid pandemic made us all aware of the places we occupy. It propelled us into critically assessing our existing built environment, from the small scale (isolating in our homes, social bubbles, working-from-home set-ups) to the larger scale (local lockdowns, countries ‘closing’ borders). It illuminated extreme inequalities. It brought to the forefront the question of accessibility: access to work, access to education, access to amenities, access to healthcare, access to community, access to outside, access to green spaces. We witnessed and experienced resilient communities coming together to support one another. Forced into retreat, we saw how whole eco-systems began to recover and biodiversity thrived in our absence. There is so much learning from this global and equally personal experience. I think it is one of our biggest challenges going forward but also presents a great opportunity.
How do we iron out these inequalities when we design future places? How do we ensure everyone has a good quality of life with access to the above and feels a sense of community and belonging where they live and spend time? How do we better protect and share our spaces with all living creatures? I don’t know the answers, but these are some important questions we need to consider.
We could start with the public realm, or communal places, freely accessible for everyone. It is concerning to see our public spaces becoming increasingly privatised and commercialised when I think we need more. What is in a place and how it is used affects everyone and as many people as possible should be involved in its design (obviously there are constraints and complexities within this, but we can try and do better). I advocate for more green community hubs such as community gardens, allotments, food growing initiatives — a space that responds to local needs and which the local community is responsible for managing. Shared ownership, shared responsibility and shared benefits for people and planet. Every neighbourhood should have one.
PLACED Project Officer