Plan the street
as well as the sky

What causes more debate – how tall buildings look, or what happens at their feet?

Words: Scott Carroll
Images: Anna Gibb


When it comes to building tall, skyline eye candy seems to trump the ground floor every time, which is curious because it will be the public realm that does all of the heavy lifting when it comes to making community. It is where lives overlap, and people get to know their neighbours. Not a square metre can be wasted.

Inspired by a conversation with Scott Carroll, a director at LDA Design who is leading our work with Alison Brooks Architects to create new homes in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, illustrator and architect Anna Gibb has explored how to make the most of the foot of the tower.

1 Public realm is where the character of the place is expressed. Design for people and nature; don’t let vehicles dominate.
4 Tailor spaces to create favourite spots. Sometimes we want quiet. Other times, table tennis and a pizza oven.
7 Remember nature doesn’t have to be naturalistic. A wildflower meadow with straight edges will still come alive with pollinators.
2 You want residents to linger instead of heading for the lift. With the right activities, local people will join in too.
5 Help people forge connections with nature, whether it’s a tree canopy or planted podiums screening off floors above.
8 Public realm has to feel welcoming and safe from day to night. Make it cosy, like a living room.
3 Sunlight governs street life, especially in spring and autumn. Create natural anchors in sunny areas, from benches to coffee carts.
6 When solutions are identified early on, even tricky things like wind can be properly addressed, ensuring open space is never sacrificed.
9 Whatever our age, we like to play along the way. Even if we’re watching rather than jumping. All part of making spaces diverse and convivial.

Thank you, Anna, for your incredible drawings.

This article features in the spring edition of the Landscape Institute’s Journal: Landscapes for Living: A landscape-led approach to housing the nation 

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