Placemaking at Channel View
By Twm Harris-Davies, Austin-Smith:Lord
Placemaking differs from masterplanning as an approach to urban design by utilising existing assets and community as a foundation for proposals that promote the health, happiness and wellbeing of residents.
Cardiff Council fully embraces the placemaking principle and Austin-Smith:Lord has seen it successfully applied when working with them and Cardiff Community Housing Association on schemes such as Loudoun Square, Hamadryad, Maelfa Llanedeyrn and Schooner Way. We have also used the principle to good effect elsewhere in the country, at Manchester’s Piccadilly Place, Glasgow City Regeneration and Helensburgh’s rejuvenation.
Cardiff Council has approached Austin-Smith:Lord to collaborate on a feasibility study for Channel View, helping to address Cardiff’s growing housing need and enhancing the site’s integration with the surrounding city and landscape, upgrading the site and The Marl for the benefit of residents and wider city inhabitants.
Even at the earliest phases of a feasibility study, an effective placemaking design cannot be realised in isolation; from the outset we worked with a number of stakeholders, their advice and feedback on our proposals proved invaluable and sessions were held regularly. These stakeholders included representatives of the council’s placemaking and urban design specialist teams, planners, highways and utilities departments. Guidance was also sought from representatives responsible for housing provision within the city including the Cabinet Member for Housing & Communities Councillor Thorne who is the local Ward Councillor. With each consultation exercise the design progressed greatly, we felt no reticence in revisiting and redesigning elements of the scheme to fully integrate the guidance received. Key to working in this way is to underpin the scheme with a coherent design concept robust enough to incorporate changes whilst retaining the compelling vision that consultees and stakeholders could buy into.
For Channel View, our concept proposed the layout of the development to stitch together what we identified as the urban fabric of surrounding buildings with the river, where currently an awkward and indifferent relationship exists. The real benefit of sharing this concept with all who engage in the placemaking process is that everyone knows what they are working towards and so the best solutions are reached. That approach is applied to all Austin-Smith:Lord projects for this very reason, the concept never stops working hard for the development of the scheme, extending to all levels of design detail.
The concept emerges as a curve which improves the boundary between the development and the park, making it better observed and more welcoming to users. That curve is supported by a corresponding boulevard, laden with the latest thinking in pedestrian, bike and vehicle movement design, acting as a ‘spine’. The boulevard and park are linked by the public plaza, known as the ‘heart’, where the community buildings and new Independent Living Unit will reside. The concept is again reflected in the vertical silhouette, which rises gracefully from the low surrounding housing towards the river, identifying Grangetown in Cardiff’s dynamic skyline. After addressing current conditions a successful placemaking exercise should be designed to incorporate future developments for maximum benefit while being robust enough to function without them in the interim. In this case the scheme for Channel View allows for the possible future inclusion of a pedestrian and cycle bridge that would complete the circuit of the Bay. In researching the site we became aware of the presence of the wreck of the Louisa, a scheduled ancient monument shipwreck submerged by the impoundment of Cardiff Bay, which we believe could be celebrated and marked by an exciting public art installation such as a light based water feature.
The process of placemaking at Channel View has reached a milestone and we anticipate the next steps being the Outline Planning procedures. Our work with council stakeholders so far has resulted in a compelling proposal which holds great promise for the community in Grangetown and the wider city. Community engagement is an essential aspect of placemaking and will continue as the design progresses. Austin-Smith:Lord’s robust concept will continue to be a reference point for all who engage in the process and we are excited by this opportunity to shape one of Cardiff’s strategic development sites.