We urgently need to shift towards making deeply humane places – places shaped according to the multi-faceted impacts for people - going beyond the status quo of physical form and surface appearance.
Shouldn’t everyone have the right to built environments that can support at least a baseline level of quality of life and at best, actively creates the conditions for people and communities to flourish and thrive?
A DIFFERENT WAY OF SEEING:
THE PLACE QUALITY MODEL REIMAGINES HOW PLACES CAN BE SHAPED TO OUR HUMAN NATURE AND NEEDS.
It is a new approach, method and call-to-action for a step-change, cultural shift and collective action:
To put human health and wellbeing at the heart of the way places are made.
PHASE 1: PLACE QUALITY FRAMEWORK ADOPTED
The framework, method and system was adopted by the first London borough in summer 2023, as part of new planning requirements and design guidance.
PHASE 2: PLACE QUALITY MODEL - COLLECTIVE ACTION
Launching at Healthy Cities Design International Congress in Autumn 2023, the next step is to take the Place Quality approach forwards with a range of collaborators, partners and organisations.
PHASE 3: UNIFIED, COLLABORATIVE MODEL FOR HUMAN PLACES
Building out the model as a channel for collective action and regenerative "life-centred" approaches
The Place Quality Framework was shared in a Homes England session for local authorities as an exemplary case study on the topic of “Health and Human-centred Design”, summer 2023
WHY ARE NEW APPROACHES NEEDED?
THE QUALITY OF OUR PLACES MATTERS
There is increasing awareness and evidence that the built environment has a significant impact on our health and happiness – both as individuals and as communities.
However the growing consensus is that current practices of urban design and planning are insufficient to protect and improve health1. And an understanding that there are many people in our cities whose needs are not being met by current design and planning practices2.
And whilst there is much work and research that exists on “what” needs to be done - the question of “how” it will be implemented is still ongoing in the field of urban health.
1 Pineo, H. (2022) Healthy Urbanism, Designing and Planning Equitable, Sustainable and Inclusive Places
2 McCay, L & Roe, J. (2021) Restorative Cities: urban design for mental health and wellbeing
WHAT IS THE GOAL?
STEP-CHANGE & COLLECTIVE ACTION
FROM WHAT TO HOW: There is recognition that the nature, complexity and scale of today’s challenges to urban health and wellbeing can’t be solved with the thinking that has gone before. We need a step-change in response, not just improvements to the status quo. And new ways to go from the “what” to the “how” that can bring together the critical work happening across different areas.
PEOPLE FRONT & CENTRE: The PLACE QUALITY MODEL purposefully reframes how developments are expected to be designed and assessed for planning permission: To put how places impact people front and centre of the process.
EXPANDED DESIGN PRACTICE + SYSTEMS CHANGE: Adopted by the first London borough in summer 2023, the model creates new requirements in the planning system for the benefit to people’s quality of life to be explicitly demonstrated through the design for the first time.
MULTIDIMENSIONAL & COLLECTIVE: It is structured to bring together different human factors in a joined-up way and support collective action going forwards.
WHAT IS DIFFERENT?
EXPANDING DESIGN + PLANNING SYSTEMS CHANGE
NEW METHOD, NOT CHECKLIST: The PLACE QUALITY MODEL is not a tick-box list of prescriptive features or a retrospective matrix. Instead it is a new method to address and embed quality of life in a structured way - by integrating human-centred design and planning practices from the very first principles and opening up a range of solutions.
NEW HUMAN EXPERIENCE BENCHMARKS: It sets out health, social wellbeing and inclusivity outcomes through design, rather than defining fixed inputs. These benchmarks prompt a step-change to design practice that directly addresses human experience and the benefits for people and communities, rather than only physical attributes or features.
PLACE-BASED: The method is structured to draw out the specificity of places, respond to the socio-economic and health context, prompt solutions shaped to people’s needs and can support defining what matters to them through engagement.
EVIDENCE-INFORMED: It combines design approaches informed by research in the human sciences, with new planning practices and systems to empower designers, planners, decision-makers and communities.
ADDRESSING INEQUALITIES: It creates a system of assessment that is proportionate to local need, with higher expectations to deliver on quality of life where there is greater disadvantage (Ie. Deprivation, open space deficiency etc).
WHAT IS THE BENEFIT?
PLACEMAKING FROM THE “INSIDE-OUT”
MAKE THE EXCEPTIONAL INTO THE EVERYDAY: The driver of the PLACE QUALITY approach is to make healthy, happy, liveable, vibrant and inclusive places an everyday reality for the many rather than the few.
“INSIDE-OUT” ETHOS: By deeply understanding how places impact people across multiple factors and by prioritising human experience, empathy and emotion, the model offers a fresh approach that challenges the status quo.
INSIDE AND OUT APPLICATION: The method addresses different types of spaces and scales (interior and exterior), from masterplan to corridor, and can be applied to many different uses and contexts.
HOW TO: It provides a step-by-step method to address enhancing wellbeing through the built environment in a structured way that can be easily adopted into everyday design and planning processes.
EQUITY: It is shaped to address local health inequalities by assessing development in the context of the level of need.
LIFE-CENTRED APPROACHES: The model provides a step towards addressing INDIVIDUAL, COLLECTIVE AND ECOLOGICAL WELLBEING together through places.
LONG-TERM DEVELOPMENT: Aiming to shift what is valued, it can be continuously built out further together with partners and communities.
With increasing awareness and evidence our surroundings have a significant impact on our health and happiness, the PLACE QUALITY approach seeks to accelerate the significant opportunity for the built environment to better support the health of people and planet.
Please get in touch to collaborate on projects, further research or partnerships.
MATTER SPACE SOUL is a specialist design consultancy and creative platform focused on shaping places for human nature, needs and wellbeing.
Our mission is to catalyse a step-change toward more humane, socially-orientated, equitable places, by “making places that matter and spaces with soul”.
The thinking behind Place Quality Model has been developed over a decade of carrying out new forms of cross-disciplinary research and practice to push and expand the boundaries of traditional design.
The model draws from evidence and knowledge from disciplines focused on human nature, experiences and behaviours and how this can support the design of places. Ie. Environmental psychology, neuroscience, anthropology, social sciences. Founder Natasha Reid has been advocating for change and more humane places since 2013, regularly speaking at conferences and events on innovative solutions to pressing issues.
THE THINKING BEHIND THE PLACE QUALITY MODEL
Health and Wellbeing must be Re-embedded at the Heart of Planning
N Reid, 2022 published The Planner, Royal Town Planning Institute
N Reid, 2022, Women in Urbanism podcast
N Reid, 2021, London Society talk
N Reid, 2021 published by Quality of Life foundation
N Reid, 2021 published by Sound Advice
Co-chair and curator of a 3 day conference on human-centred, socially-conscious and ecologically sustainable places, 2020
N Reid 2020, Conscious Cities conference
SEE ALSO PUBLIC TALKS