Having been supporters of PlacED for many years, we are committed to helping shape the PlaceED Academy programme and support the next generation of our industry professionals. Through the PlacED Academy we have the ability to inspire young people and open the door to wider career prospects and opportunities. The PlacED Academy is a free to access programme for young people aged 14–18 interested in the built environment. It focusses on developing skills and confidence to empower young people to help shape places and spaces in which we live, work and play. Additionally providing the opportunity to engage and participate in a wide range of activities and events that cover many strands of the built environment profession. Learn more about the PlaceED Academy here.
Last year, Planit became Gold Sponsors of the PlacED Academy, which increased our support and allowed us to benefit from an engagement session with the young people, on a project of our choice. This gives us the chance to directly engage and hear the voices of a young audience, traditionally underrepresented in discussion about the built environment.
Over the last few months, our Liverpool studio teamed up with Arup (also Gold Sponsors), in leading a two-part workshop for the PlacED Academy students. This gave them, and us, the opportunity to explore and discover their ideas within one of our live projects, Liverpool Waters.
Liverpool Waters is a large-scale mixed-use masterplan that will transform 60 hectares of former dockland, spanning 2.5km of Liverpool’s iconic waterfront, from the Pier Head to the new Bramley Moore Stadium. The project is embedded in our Liverpool studio, with our urban design team forming the role of masterplan guardian and masterplan lead, our landscape team designing and delivering the streets and spaces and working closely with Virtual Planit to illustrate designs and showcase the project. It is also a project where we work closely with Arup’s Planning team. It is a truly collaborative scheme, making the prospect of extending this collaboration to the young people at the PlacED Academy one not to be missed.
The workshops with the PlaceED Academy focused on the potential for the dockside environment at the centre of the plan, in which we asked the students the key question:
“What would make you and your friends want to regularly spend time here?”
We provided a boundary within the heart of the site which forms around 10 hectares of former dockland, of which more than 50% is water. Sitting within a stone’s throw of the new Everton FC Stadium, Ten Streets and Liverpool City Centre, we encouraged the young people to consider the position of the site in the wider city context.
The first workshop kicked off with a ‘hairy drawing’ exercise, which asked the students to visually describe their journey to the office that morning. A new term for us, but a task we often carry out whilst on site to map experience, take notes and diagrammatically interpretate ideas and concepts. The young people developed creative ways to illustrate and tell the story of their journey without drawing a plan. A nice warm up exercise before heading out on site.
During our site visit, the Mersey wind did not disappoint, but neither did the sunshine… bringing environmental challenges and opportunities to the forefront of discussion. Additionally, the young people were encouraged to take note of the existing conditions, heritage features, key views, uses and activities across the site and beyond into the surrounding area.
Following a debrief back at the office, the young people split into smaller groups to begin the design session, in which we asked them to consider their priorities for the site, whether that be heritage, nature, culture and leisure or productive landscapes, whilst continuously reflecting on the initial question of what would make them want to visit and spend time here. Each group developed a vision and produced a collage to represent their ideas. The outcomes were imaginative and fun with many proposals focussing on nature, leisure and culture. To round off the day, the groups presented their work in a typical design review style ‘crit,’ to which we gave feedback and a much-deserved applause.
The second workshop picked up where we had left off previously. Reflecting on their initial vision and collage pieces, we approached this session thematically, asking the young people to consider the overarching themes of nature, productive landscape, heritage and leisure and culture.
Following a discussion around each theme, which started to unpick what that could look like and mean for the site at Liverpool Waters, together we developed a series of interventions to address the priorities. We then asked the young people to vote for the theme they were interested in and valued the most, which saw nature come out on top at 40%.
Splitting into groups, the group was tasked with developing the design of their interventions through 3D modelling. The results were creative and ambitious, yet grounded in an understanding of place and their knowledge of the site.
Another ‘crit’ style presentation allowed the groups to present their ideas and talk around the models. Having heard all groups and reflecting on the overarching themes set out at the start of the day, we asked the young people to vote again for the theme in which they most valued. Nature remained the majority, gaining one more vote, yet, heritage saw a 10% increase in popularity, whilst productive landscape and leisure and culture saw a 10% decrease each, compared to votes at the start of the day.
Both workshops were fun and engaging, expanding participant’s knowledge and skills, as well as informing us as the design team of their interests and priorities. The young people were clear on what their priorities were, putting places to learn, interact with others and sustainable solutions at the forefront. They were forward thinking and have a great understanding of larger issues which comes through in their approach to site-specific design strategies and solutions. These workshops have broadened our outlook and allowed a typically underrepresented group to directly influence and evolve our thinking for this area in Liverpool Waters.
With thanks to PlacED Academy for the opportunity, the workshops were a great experience. We encourage collaboration with young people through all stages of the design process and in conversations about the built environ. We definitely look forward to working with the academy throughout 2023 and beyond. Read the full report.