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Public Spaces and the Role of the Designer

This symposium will address the often ignored importance of design and designers in the production of (civic) public spaces, and examine the role of the architect in London during the mid-20th century, and the much more complex present, with a view to understanding possible futures for architects, urban and landscape designers, planners and councillors in this very important area of design. Unlike many academic conferences, this event – its structure and speakers – has been designed to engage with the realities of contemporary practice.

There are two sessions in the symposium, across an afternoon and an evening, with two distinct focuses.

Session 1: Design (3–5pm)

After introductory remarks from Professor Matthew Carmona to set the scene, the session will be devoted first to panel, and then panel-and-audience discussions. It will open up the complexities of public space production in spatial and professional terms, taking advantage of the research project’s historical perspective to discuss the evolution of the architect as an urban game-changer.

Session 2: Delivery (6–8pm)

This session will present, and then refine through discussion, some models of how public space is being delivered under the current political and planning regime. Panel presentations and discussion will identify barriers and opportunities – contractual, technical and professional – in the process of delivering public space from developed design to in use stages. Finally, panel members and delegates will consider potential future roles for the designer at project, practice and professional governance levels respectively as champions of public space delivered as integral features of new urban development.


3–3:05pm Welcoming remarks, Prof Susannah Hagan (University of Westminster)
Research at the RIBA, Dr Kat Martindale, Head of Research and Innovation

3.05–5pm Design

Convenor: Prof Susannah Hagan (University of Westminster)

3.10–3.20pm An overview of public space discourse, Prof. Susannah Hagan (University of Westminster)

3:20–3:40pm Keynote: Capital Spaces: the complex evolving spaces of a global city, London, Prof. Matthew Carmona (The Bartlett School of Planning, UCL)

3:45–4pm Between the material and immaterial: the power of paperwork (The London County Council Architect’s Department post-war), Ruth Lang (Central St. Martin’s, UAL)

4:05–5pm Practitioner-led discussion on the design of public spaces and the role of the designer in their production: Bob Allies, Dann Jessen, Deborah Saunt

5–6pm Refreshments

5.30–5.50pm Exhibition tour (optional)

6–8pm Delivery

Convenor: Dr Neal Shasore (University of Westminster)

6–6.05pm Introductory remarks, Prof Susannah Hagan (University of Westminster)

6.05–6.15pm Models of Public Space Delivery under the Contemporary Political and Planning Regimes, Neal Shasore (University of Westminster)

6.15 – 6.25pm Procurement and Public Space, Richard Saxon, Chair, JCT and RIBA Client Advisor

6.25 – 7.15pm Perspectives on Public Space Delivery:

  • Large practice Chris Williamson, Weston Williamson+ Partners
  • Small practice Liza Fior, muf art/architecture
  • Landscape Architecture Practice Andrea Dates and Martha Alker, Townshend Landscape Architects
  • Public client (local authority) Anisha Jogani, London Borough of Croydon
  • Private client (major developer) Julia Finlayson, Argent LLP

7.15–7.35pm Panel discussion

7.35–7.55pm Further general discussion

7.55–8pm Summing up, Neal Shasore (University of Westminster)

8–9pm Drinks reception Close

Full details

Tuesday 20 June 2017, 3pm–8pm (2 sessions)

Wren Room
Royal Institute of British Architects
66 Portland Place
London W1B 1AD

Public Space Research:

This symposium is part of an Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded research project, and is convened by Professor Susannah Hagan and Dr Neal Shasore of the Department of Architecture, University of Westminster, and hosted by the RIBA Research Department.

How to attend

Please book your tickets via our online store.