Sarah believes that good urban design and masterplanning has the ability to transform communities and neighbourhoods by developing value, creating belonging, and enabling cohesion. She is passionate about putting people at the heart of both the process and product of development.
An architect by training, Sarah has joined us as a Senior Associate Urban Designer with expertise in housing association and council-led schemes.
She is currently working alongside Paul Seaver to develop our Place studio. As a multi-disciplinary practice, we have an amazing range of people with skills and enthusiasm for place shaping. Place is a way of bringing this together to create a culture that combines urban design, landscape design, town planning and architecture.
What is your proudest moment?
I was really proud to support the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) to deliver the National Design Guide in 2019. It was a short but fascinating project carried out at a politically turbulent time. Hopefully it’s thought of as a new milestone for central government quality-setting for the built environment.
What are the key challenges that affect your sector, or are likely to in the next five years?
I enjoy working with Councils because of their long-term vision for neighbourhoods and people. They recognise that urban designers look at projects in a holistic way to embed value from the get-go. They really understand the value in a robust masterplan. They know the benefits of investing in a detailed brief, meaningful community engagement and co-design. My challenge is to help other clients see the link between social and commercial value.
Best networking event you’ve been to?
Cycle to MIPIM and PedElle. Spending long hours on the bike over several days is a real leveller and a great way to get to know people. To get the best results you have to work as a team and it feels great when the peloton is humming and the sun is shining.
PedElle is particularly fun because it’s a women’s event; there’s lots to chat about and the peer to peer support is invaluable. I met some of my best friends through PedElle and we’ve gone on to complete our own cycling challenges as well as some exciting regeneration projects.
Best building in your city?
I’m an urban designer, so I’m more excited about streets. Every day I cycle over the Clifton Suspension Bridge to get to work. You get that wonderful bird’s eye view over Bristol and, with it, a reminder of the city’s scale, history and the geography that has driven its development.
Best book you’ve read?
Whilst writing my Masters dissertation, I came across ‘Cohousing: A contemporary approach to housing ourselves’ by Charles Durrett and Kathryn McCamant. At the time I remember thinking, “How is this not the standard for housing?” The book was written over 30 years ago but we’re still years, maybe decades, off cohousing being the norm.
It’s the title of the book which I find most striking, ‘housing ourselves’. Generally, in the UK we don’t have a culture for delivering housing under our own steam. Capitalism and land values mean the big companies are in charge. But great little projects are starting to pop up, especially around Bristol (see 325 Fishponds Road). I’m really excited about the future of community-led housing.
- UK Green Building Council, Defining Social Value Task Group