Just as we are what we eat, I believe we are what we are surrounded by. The art of place-making was all but dead, as was the skill of creating genuine communities rather than rather soulless housing estates, until I determined to revive these timeless skills over 25 years ago. Although it seems misunderstood, my concern for design is part of a much wider concern about the impact places have on the people who live or work in or around them. My concern is for the built environment as a whole and how that environment affects the way people feel and live.
My ultimate concern in all my initiatives is for the well-being of the individual within community, so the big question is whether an urban environment enables a sense of community to flourish, or does it end up destroying that all-important bond because of the way it is designed? If the urban environment makes people feel isolated or unwelcome or even fearful, then it is hardly likely to engender positive, supportive and prosperous communities. We also have to face the fact that in the future we may not be able to afford to be so dependent upon the car, so it would be wise to design our towns and cities so they are user-friendly when everything is forced by economics to become more local again. These big issues are what drove me to set up what became my Foundation for Building Community. It is currently involved in over 30 developments throughout the UK, from redesigning children's hospitals and building satellite towns, to teaching architecture and urban planning. It is doing the same internationally, from Rosetown in Jamaica to Gabon in West Africa.
This film visits the Foundation's Summer School held in the grounds of Dumfries House, in Ayrshire, to explain how it works, and also the housing development nearby on the outskirts of Cumnock called Knockroon. The aim here is to regenerate the area by creating a vibrant, sustainable community with houses, offices, shops and a school. All the buildings are the result of an exercise in public engagement devised by my Foundation and are built out of local materials with designs reflecting the traditions and identity of the local area. The intention, as in places like Coed Darcy in Wales or Poundbury in Dorset, is also to create an environmentally efficient, walkable town.
This film then explains the work of my Regeneration Trust, a charity I set up nearly 20 years ago to try to tackle the rescue and re-use of many historic sites that are considered redundant. Naval dockyards, Army barracks, mill buildings or courtrooms, you name it, when I came across them they were all considered to be local eyesores, ripe for demolition and yet, to my mind and to many other local people too, they were actually perfectly sound structures that were rich in the heritage of their area. What they needed was to be given a new lease of life. The Trust has since renovated a million square feet of historic floor space, enriching the communities they serve and regenerating the area, all with a deep sense of place.
The film visits a big example of the Trust's many current projects, the on-going restoration of a historic, commercial pottery - the Middleport Pottery in Stoke-on-Trent.
The Prince's Foundation for Building Community www.princes-foundation.org
The Prince's Regeneration Trust www.princes-regeneration.org
The Great Steward of Scotland's Dumfries House www.dumfries-house.org.uk