The changing face of the spaces we share

Discover the 12 emerging themes that will change the nature of our built environment.

The Blurring of Public/ Private Spaces

A subtle shift in the ownership and management of urban spaces will change forever where we can go - and what we can do - 'in public'.

Anyone wanting to take a photo in Manchester's Spinningfields business district is likely to be disappointed. A security guard will ask them to desist. Because, although the area appears to be in the public realm, it is in fact a privately owned public space (POPS).

That means that, while it may be accessible, any member of the public using or passing through it must adhere to rules of behaviour (public access agreements) set out by the landowner.

In Spinningfields' case the landowner is Allied London, who prohibits photography. Other prohibited behaviour in a POPS can include walking a dog, cycling, smoking a cigarette, skateboarding, meeting a group of friends, handing out leaflets, playing a guitar or games, or selling The Big Issue.

Public realm, private land

As the trend for blurring the boundaries between what is a public and private space increases, it will inevitably shape people's relationship with the 'public realm' within our growing cities.

And Spinningfields is by no means unique. London's Paternoster Square is owned by Mitsubishi Estate Co.; 42 acres of central Liverpool, known as Liverpool One, are owned by the Duke of Westminster's Grosvenor Estate; and Bristol's 36-acre Cabot Circus is owned by Hammerson and Axa Real Estate Investors through the Bristol Alliance.

However, the general public might not appreciate this, and may still think of much of their urban space as publicly owned.

A subtle shift

Some of the confusion can be attributed to terminology. It is not only 'squares' which have undergone a subtle change in definition. Plazas, piazzas, parks and even gardens - such as Thomas Heatherwick's ambitious Garden Bridge over the Thames - are all having their meaning redefined by private developers or public/private partnerships.

For many local authorities, asking the public to adhere to a few rules is a small price to pay for a lovely new or redeveloped area. Increasingly cash-strapped themselves, the role of local authorities in the public realm is evolving from 'provider' to 'enabler'. And if the area now in control of a private company was formerly a run-down site or neglected corner, local residents and visitors alike will be likely to welcome the transformation.

One such high-profile transformation is London's Olympic Park. The London Legacy Development Corporation, which is in charge of the park, says: "It is worth remembering that this was industrial, unused, largely inaccessible land before the works started." (1)

Establishing the ground rules

Indeed there is a strong argument to suggest that the issue of ownership should not always be the key concern.

New London Architecture (NLA), the centre for discussion of issues facing architecture, planning, development and construction in London, is more focused on the rules of engagement. "What matters, we believe, is not who owns the space, but how it is managed and maintained." (2) This could be improved, NLA suggests, with the creation of clear guidelines about the use of privately owned public spaces (POPS).

Some critics complain that POPS place too much emphasis on retail and leisure activities. Journalist Anna Minton says: "City centres which are designed purely with shopping and leisure in mind produce strangely 'placeless' places, cut off from their original wellsprings of local life and vitality, characterised instead by a fake, theme-park atmosphere which is a result of disconnection from the local environment." (3)

Even London's Mayor, Boris Johnson, has admitted that "where this type of 'corporatisation' occurs, especially in the larger commercial developments, Londoners can feel themselves excluded from parts of their own city." (4)

Identifying new opportunities

It's not hard to see how the changing nature of public spaces will require a shift in the way they are planned, designed and specified, and this is where inspired landscaping can come into its own.

This growing 'urban renaissance' is an opportunity for landscape architects, designers and engineers to step up and shape the future of the built environment and future architecture trends. In this way, they have the opportunity to influence conversations about how materials and the use of space can create high-quality environments that work for all stakeholders and avoid the creeping homogenisation of our cities.

Marshalls acknowledges that we will all need future spaces that make us feel safer, happier and more sociable; spaces to be ourselves, where we can live, play, create and grow, and which promote wellbeing and benefit everyone.

Increased involvement from practitioners could elevate these planned spaces, helping them reflect and connect to the diversity of the local neighbourhood, within the highest-quality environment possible.

  1. Jeevan Vasagar. 'Public spaces in Britain's cities fall into private hands', The Guardian (11 June 2012),
  2. Ruth Slavid. 'Public London', Landscape - The Journal of the Landscape Institute (Summer 2015),
  3. Anna Minton. What Kind of World are We Building? The Privatisation of Public Space (London: RICS, 2006),
  4. Mayor of London. A Manifesto for Public Space - London's Great Outdoors (London: Mayor of London, 2009),

More People in Smaller Spaces

As we strive to accommodate more urban residents, workers and commuters, the spaces they occupy will have to adapt: becoming smaller, going higher - or both.

Increasing urban populations are having a significant impact on city lifestyles. Ever-rising house prices and a shortage of housing mean that overcrowding is prevalent. Not only are larger numbers of people cohabiting, but houses - and their outside spaces - are getting smaller.

While on the surface this is unsatisfactory, it presents some exciting opportunities for designers and architects who can convince clients to innovate around these challenges with minimal space living. Because everyone deserves a good quality of life, and good design can deliver a practical, comfortable environment, whatever the footprint.

Difficult economic circumstances have had a significant impact on households, at a time when the UK population has grown to more than 64 million, and is forecast to nudge the 70 million mark by 2027. (1)

One consequence of the recession is a construction industry that can't keep up with demand. According to RIBA "there are fewer homes being built than the (number of) new households that are being formed each year." (2)

Multigenerational living

The knock-on effect of that is rising house prices, which are leading to an increasing number of multiple-occupancy households. More than 500,000 households now contain three generations - that's a 30% increase in the number of multigenerational households in the past decade. That figure is expected to reach 556,000 by 2019. (3) And at the time of writing, 3.3 million 20- to 34-year-olds were living with their parents, and 286,000 households contained more than one family. (4)

Multigenerational living can have unexpected benefits to all occupants. It can allow young families to live in homes that are bigger than they could afford alone; elderly people are spared the expense of care, and they also have company; and there are more adults to potentially help with childcare.

But overcrowding can have serious health implications, costing the NHS an estimated �16,100,000 per year. (5) Again, Marshalls believes that well-considered internal and external spaces can help alleviate such problems, and designers and architects have a huge amount to contribute.

The only way is up?

However, while many people still crave a house with its own garden, the cost of land means that more city dwellers will be living in tower blocks. Some 263 towers of more than 20 storeys have been granted approval, are under construction or are built across London. (6) And the vast majority - 81% - are residential. While many of these developments are aimed at the top end of the market, the cheaper high-rise housing is likely to come without the benefits of a landscaped roof garden or indoor swimming pool.

AMA Research backs this up: "Our view is that the share taken by flats is likely to rise again in the longer term. The majority of flats have very restricted access to garden space, often limited to a balcony � or shared access to communal gardens." (7)

It is up to architects and landscape architects to seize the opportunity to inspire developers with innovative communal spaces that make up for smaller, gardenless homes. Paul Lincoln of the Landscape Institute echoes this: "the higher you go � the denser you go, the more attention you need to pay to the quality of the spaces in which that housing is set." (8)

Time to think small

Some architects and designers are already making a virtue out of limited space. Hence the rise of 'micro-mansions' - tiny houses whose design deliberately exploits the latest space-saving ideas.

One of the latest examples is Kasita, a 225-sq-ft (19.9m2) unit whose attributes include walls embedded with smart-home technology. Micro-mansions are gaining popularity in Japan and the US, and look set for increasing popularity in the UK, especially among those who prioritise location over space.

Indeed, YO! Sushi founder Simon Woodroffe is building YO! Home, a 24-apartment block in Manchester. Again, through intelligent use of space, materials and multifunctional furniture, each YO! Home claims to compress all the rooms of an average two-bedroom house into a space no bigger than a one-bedroom apartment.

More conventional volume housebuilders could learn from the solutions on show in the best micro-mansions. Currently, new homes are shrinking compared with those built 20 or 30 years ago. RIBA has found that "The average home in the UK was 85m2 and has 5.2 rooms. The average NEW home in the UK was 76m2." (9) This is partly because the minimal space standards for commercially-sold properties have been removed.

Making space work harder

While many people may baulk at the idea of shrinking homes, there is an expectation that lifestyles will continue to evolve to better accommodate smaller living spaces. Zoe Hendon, Head of Museum Collections at Middlesex University's Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture, explains that, "Over the past 50 years, the distinction between different living spaces has become blurred."(10) Open-plan kitchen-living rooms are now popular, while formal living rooms and dining rooms are becoming extinct. And now that six out of ten meals consumed in British homes are eaten in front of the television, the need not only for a dining room, but also for a dining table, is negated. (11)

Meanwhile modern technology is turning many people into 'accidental minimalists'. Books and CDs are now stored electronically, and bedside radios, landline phones and alarm clocks have been subsumed into mobile devices. Likewise, as homes become more and more energy efficient, there will no longer be the need for radiators, which take up precious wall space.

Smaller homes often come with smaller gardens, if they have any outside space at all. (12)

The solution is inspired design

That opens up opportunities to make the most of a small site, with clever landscaping coming into its own. The challenge will be to marry the smaller spaces with the grow-your-own trend and the long-term popularity of gardening.

In the future, we foresee that properties will not be judged on their square footage or number of rooms, but on inspired design that promotes sustainable living through efficient use of space, materials and technology. These will be the sought-after homes.

  1. Office for National Statistics. 'National Population Projections: 2014-based Statistical Bulletin' (UK: release date 29 Oct. 2015),
  2. Rebecca Roberts-Hughes. Homewise: The Case for Space - the Size of England's New Homes (London: RIBA, 2011),
  3. Kunal Dutta. 'Beating the housing shortage: one home, three generations', Independent (7 Apr. 2012),
  4. Office for National Statistics. 'Statistical Bulletin - Families and Households: 2015' (UK: release date 5 Nov. 2015),
  5. Simon Nicol (Building Research Establishment). The Real Cost of Poor Housing (13 Mar. 2014),
  6. New London Architecture and GL Hearn. London Tall Buildings Survey 2015 (London: Mar. 2015),
  7. AMA Research Ltd. Domestic Garden Landscaping Materials Market Report UK 2015-2019 Analysis (Cheltenham: 2015),
  8. gyro interview with Paul Lincoln of the Landscape Institute, 24 Sept. 2015
  9. Roberts-Hughes. Homewise (see note 2 for full ref.).
  10. 'Living rooms: 50 years of transformation', The Guardian (Nov. 2015),
  11. Red Tractor Assurance. 'Research reveals that Britain is a nation of dinner table dodgers', Red Tractor Assurance (14 Mar. 2013),
  12. Lloyds TSB Home Insurance. Living Changes Report - Press Release, Lloyds Banking Group (London, 10 June 2010),

Demarcating Multi-use Spaces

As living space becomes a scarce and crowded commodity, it will have to work harder. Both indoors and outdoors, the spaces we share will be designed to serve multiple functions, for different types of user.

People's relationship with their internal and external environments is transforming.

As living space becomes a scarce - and increasingly crowded - commodity, it will have to work harder. As a consequence, architects and designers will look to innovative design to ensure that this transformation improves our future lifestyles.

Future spaces - indoors and outdoors - will be designed to serve a number of functions for different types of user, as a matter of course.

In the home, that translates into rooms which can cater for entertainment, cooking, homework, relaxing and even sleeping. And in the workplace, different tasks are best achieved in specific settings.

Whatever the circumstances, successful multiple use spaces will only be achieved if shared areas are demarcated effectively.

Open-plan living, first introduced to the mass market by warehouse conversions and 'loft-style' apartments, is now seen as the norm. Rather than smaller individual rooms, some of which may stand vacant much of the time, a better use of space is to combine those rooms into a single bigger area. However, open-plan homes need zoning.

Get in the zone

Hard and soft materials, colour, patterns and lighting have a key role to play in creating subtle boundaries between zones, and doing the job that walls used to do. Demarcations can also mark out paths of travel between different zones. On the high street, retailers put this to good use, guiding shoppers through their store using subtle changes in store design, which act as subliminal signage.

As zoning becomes increasingly popular in the home, it will move beyond the main living room. For example, some boutique hotels are already experimenting with smart internal glazing to incorporate bathroom facilities into the bedroom.

And as garden space becomes increasingly precious, flooring will help to seamlessly extend the living quarters beyond the walls of the house.

Demarcating zones in offices will continue to be an important part of the modern way of working. Ever fewer offices are exclusively comprised of banks of workstations, because so many white-collar roles have changed.

Staff increasingly need to collaborate, come up with ideas and concentrate quietly on a task or brainstorm.

In this new world of 'activity-based working', workspaces are zoned into a host of different but inspiring settings, from sofas, pods and bar-stools to booths, caf� areas and self-contained meeting rooms.

Every space is a multifunctional space

Airbnb's new customer experience centre in the US city of Portland embraces this ethos. It boasts custom-designed themed pods, a communal breakfast table, 'standing landings'; tall, multifunctional pieces of furniture used as both a standing desk and storage unit, a shared table for working on laptops, and private phone�booths.

Every company is looking to make their real estate work as hard as possible, and clear demarcating across increasingly fluid spaces will help fulfil these functions.

While changes in floor covering or texture can improve 'zoning' indoors, such a technique has myriad applications outdoors.

The late Dutch traffic engineer Hans Monderman pioneered the 'woonerf' or 'Shared Space' concept, where different types of users occupy the same street space. It involves the conversion of some of the space usually devoted to vehicles into multimodal walkable, bikeable, drivable zones for everyone to use.

Shared streets, shared benefits

Although it may at first appear counterintuitive, the advantages to this approach are many: because it encourages cycling and walking, it can reduce vehicle mileage, air pollution and carbon emissions; it improves the 'liveability' of urban neighbourhoods, and the human contact between neighbours; and Dutch research has found that traffic accidents decrease.

Marc Bauwens, Urban Development Manager, says "multiple use of space is a crucial key to the final re-evaluation of the city in all its diversity!" (1)

There are about 6,000 'woonerf' in the Netherlands, and we are already seeing the adoption and adaptation of the concept in continental Europe, Asia, South America and the UK, where they are known as Home Zones.

The UK's Department for Transport says of Home Zones: "The aim is to change the way that streets are used and to improve quality of life, by making them places for people and not just for traffic." (2)

Well-considered landscaping is vital to Home Zones' effectiveness. These areas need clear gateways to define them, and a tactile and visual language to delineate uses. Street furniture can be introduced to guide users around the space.

Setting new boundaries

As simple as the idea sounds, shared spaces are complex, particularly in terms of choice of materials. Mark Boardman, Highway Design Engineer, says: "We're having to reassess the use of materials, to have something that has a visual flow, but is safe." (3) This is a fabulous opportunity for landscape architects and urban planners to demonstrate the many functions of surfaces.

The demarcating of outdoor spaces has the potential to extend beyond Home Zones. Some places will have a duty to work harder; that could be a publicly accessed square going from a daytime outdoor market to a music venue at night. Sarwant Singh, Mega Trends Analyst, calls these "multi-purpose public places on-demand".

We champion landscapes which promote wellbeing and benefit everyone. But we also foresee that demarcation will only work in the long term if it is supported by the innovative use of materials and better implementation. And we see architects, town planners, civil engineers and designers as key to making that 'shared-space future' a reality.

  1. Marc Bauwens. 'Multiple use of space as salvation for the city', (4 Nov. 2015),
  2. Louise Butcher. House of Commons Standard Note SN/BT/1137, 'Roads: Home Zones' (London: last updated 20 Oct. 2010),
  3. gyro interview with Mark Boardman, 28 Sept. 2015.

The New Wave of Water Management

Climate change means that water will have a significant impact on the built environment, our daily lives and the economy. If we are to avoid a deluge, innovative thinking and bold changes in behaviour will be needed - sooner rather than later.

Climate change in the UK is leading to increasing land and sea temperatures, rising sea levels and intensifying rainstorms. By the middle of this century, the average winter is projected to be 15% wetter, and the wettest winter 33% wetter than the baseline average. (1)

Around 5.2 million properties in England - or one in six - are at risk of flooding. (2)

It is no exaggeration to say that water's impact on the built environment, on the public's wellbeing, and on the economy in particular will be significant.

Extreme weather events lead to disruption costs and damages. The expected annual damages to residential and non-residential properties in England at risk of flooding from rivers and the sea is estimated at more than �1 billion. (3)

From flood-proof to 'future-proof'

The unchecked 'hardening' of surfaces through development could lead to a higher likelihood of flooding. But rather than being a contributor, there is scope for a better-considered built environment to actively help reduce the impact of severe weather.

This is the mindset that manufacturers, specifiers and town planners must adopt in the future. Because currently "There is � a 'gap' between what we can cope with today and what we may need to cope with in the future," according to the London Mayor. (4)

The floodplain is a key battleground. If the floodplain continues to be developed, then we will have to rely increasingly on England's 25,400 miles of flood defences.

Clearly this vital infrastructure should be properly invested in and maintained if we are to avoid more problems in the future.

But at the same time, future floodplain development should employ only permeable materials specifically produced to cope with that environment. As for site-specific architecture, there is much to admire in the 'stilts' concept, with new buildings on floodplains designed to allow their ground-floor level to be flooded, and all below-ground services either flood-proofed or raised and incorporated into new transport corridors 5-10m above the ground.

Managing rainwater run-off

In areas not at risk of river or coastal flooding, there is an increasing threat of water surface flooding, which happens when heavy rainfall overwhelms the drainage capacity. It is estimated that 2.8 million homes are susceptible to surface water flooding. (5)

The quicker Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) technology is adopted, the better for everyone. That will allow permeability to be retrofitted into existing urban areas, which now cover 6.8% of the UK's land area. (6)

The time is ripe for more innovation in permeable and - crucially - a higher take-up of those materials that alleviate some of the issues.

A more creative approach to managing rainwater should be encouraged, for example through rainwater harvesting systems, and seeking opportunities to use it for non-consumptive purposes.

In that respect, landscape architects and garden designers need to inspire householders to embrace opportunities presented by climate change.

Paul Lincoln at the Landscape Institute says, "There is a growing awareness of the notion of water-sensitive urban design, where you are looking at how you deal with water flow and how you deal with the management of water, but also how you create schemes in which water might be a significant part of that project."

A natural alternative

AMA Research predicts that flash floods and heavy rainfall will stimulate an interest in rain gardens: planted depressions designed to absorb rainwater run-off, significantly reduce erosion and manage problem areas in gardens, such as lawns, that regularly flood.

Meanwhile, excess water will be increasingly managed with the restoration of green spaces, and even by deliberately designing areas (such as parkland, sports fields, public squares, road spaces or below-ground spaces) to flood.

The Mayor of London points out that "at present, this option is under-utilised in London, and many areas of open space could be designed to flood to reduce the risk to built-up areas." (7)

The key thing is that water management represents a genuine opportunity for innovative thinking. Effectively managing all these risks will only be achieved through bold changes in behaviour, from policy level, to specifying, right down to individual decision-making, because even small incremental changes will have a cumulative impact.

  1. Transport for London. Providing Transport Services Resilient to Extreme Weather and Climate Change - 2015 Update Report following last report to Government in 2011 (London, 2015),
  2. Gill Plimmer. 'Stop-start approach to flood defence funding', Financial Times (7 Dec. 2015),
  3. Environment Agency. Flooding in England: A National Assessment of Flood Risk (Bristol, 2009),
  4. Mayor of London. Managing Risks and Increasing Resilience - The Mayor's Climate Change Adaptation Strategy (London: Greater London Authority, Oct. 2011),
  5. Environment Agency. Flooding in England (see note 3 for full ref.).
  6. Mark Easton. 'The great myth of urban Britain', BBC News (28 June 2012),
  7. Mayor of London. Managing Risks and Increasing Resilience (see note 4 for full ref.).

Future Concrete

As the world becomes increasingly urban, city designers will look to concrete to solve a plethora of complex problems. Compelled to evolve to meet the challenges facing the built environment, concrete is set to become the material of the future.

Despite playing such a vital role in creating our cities and infrastructure, concrete's very ubiquity means that it can be taken for granted. In fact it has been championed by some of the world's most inspiring architects through the centuries.

A material remarkably close to modern-day concrete was employed by the Romans in some of their most ambitious schemes, including the Colosseum and the Pantheon.�This demonstrates one of concrete's key attributes: its durability.

It is this quality along with its strength, availability and relatively low cost that have contributed to concrete's success. Used worldwide, it is the backbone of architecture and infrastructure, from humble dwellings to vast bridges and tunnels.

Shaping our future

Concrete is clearly the material of choice for architects who think big.

Its strength supports architectural feats such as the 1936 Hoover Dam - which was the biggest concrete project of its day - and Chicago's 2009 Trump Tower, which at 423m is the world's tallest unreinforced concrete building. Meanwhile, 2,000 years after it was built, the Pantheon in Rome remains the biggest unsupported concrete dome on the planet.

Concrete will only be more in demand as developing nations become increasingly urban. And as extreme weather events necessitate more durable building materials, the natural resilience of concrete makes it a material for the future - key to the creation of practical, functional future spaces.

The evolution of concrete

As the built environment's challenges continue to evolve, concrete itself will adapt and improve to meet these challenges.

There is increasing research into how concrete can be enhanced to make it more robust, resilient, flexible - 'smarter' - than ever before. That means that advances in concrete technology will change the face of the spaces we share in the not-too-distant future.

Many of the emerging innovations promise cost and environmental benefits. Self-healing concrete contains a mix of bacteria, meaning it can seal cracks as they happen. This will make bridges, tunnels and other civil engineering structures safer and cheaper to maintain, by reducing the need for repairs. Developed by the Netherlands' Delft University, it has been adopted for the Dutch motorway network.

Scientists at Barcelona's Universitat Polit�cnica de Catalunya have developed a concrete that captures rainwater to create living walls of moss and fungi. So-called biological concrete supports the growth of organisms on its own surface.

Turning down the city heat

Cooling pavements are being introduced to help cool down overheating cities. 'Urban heat islands' can come about in hot weather when conventional impervious concrete transfers heat downward to be stored in the pavement sub-surface, releasing it as heat at night. Solar reflective 'cool' pavements, with a mix of reflective aggregate, stay cooler in the sun than traditional pavements.

An alternative solution to 'urban heat islands' is porous pavements: concrete-based but with a sub-layer of water-retentive materials which absorb moisture and evaporate it through capillary action when the pavement heats up. Water-retentive pavements are being trialled in some Japanese cities.

The appliance of science

These sorts of developments alongside the discovery of the nanotechnology graphene and the potential for 3D printing in the built environment combine to make it an exciting future for concrete.

Graphene's properties are staggering: it is a form of carbon a million times slimmer than a human hair, tougher than diamond, more stretchy than rubber and better able to conduct electricity than anything else. James Baker, of the National Graphene Institute, explains how concrete wouldn't just be stronger with graphene added to it, its 'smart' properties could tell you when a structure is under stress. Graphene can also be used as a membrane or barrier, and it could absorb nitrous oxide, helping to reduce pollution in tunnels, for example; it would also allow you to build lighting into roads and into walls.

Printing concrete

Meanwhile a team at Loughborough University, in conjunction with construction group Skanska, has developed "computer-controlled 3D printers that precisely deposit successive layers of high-performance concrete to form complex structural components - such as curved cladding panels and architectural features - that cannot be manufactured by conventional processes". (1)

In the long term, 3D printing is set to have a major impact on construction. Rob Francis, Director of Innovation and Business Improvement at Skanska, says: "3D concrete printing, when combined with a type of mobile prefabrication centre, has the potential to reduce the time needed to create complex elements of buildings from weeks to hours. We expect to achieve a level of quality and efficiency which has never been seen before in construction." (2)

Other advantages would include more accurate construction, reduced waste generation, and reduced health and safety risks.

The smart alternative

Ultimately, we believe that 'smart concrete' will be a material of the future. But we recognise that the benefits of all these innovations will only have a major impact on the built environment and the people within it if they are adopted by similarly visionary architects, engineers and designers.

John Alker, Director of Policy for the UK Green Building Council, echoes this: "It comes down to innovative clients and developers being willing to experiment with their building and test these materials." (3)

If that happens, then concrete's positive impact on the built environment may no longer go unnoticed by the public.

  1. Loughborough University. 'Partnership aims to develop 3D concrete printing in construction', Loughborough University (24 Nov. 2014),
  2. Amy Frearson. 'Foster + Partners works on "world's first commercial concrete-printing robot"', Dezeen Magazine (posted on 25 Nov. 2014),
  3. Rosie Spinks. 'The self-healing concrete that can fix its own cracks', The Guardian (29 June 2015),

The Blossoming of Biophilic Design

As the world becomes more urbanised, nature will be pushed to the fringes. Biophilic design - the mimicking of natural forms - will sate our deep craving for a connection to nature, and help improve people's quality of life.

As urbanisation continues apace, the upshot is a world of exciting, dynamic and vital cities. The downside is that if the spaces we occupy are poorly considered, more people will be put at risk from health conditions associated with the built environment. These go beyond issues such as air and noise pollution, and cramped living conditions.

Health professionals are increasingly aware of the impact on mental, emotional and physical wellbeing for city-dwellers compared to country-dwellers with access to nature.

Research suggests that the larger the settlement you live in, the more likely you are to become mentally ill. Indeed, urban life was found to raise the risk of anxiety disorders and mood disorders by 21% and 39% respectively. (1)

The growth of 'urban stress'

This increased vulnerability for psychiatric illness, suggest the authors, could lead to an escalating medical threat as urban populations are projected to rise in future years.

It should come as no surprise that urbanisation is taking its toll on some of us, given the adaptations that humans have had to make in a relatively short space of time.

In that light, urbanisation could be regarded as an evolutionary mismatch between contemporary brains and the neural systems of our human ancestors. (2) Modern-day humans retain their ancestral brain, and yet have transitioned to new habitats in just a few generations.

Copying nature's best designs

Biophilic design could be a neat solution to these challenges. Biophilic design, or biomimicry, uses nature as inspiration to create human-friendly environments. Pioneers in this emerging discipline say that "good biophilic design draws from nature in a manner that is equally inspirational and restorative without disturbing the functionality of the space to which it is integral." (3)

In the future, this will increasingly involve architects and designers mimicking natural features within the built environment. There is a body of hard data now highlighting the benefits of biophilic architecture and design. Architects, designers and landscape architects will need to draw on that data to champion biophilic design among their clients, and change our cities for the better.

They will need to consider how the great outdoors can be represented by turning to patterns, motifs, textures and artificial lighting options that suggest nature, inspire thoughts of the wilderness, or bring to mind a verdant landscape.

Borrowing natural forms

London-based studio DaeWha Kang Design has applied the principles of biophilia to a 1980s office block in Seoul, Korea. The studio's organic design includes a column wrapped in silver panels to make it resemble a tree. The 'trunk' is joined to the ceiling with 'branches'.

Meanwhile on a man-made island in the United Arab Emirates, the occupants of a glazed butterfly house are shielded from the harsh climate with a canopy of golden leaves. German design studio 3deluxe mounted 4,000 aluminium petals on to an undulating space frame.

Biophilic design is equally applicable to interiors. Environments which are cramped or dark, or in which people spend their daylight hours, are ideal for the application of effective biophilic design. The modern workplace is one such environment.

David Oakey, who specialises in sustainable design, says: "Scientists have found that humans crave sensory change and variation, though our work environments are often flat, unnatural places." (4)

Oakey has designed a flooring collection, inspired by the natural world. Called Human Nature, the collection borrows from the visual and tactile textures of forest floors, grassy fields and pebbled garden paths. Oakey's thinking was that naturally inspired workplace interiors could support wellbeing and harmony among employees.

A sensory experience

In the future, biophilic design will increasingly go beyond nature as a purely visual stimulator. Sound, smell and touch all come into play, having the power to engender physiological and psychological restoration. As more people appreciate their therapeutic effects, multisensory environments will become the norm rather than the exception.

These benefits are particularly relevant to poorer city-dwellers. The World Health Organization says: "Whereas urban dwellings can provide a healthy living environment with enhanced access to important medical, recreational and cultural services and opportunities, urban environments also present disproportionate health challenges to certain components of the socioeconomic strata." (5)

Promoting wellbeing

It seems clear to us that a well-designed, well-built environment can improve the lives of those who live in it. Additionally, Marshalls is aware that we are all influenced by our environment - and the better our environment is, the better we can be.

Our aim is to help architects, designers and their clients create landscapes which promote wellbeing and benefit everyone. Organic and biophilic design will have a key role to play in this.

The industry has only scratched the surface of this fascinating field of design, and its potential for making a difference to city-dwellers' quality of life is enormous.

  1. Leo Benedictus. 'Sick cities: why urban living can be bad for your mental health', The Guardian (25 Feb. 2014),
  2. Laura Helena Andrade and Janir Batista (Institute of Psychiatry, University of S�o Paulo Medical School). 'Toxi-City - The Neurosocial City', Urban Transformations (Oxford, 2015),
  3. Catherine O. Ryan, et al. 'Biophilic Design Patterns - Emerging Nature-Based Parameters for Health and Well-Being in the Built Environment', International Journal of Architectural Research, vol. 8 issue 2 (July 2014) 62-76.
  4. 'Inspiring beautiful thinking from the ground up', (2014),
  5. World Health Organization. Why Urban Health Matters (2010),

Urban Greening

'Green infrastructure' will become vital to the health of towns and cities - and their inhabitants. From managing air quality and rainfall run-off to providing vital space for people to step away from their daily stresses, planners will see a green strategy as integral to their development process.

Our attitude to green spaces is undergoing a transformation. Pockets of green space within urban environments used to be regarded as a luxury, a cosmetic add-on if the budget allowed it.

In the future, urban green infrastructure - comprising parks, public green space, allotments, green corridors, street trees, urban forests, roof and vertical greening, private gardens - will be perceived as vital to the success of towns and cities and the people who live in them.

The evidence demonstrates that green spaces can offer lasting economic, social, cultural, environmental and health benefits. (1)

It's good to be green

Designers and architects will play a key role in presenting the benefits of green spaces and green space living to their clients, whether they are individual householders, town planners or large developers.

Urban greening can take many forms, from the domestic and civic to the commercial and corporate. And as green infrastructure becomes increasingly integral to urban design, it will be up to the practitioners to marry the best landscaping solutions with verdant elements.

In the UK, domestic gardens constitute 35-47% of urban green space (2) - and they can be cultivated as places of biodiversity.

They have evolved from flower gardens to productive places for Grow Your Own projects and an extension to the living space.

Both these trends will continue, offering increasing opportunities for consumers to be clever with layout and planting options, while getting some valuable outdoor exercise that lifts your mood as well as your heart rate. (3)

How does your garden grow?

As new homes continue to be built with smaller gardens or no gardens at all - and as existing gardens are sold off as building plots - architects will need to look for other ways of bringing green space to homes.

With more people renting rather than buying their homes in the future, there will be a rise in the popularity of container gardening as tenants are attracted to the concept of 'transportable gardens' that move with them.

Alternatively, there is scope to encourage the construction of green balconies, roof gardens and communal spaces that are designed specifically to give the city an injection of nature.

Planted architecture

Designers can look to Milan's Bosco Verticales (Vertical Forest) for inspiration. Two skyscrapers have staggered balconies, each one a densely planted garden.

The architects, Boeri Studio, call it "a model for sustainable residential living � that contributes to the regeneration of the environment and urban biodiversity without the implication of expanding the city upon the territory". (4)

Future space designers can also take a lead from the Parisian garden designer and botanist Patrick Blanc. A pioneer of urban greening, Blanc is credited with inventing the 'vertical garden'. Others are following suit, and 'living walls' are set to become increasingly common.

Nature is good for you

It is time for developers and town planners to recognise that green spaces provide a particularly valuable service to deprived areas.

The Landscape Institute points out that people living in more affluent areas have better access than poorer people to good-quality green spaces. "Government policy is increasingly focused on tackling inequalities in health and rising levels of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and depression. One solution to reduce the frequency and impact of such illnesses is to make it easier to be active, by providing accessible, safe, varied and inviting spaces linking homes, places of work and amenities." (5)

These findings are backed up by studies of 'nature deficit disorder' or 'nature deprivation', which suggest that experiences of the outdoors (even views of greenery 'borrowed' through a hospital window) can have a therapeutic effect on people's social, emotional and mental wellbeing. (6)

Time for green infrastructure

As well as the health benefits, there are implications for climate change. Research suggests that a 10% increase in urban green infrastructure would negate the 4�C increase in temperature predicted for Manchester over the next 80 years. (7)

And in addition to helping cities deal with hotter summers, vegetation mitigates flood risk by increasing infiltration into the soil, thereby reducing surface flow.

Even the Mayor of London's office recognises that: "Urban greening can reduce costs related to urban sprawl and infrastructure provision, attract investment, raise property values, invigorate local communities, boost tourism, preserve farmland and safeguard environmental quality." (8)

Green cities, by design

As well as championing an increase in green spaces per se, a significant contribution to the greening of our metropolises will be through the use of sustainably sourced and manufactured products.

The Landscape Institute backs this up: "Faced with growing social, political and economic concern over the use of natural resources, and the potential effects of a changing climate, there has never been a more important time to ensure that the sustainable use of natural resources is the backbone of design." (9)

Ultimately, we should all aspire to a future in which urban greening does not just occur in isolated patches but forms a network of linked green areas across an entire metropolis.

This will be achieved when practitioners make their urban green strategy an integral part of the entire development process. This, in our view, will be a significant contribution to creating more liveable cities of the future.

  1. Commission for Architecture & the Built Environment (CABE). CABE Space: Start with the Park (London, June 2005),
  2. R. Cameron, et al. 'The domestic garden: its contribution to urban green infrastructure' (2012), Urban Forestry and Urban Greening, 11 (2) (2012), 129-137,
  3. Taylor Anderson. '4 surprising reasons to ditch the gym and exercise outside, instead', Cosmopolitan (15 July 2015),
  4. Stefano Boeri Architetti. 'Vertical Forest' (2014),
  5. Landscape Institute. Landscape Architecture - A Guide for Clients (London: Mar. 2012),
  6. Aileen Shackell and Robin Walter. Practice Guide: Greenspace Design for Health and Wellbeing (Edinburgh: Forestry Commission, 2012).$FILE/FCPG019.pdf
  7. R. Cameron, et al. 'The domestic garden' (see note 2 for full ref.).
  8. Mayor of London. Green Infrastructure and Open Environments: the All London Green Grid (London: Greater London Authority, Mar. 2012),
  9. Landscape Institute. Landscape Architecture (see note 5 for full ref.).

The Rise of the Super-Landlord

The advent of 'generation rent' will see institutional investors buying into the private rental sector. The emergence of homes as an asset class will affect the way architects, designers and landscape professionals approach the design and specification of volume rental stock.

The private rental sector is on the cusp of a massive shake-up, thanks to an influx of institutional investors.

This will have major implications for the numbers, types and - most importantly - quality of homes built, and the way they are maintained.

The result will affect the way in which architects, designers and landscape architects approach the design and specification of volume housing.

Generation rent

With home ownership in decline, 3.8 million households are now privately rented in England - that's 18% of all households. (1) But this growing 'generation rent' isn't just made up of 'urban singles'.

Families with children make up a third of a private rented sector that has doubled in size since 1989 and contains more households now than social housing. (2)

Some estimates have the rate of home ownership falling to 50% by 2032 (today it is 65%). Conversely, the rate of private sector renting is forecast to increase from 17% to 35% in the same period. (3)

This combination of a shift into long-term renting and the involvement of corporate 'super-landlords' will change the face of the British rental sector.

The big money is moving in

Since the 1970s, the overwhelming majority of the UK's private rented housing stock has been in the hands of small landlords. But the UK is starting to follow in the footsteps of the US, Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands, where up to 37% of the stock is owned by institutions. (4)

Typically it is large pension funds which are striking the deals, such as Dutch pension manager APG, and insurer Legal & General. Rather than picking up a couple of existing properties here and there, in the manner of buy-to-let landlords, these 'super-landlords' have plans to build thousands of homes or even whole towns.

For example, in Liverpool, the dominance of a single private landlord has been chosen by the city council as their preferred model, with Grosvenor (Estate) "effectively owning 34 streets or 42.5 acres, which have been leased out to the developer on a 250-year lease". (5)

Homes as an asset class

Institutional investors have long been involved in property, but traditionally that meant retail, office or industrial spaces. However, those sectors are less certain than they once were, while the UK's residential sector has a strong track record and the potential for growth, fuelled by population growth and rising house prices.

The imbalance between demand and supply makes this sector very attractive to 'super-landlords', who see the potential for increasing rental revenues and long-term capital growth.

It's a prospect that hasn't escaped the attention of estate agent, Savills. They say: "Private renting has increased by 79% since 2003 and institutional investment is vital for its continued growth". (6)

Not only do they forecast that rental demand will rise by a further 1.2 million households by the end of 2019, (7) rental properties are expected to account for more than a third of the UK's housing stock by 2032. (8)

A long-term investment

The Build to Rent sector could play a crucial role in solving the housing crisis, improving the quality of housing, and financing more development through additional, institutional capital. Without this sector, there is a risk of rents rising even higher, if the demand from new low- to middle-income tenants is not met by new housing stock.

The future of the rental sector will be shaped by professionally managed rented housing, which is purposefully designed and built with the long-term occupier front of mind. Because these 'super-landlords' are in it for the long run, it is in their interest to build to a good standard.

Anthony Payne, Construction Project Manager, explains the logic for super-landlords to improve standards. "Because institutional investors will be running the schemes, they'll be looking at the whole life cost. If they buy cheap they'll be replacing it every couple of years - and they're not into that at all." (9)

Driving up specifications

In time, new building techniques similar to modular build will be adopted by the sector, which will reduce build costs while improving standards. Meanwhile communal spaces - both inside and out - will get more attention.

It is up to their designers and architects to push that forward, and if that comes off, it could herald a golden era for tenants. To ensure this is the case, we would support the introduction of design standards and guidelines across the sector.

Ultimately, we believe that the influx of institutional investors into the private rented sector could go some way to creating better environments which promote wellbeing and benefit everyone. And, for the increasing number of people unable to buy their own home, we at least anticipate high-quality spaces where they can live, play, create and grow.

  1. Carter Jonas. The Future of London's Private Rented Sector, Carter Jonas (June 2015),
  2. Dr Desiree Fields. 'The growth of the investor class within the private rented sector', University of Sheffield (30 Apr. 2015),
  3. Fields. 'The growth of the investor class' (see note 2 for full ref.).
  4. Daniel Bentley. The Future of Private Renting (London: Civitas, Jan. 2015),
  5. Anna Minton. What Kind of World Are We Building? The Privatisation of Public Space (London: RICS, 2006),
  6. Jim Dunton. 'Next government urged to shake-up planning to boost private rental sector', The Architects Journal (1 May 2015),
  7. Mindful Money. 'Dear future British Government, "We'll build �30bn worth of new homes to rent, if you give us the right environment"', Mindful Money (1 May 2015),
  8. Bentley. The Future of Private Renting (see note 4 for full ref.).
  9. gyro interview with Anthony Payne, 17 Sept. 2015.

The Gender Neutralisation of Society

As the genders become more balanced in society, the way the built environment is created and used will shift. As society redresses a history of male dominance, women will take more influential roles, both as practitioners and as consumers.

A societal shift in the gender balance is set to have a significant impact on our built environment, not only how it is created, but how it is used.

Across the world, women are becoming more empowered. Higher levels of formal education, changing attitudes in the workplace, and changing roles within the family are all having an influence.

As equality between men and women increases in more and more aspects of life, the spaces we inhabit and enjoy will reflect that.

The architecture, design and construction industry should take note in two respects: more projects will be handled or headed up by more teams of both men and women, which will have an impact on methodology, ideas generation and decision making; and shifting demographics will mean that women will have an ever-larger role as consumers and users of the built environment.

Women reshaping the world

In 2012-13, 42% of a total of 6,347 accredited architecture degrees were awarded to women, indicating the high number of women who are in the 'pipeline' into the profession. (1)

It is only in the last few decades that women architects have made much of an impression on the built environment. "We live in cities where nearly 100% of the environment around us has been owned, legislated, designed and implemented by men," says architect Alison Brooks. "Architects, engineers, urban planners, theorists, developers, politicians and civil servants - women with a direct role in the shaping of the environment - have only been 'in action' for one generation." (2)

A rebalancing of gender influence

The consequence of that historical gender imbalance has been a free rein for the largely male values of "commercial exploitation and professional vanity" to dominate the construction industry, according to architect Irena Bauman. (3)

But rather than giving cities a stereotypical feminine spin, we believe that women will simply bring more ideas to the table. Because as Brooks says, "ideas are gender-free".

With a more equal world comes an additional 50% of human creative intelligence with which we can take on the challenges of our future spaces.

A more balanced mix of decision makers for our cities will help us better tackle future issues - including the greening of spaces, placemaking, sustainability, the housing crisis and urban resilience.

Across both genders, it is widely recognised that an increasingly equal society comes with mutual benefits. According to the Fawcett Society, seven out of ten men believe a more equal society between women and men would be better for the UK economy. (4)

And young people - the generation that will be making decisions on design, specification and construction of our environment in ten years' time - are already among those most likely to reject traditional ideas of gender. (5)

A generation of female influence

This comes at a time when more women are the sole parent in 91% of the UK's two million single-parent families. (6) The consequence of this is a generation of children taking their societal cues from women.

Also, among people over 85 years old, women outnumber men by more than two to one, while 73% of those people over 65 years of age living alone are women. (7) Which means that society will see an increasing female influence at all life stages.

Coupled with women's continued empowerment, these demographic changes could well have an impact on consumer behaviour.

As Mega Trend Analyst Sarwant Singh points out: "Women already have more purchasing power than men, especially in big capital purchases like cars, homes - they get more say and men tend to agree." (8)

An end to gender stereotyping?

Businesses need to think hard about what products and services are marketed to women, and what form that marketing takes.

Patronising gender stereotyping will increasingly seem outmoded and irrelevant as society's attitudes to gender continue to move away from a predominantly male viewpoint.

Items that claim to appeal to archetypal male characteristics will seem out of date, because people, whether they are men or women, want well-designed, pleasing and functional items around them.

The German Industrial Designer Dieter Rams proved this with his highly successful modernist products for electronics manufacturer Braun through the second half of the 20th century. A pioneer of gender-neutral design, his ethos and aesthetic were picked up by Apple.

Similarly with the built environment, spaces and places that can be shared safely with a variety of people, which inspire respect and also contribute to our happiness and wellbeing, should be our goal, regardless of gender.

Differing perceptions

That said, materials manufacturers would be wise not to ignore women's different perception of colours. According to a Brooklyn College study, females are better than males at discriminating between colours.�(9)

So, if you're concerned with the way in which colours are perceived, "such as the ability to describe a colour, or what that colour means, and so on, I'd say that females are definitely much better than males," says John Barbur, professor of optics and visual science at City University London. (10)

This has implications for how materials are not only designed and named, but also selected and specified. As such, expect to see designers factoring this into future product innovations. Because, in our vision for a better future, there is space for all these nuances.

  1. Lian Chikako Chang. 'Where are the women? Measuring progress on gender in architecture', Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (14 Oct. 2014),
  2. Lucy Bullivant. 'How are women changing our cities?', The Guardian (5 Mar. 2015),
  3. Bullivant. 'How are women changing our cities?' (see note 2 for full ref.).
  4. Fawcett Society. Sex Equality: State of the Nation 2016 (London, Jan 2016),
  5. Fawcett Society. Sex Equality (see note 4 for full ref.).
  6. Office for National Statistics. 'Families and Households: 2014' (UK, release date 28 Jan. 2015),
  7. Office for National Statistics. 'Families and Households: 2014' (see note 6 for full ref.).
  8. gyro interview with Sarwant Singh, senior partner at Frost & Sullivan, writer, and founder of a think-tank group that works on identifying future mega-trends, 26 Aug. 2015.
  9. James Owen. 'Men and women really do see things differently', National Geographic News (6 Sept. 2012),
  10. Owen. 'Men and women really do see things differently' (see note 9 for full ref.).

Placemaking for the People

Placemaking is a collaborative approach to creating more sociable neighbourhoods - from the bottom up. Involving people in the planning of their own community will put local needs and aspirations at the heart of the built environment - and engender a sense of ownership and belonging.

There's a growing trend that enables urban communities to initiate, influence and input into the design of their own neighbourhoods.

Placemaking is emerging as an exciting and highly effective way to create more sociable shared spaces that are really appreciated and used by the whole community.

Given the variety of purposes that successful spaces have to fulfil - and the diversity of the people who will benefit from them - placemaking has huge potential for innovative design approaches.

Architecture commentator and consultant Lucy Bullivant expands on the concept: "Participatory placemaking means working with communities, with citizens: engaging them, and allowing them to play a creative role in the processes of regeneration and transformation of neighbourhoods." (1)

Shaping lives from the ground up

Done well, placemaking can help shape a community, strengthen social cohesion and contribute to the health and wellbeing of all. Furthermore, well-considered placemaking can boost the local economy as it draws more people to an area.

The Landscape Institute acknowledges further aesthetic benefits: "Beauty and delight 'in place' is part of a virtuous circle: it can make people respect an area more and, by being respected, an area can retain its beauty." (2)

As the effectiveness for such placemaking is more widely appreciated, it will become a vital ingredient of urban development. But really successful placemaking will rely on a change in mindset for practitioners.

Placemaking is a 'bottom up' approach, led by local stakeholders, and draws on the assets and skills that exist in the community.

Communities as 'clients'

Although they may not be funding the project, the residents are, effectively, 'the client'. This approach shouldn't be confused with 'top down' public consultation, which typically elicits one of two reactions among those in the construction industry: a yawn or a grimace.

The traditional image of 'consultation' is a collection of vociferous local residents at the town hall, criticising an architect's precious scheme in the hope of diluting or delaying it. Or worse.

Instead, placemaking is about local people identifying a need and bringing in professionals to help them fulfil that need.

Encouraging participation

The best results come about when the client-creative relationship focuses on genuine collaboration, and we'd encourage all professionals - whether they're landscape architects, architects, urban planners or traffic engineers - to reconsider their role in future scheme design.

These professionals are also in a position to improve communication between community groups and local government. If "only with full public participation in the creation of public spaces truly great places can come into being", (3) a balanced, professional view will help ensure that no one interest group dominates, and that the resulting space will work for everyone.

Recognising local culture

Likewise, the history, traditions and character of a community must also be taken into account by the creative partners. It's recognised that "insights into how the area functions, and an understanding of what is truly meaningful to the local people" (4) helps to create a sense of ownership.

There is a logic to involving local institutions, museums, libraries, schools, business associations and formal and informal neighbourhood groups as "all these can be valuable allies. They can help get a scheme off the ground and keep it going." (5)

As we work towards a future of more attractive, more loved, more enjoyable social spaces, designed specifically for their locales, practitioners must avoid creating designs that hark to the past, and push themselves to make places that are absolutely appropriate for that environment.

The benefits of this approach are already clear. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) believes that "by involving residents, nurturing trust and goodwill, inspiring community spirit and developing ideas together, we can create a vision that everyone buys into, rather than imposing an off-the-shelf solution that people feel no ownership of - and which developers simply walk away from. This helps to make places that foster civic connections and build social capital." (6)

Reinventing community planning

The scope for placemaking is limitless. We are already seeing imaginative social spaces created on previously unloved plots, or spontaneously transforming underperforming spaces.

Ultimately, placemaking is a way of improving all of the spaces that "comprise the gathering places within a community - its streets, sidewalks, parks, buildings and other public spaces - so that they invite greater interaction between people and foster healthier, more social, and economically viable communities." (7)

Looking forward, Marshalls sees placemaking as a reinvention of community planning that will put local needs and aspirations at the heart of the built environment. And with this fresh approach will come fresh and inspiring design thinking.

This has implications for how materials are not only designed and named, but also selected and specified. As such, expect to see designers factoring this into future product innovations. Because, in our vision for a better future, there is space for all these nuances.

  1. gyro interview with Lucy Bullivant, editor-in-chief of, RIBA honorary fellow, Nov. 2015.
  2. Landscape Institute. Landscape Architecture - A Guide for Clients (London, Mar. 2012),
  3. Landscape Institute. Landscape Architecture (see note 2 for full ref.).
  4. Project for Public Spaces, Inc. Placemaking and the Future of Cities (Autumn 2012),
  5. Project for Public Spaces, Inc. Placemaking (see note 4 for full ref.).
  6. Susan Silberberg, et al. Places in the Making: How placemaking builds places and communities (Cambridge, MA: Department of Urban Studies and Planning - MIT, 2013),
  7. Placemaking Chicago. 'What is Placemaking?', Placemaking Chicago

Building-in Resilience

As global urbanisation accelerates, cities need to be able to continue to function properly under increasing multiple stresses. To do that, cities must be consciously designed to resist the impacts of natural, social, political and economic events.

The future of our cities will be more secure when everyone comes together to tackle what many believe to be the future's greatest urban design challenge: resilience.

As global urbanisation accelerates, cities urgently need to be designed or retrofitted to be able to function properly under increasing, multiple stresses. From climate change, flooding and other extreme environmental events to economic, political and social upheaval, cities need to be inherently resistant to the pressures imposed by increasing - and increasingly demanding - populations.

Arup's Josef Hargrave believes that this involves "shifting from a situation where we design for the present, to a situation where we have to design for the future in a much more conscious way". (1)

Designing stronger cities

Cities which build-in resilience will be better able to anticipate, manage or avoid a diverse range of natural and socioeconomic risks: everything from cyber-attacks, endemic crime and social deprivation to earthquakes, power outages and disorder - all scenarios that weaken a city's stability.

Resilience will be instrumental in generating social benefits and creating opportunities for economic growth.

But it's a complex field that demands holistic design thinking, active management and stewardship, and a willingness to cooperate for the common good. According to architects Gensler: "If we get it right, prosperity and a high quality of life will follow." (2)

If the potential effects of environmental, social and economic impacts are factored in to their design, then cities in the future will provide safer, more stable places for people to live, work and thrive - especially if they can "withstand shocks and 'bounce back' or improve their conditions post-shock". (3)

The city as an 'ecosystem'

Those responsible for creating our future spaces will need a new way of thinking about cities.

They should be reconsidered as ecosystems, where climate patterns, populations, infrastructure and watersheds are all part of the overall picture.

Gensler likens this approach to the natural world, which "builds evolving wholes with simple, distributed, flexible parts. Communities can do this too: achieving long-term resilience by planning their development or continued growth holistically - not apart from nature, but part of it." (4)

The age of integrated infrastructure

Historically, different infrastructure sectors have, to a great extent, been planned and provided independently of each other. "They now have different governance and regulatory structures and, with the possible exception of transport, are not planned comprehensively in relation to their future spatial impacts." (5)

At the same time, the interdependencies between different infrastructure systems are not well understood. Consequently, this 'system of systems' approach leads to a significant weakening of the resilience of all systems. (6)

This change in behaviour will mean a host of different disciplines and sectors speaking to each other and - more importantly - listening to each other for the sake of the city.

With their understanding of the built environment, the contribution of landscape architects, designers and engineers will be invaluable as disparate commercial and public-sector parties seek to work together.

Together, we're stronger

Climate change has an influential role in our thinking about resilience, particularly as the UK's cities are not currently well adapted to increasingly extreme weather events.

In the first decade of the 21st century, the UK experienced repeated devastating flooding, heatwaves, a severe drought and record-breaking cold winters. (7)

Indeed, to effectively increase our resilience, collaboration is key, as "we need the climate to be routinely considered in all significant decisions (with) more joint working across the public, private and voluntary sectors". (8)

Designers, architects and engineers could seek inspiration from Hamburg's new inner-city district of HafenCity - an entire district designed with future climate risk in mind. "Set in stone in the masterplan was the intensive interaction between existing and new buildings and the water, the elevation of buildings as a flood protection concept." (9)

In the opinion of Josef Hargrave: "I think that HafenCity in Hamburg, Germany is a good blueprint for how other cities are going to design a more resilient and future-proof public realm in the future."(10)

A new way of thinking

In tandem with this approach is the potential for cities to connect traditional cities' infrastructure, built environment, green spaces and waterways into a single, integrated system that provides greater sustainability and resilience.

Architecture commentator and consultant Lucy Bullivant makes the point that "the way in which resilience planning evolves through integrated systems isn't rocket science - but it's definitely a newer way of improving the public realm in the face of today's stresses and strains." (11)

We are excited about the potential for cities to be consciously designed to resist the challenges of the future. Because, not only do we have a passion for creating better spaces, we also believe that this is society's most compelling reason to reshape the environments we share for the benefit of everyone.

  1. gyro interview with Josef Hargrave, associate in Arup's Foresight, Research and Innovation team, Nov. 2015.
  2. Gensler. Design Forecast 2015: Top Trends Shaping Design,
  3. Prof. Katie Williams. Future of Cities: Working Paper - Urban Form and Infrastructure: a Morphological Review (London: Foresight, Government Office for Science, June 2014)
  4. Gensler. Design Forecast 2015 (see note 2 for full ref.).
  5. Williams. Future of Cities (see note 3 for full ref.).
  6. Williams. Future of Cities (see note 3 for full ref.).
  7. Mayor of London. Managing Risks and Increasing Resilience - The Mayor's Climate Change Adaptation Strategy (London: Greater London Authority, Oct. 2011),
  8. Mayor of London. Managing Risks and Increasing Resilience (see note 7 for full ref.).
  9. HafenCity. 'HafenCity - the genesis of an idea',
  10. gyro interview with Josef Hargrave (see note 1 for full ref.).
  11. gyro interview with Lucy Bullivant, editor-in-chief of, RIBA honorary fellow, November 2015

Circular Economy

As an ambitious alternative to a traditional linear 'make, use, dispose' model, the circular economy's aim is to eradicate needless waste and build in reuse wherever possible. There is exciting potential for the creative industries and the construction sector to make this work on a city scale.

The circular economy has the potential to bring about a paradigm shift in how we live and do business, and offers exciting new opportunities for growth.

This is a radically fresh way of thinking and acting, one that could transform our future. The opportunities for the creative industries and the construction sector to have an influence on this are limitless.

In simple terms, the circular economy offers an alternative to the established linear 'make, use, dispose' consumption model, and aims to eradicate needless waste.

By keeping the planet's resources in use for as long as possible, a circular economy would extract their maximum value. As McKinsey & Company puts it: "A circular economy replaces one assumption - disposability - with another: restoration." (1)

Designing-out waste

It's a model that disregards the outmoded thinking that access to cheap resources can maintain economic growth.

Rather than accepting waste as a way of life, materials are recovered wherever possible, and disassembly is built in to products to aid that.

While the circular economy is still a fledgling movement, many European business leaders and policy makers support it.

The Dutch are early adopters of the movement, having set up a National Hub for the Circular Economy at Schiphol Trade Park. Frans van Houten, CEO of Philips, says: "With its system-wide perspective, the circular economy has the potential to help us make better decisions about resource use, design out waste, provide added value for business and proceed along a route to society-wide prosperity and environmental sustainability for future generations."(2)

Building a business case

Indeed, the business case for a circular economy is compelling. Analysis published by McKinsey in 2014 estimates shifting towards circularity could add $1 trillion to the global economy in the next ten years and create 100,000 new jobs. (3)

The role of design in a successful circular economy is critical. The materials selected for a product - and the way those materials are put together - would need to be completely rethought.

McKinsey explains: "In a circular economy, the goal for consumables is to use nontoxic and pure components, so they can eventually be returned to the biosphere, where they could have a replenishing effect.

'The goal for durable components (metals and most plastics, for instance) is to reuse or upgrade them for other productive applications through as many cycles as possible." (4)

Less waste, by design

In the quest for more sustainable future spaces, the design and manufacturing industries should pour their efforts into redesigning materials, systems and products for circular use, and making reusability an essential feature.

That would mean that products would need to be more durable and practical. As well as reducing landfill and decreasing the public costs of waste management, this approach could help mitigate the worst effects of climate change.

For the built environment, designers and architects would need to reconsider the 10-15% of building material wasted during construction, and the number of materials made with toxic elements. This contributes to the fact that during demolition, 54% of materials are landfilled. (5)

"Buildings would generate, rather than consume, food and power. They would have fully closed water, nutrition, material and energy loops," according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. (6)

Changing attitudes, changing approach

Innovative architects are already experimenting with and implementing these concepts. The Nature & Environment Learning Centre (NME) in Amsterdam has been specifically designed by Bureau SLA to teach Dutch children about the environment and sustainability.

The design features a passive heating and cooling system on the south-facing elevation.

A future which embraces the circular economy is very attractive, but it is predicated on some major shifts in mindsets. The buying public would no longer be consumers who are sold a product, but users who either rent an item or return it to be reused.

Likewise, corporate decision-makers would have to reinvent the linear supply and manufacturing chain. While identifying the product formulations that go into many modern goods would be "devilishly difficult", (7) it's a challenge that must be tackled if we are to break ingrained habits and establish new ones.

As Alicia Clegg points out: "Building products such that their components can readily be disassembled transforms the economics of repair and remanufacturing, but requires designers and architects to give as much weight to achieving recoverability as they give to novelty and style." (8)

Indeed, we wholeheartedly support the creation of well-designed, ethical and sustainable spaces. As such, we view the circular economy as a key component to a better future: better for people, businesses, the environment - and for the spaces we must all share.

  1. Hanh Nguyen, et al. 'Remaking the industrial economy', McKinsey Quarterly (Feb. 2014),
  2. Ellen MacArthur Foundation. Growth Within: A Circular Economy Vision for a Competitive Europe (June 2015),
  3. Maxine Perella. '10 things you need to know about the circular economy', The Guardian (June 2014),
  4. Nguyen, et al. 'Remaking the industrial economy' (see note 1 for full ref.).
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  1. About the Project

    Marshalls believes in creating better spaces - and as the UK's leading landscape materials brand, we believe that it's important to think ahead.

    Future Spaces is our ambitious attempt to foresee how the commercial, public and domestic spaces we help design, build and share might adapt and evolve over the next ten years.

    We set out to predict how changing lifestyles, technology and economic conditions might dictate the look, feel, colour, shape, textures and materials used to create those spaces.

    But once we dug below the surface we found much more.

    Four unstoppable global mega-trends driving 12 emerging themes: pervasive forces that will change the nature of our built environment, both subtly and dramatically.

    Future Spaces is the result of our own intensive research, including interviews with academics, industry commentators, journalists, architects, landscape designers, materials technologists, engineers, futurologists - as broad a spectrum of opinions, ideas and experience as we could find.

    Here, we're delighted to share a brief glimpse of what we might expect as the future rushes towards us at an ever-increasing pace. Our full findings will be published in 'Future Spaces', a limited edition book that not only reveals how the spaces we share will be designed, but also how they will be owned, governed, managed, occupied, humanised and monetised.

  2. Filter
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Contact Us

We'd love to hear what you think about Future Spaces. So if you have any questions or just want to share your opinions, get in touch, or better still, pay us a visit.

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Marshalls Design Space,
Unit 4 Compton Courtyard,
40 Compton Street,
London EC1V 08D