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Design Approach

By Matt Brook, Director at Broadway Malyan

We believe that a rigorous placemaking-led design process is the key to ensuring the success and maximising the economic and social value of projects at every scale - from a city district, building or park to an individual home or interior space.

The places we design are people focused and have a clear purpose, enhancing and adding meaning to the activities they contain, be that shopping, relaxing, learning, living or working. Places with a clear identity generate a strong sense of place, which stimulates our deep-rooted desire to feel a sense of belonging to and connection with our environment.

By adopting a repeatable, rigorous and robust design process we ensure that a clear vision is embedded in every project.

What makes great places?

We believe places with a strong sense of identity stem from an underlying ‘Big Idea’ which provides a narrative strong enough to drive the whole design process. A framework is created for design decision making at every scale, providing a sense of consistency and completeness in the finished product.

The ‘Big Idea’ is just that; an all-encompassing generator from which the rest of the design stems. It should be a solution to the problems and opportunities identified through initial analysis of the brief, context and typology which will hold the design together throughout the process. Working together we create defendable design narratives, which streamline and expedite the planning process and produce finished places with a ‘must have’ quality which maximises their value for our clients and local communities.

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Principle 1

Understand, define and respond to context

Capturing, understanding and responding to the widest possible context is the key starting point for all our projects, from masterplans to individual buildings. To maximise a site’s value for most projects this context is a city scale review of spatial, development, transit, character, cultural, climatic, socio-economic, heritage, environment factors.

Looking beyond the immediate boundaries (brief and site) allows us to understand how a project can best fit and add value to its site, surroundings, community and environment, creating a place which responds to the underlying context and is more than the sum of its parts.

2

Principle 2

Have a clear ‘Big Idea’, which will drive a strong project narrative

The output of our context analysis results in the distillation of the underlying character of a project’s context, informing the creation of a clear ‘Big Idea’, which amplifies the sense of place and creates a clear project narrative. It should generate the next chapter in the history of the place we are working in and be the story we constantly return to, to inform all future decision making, presentations and construction.

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Principle 3

Keep it Simple

Our ambition is for complex thinking that result in well considered simple solutions. Clear thinking, visions, strategies and simple elemental design solutions at all scales result in more valued, robust, legible and memorable places with a stronger sense of identity and purpose.

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Principle 4

Think about people, place, scale and hierarchy

Placemaking is people driven. Places should respond to human scale and behaviour and we respond to different levels of enclosure. They should use appropriate scales for different conditions and activities and have a clear hierarchy of composition, creating legible environments. This applies across typologies, from neighbourhood planning to retail environments to individual homes.

The natural environment always reveals more at closer scales therefore we expect the built environment to scale in the same way. A relationship between the built environment and the human scale is also key to creating a harmonious interaction between people, buildings and spaces.

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Principle 5

Use a restrained palette of materials

A simple palette of materials reinforces a scheme’s form and composition, creating a more coherent place with a stronger sense of identity. Individual buildings should have no more than three materials, including glazing.

A limited palette also reduces material interfaces and junctions creating more resolved, robust, efficient and build-able projects.

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Principle 6

The detail should refer to and reinforce the whole

The initial ‘ Big Idea’ must drive a narrative thread that runs through all levels of detail development to ensure a clarity and strong sense of local identity in all our design work. This creates finished places with a visual coherence and self-referential quality, every detail reinforcing the whole and underscoring the ‘Big idea’, resulting in a strong sense of place.

Human scale is also key to creating a harmonious interaction between people, buildings and spaces.

BP International Centre for Business and Technology

Sunbury, UK

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