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    US30 - Guest blog by Simon Allford

    US30 - For thirty years they have designed everything they can lay their hands on

    17 May 2023
    A 3 minute read by Simon Allford

    We are proud to have earned recognition from industry leaders over the past 30 years, with highlights including a RIBA Stirling Prize nomination for Park Hill in 2013, as well as winning more than 50 RIBA and 27 Housing Design Awards.

    And, we were once named as the RIBA’s highest ever national award-winner.

    It’s testament to a great relationship with RIBA, and in this article, the organisation’s current president Simon Allford reflects on Urban Splash, our approach to design – and why design is so important.

    Simon Allford, RIBA president 2021-2023 (image (c) Tom Mesquitta)

    Design matters

    Of course it does. And if something is well designed it is good and does good. And that is regardless of whatever it looks like. Design is not taste. Nor is it fashion. If it is very good it may later be judged as art – but that is for later.

    Urban Splash know this because for thirty years they have designed everything they can lay their hands on. They have designed new public private partnerships; interesting purchase and rental models; new ways of managing and operating as a business and as an owner of architecture. They continuously rethink the product by rethinking the process. They are ambitious and work architecture at the scale of the city whilst simultaneously they are engaged in the detail of the room, the resident, the retailer. They make designs that accommodates the very different lives lived by the mass of very different people that pass by, through and reside in the cities in which they work.

    Park Hill in Sheffield - RIBA Sitrling Prize nominee in 2013

    This is not easy. In fact I know it is very difficult. But that is what drives them on. To take something somewhere, that is often lost or unseen, understand it and make it much better than it was before. Better planned, operated, made and then of course better enjoyed. That is design at its very best. The bigger the set of problems the greater the opportunity to make something good, something both everyday and extraordinary. Design as the resolution of complex problems by incisive and simple actions. Actions that then allows them and their collaborators to makes great architecture, infrastructure, and pieces of city.

    They do this by thinking long term. Both by looking back and rethinking what exists – think Park Hill or Royal William Yard in Plymouth. Or looking forward and imagining what might be - think Britannia Basin or Chips.

    Royal William Yard in Plymouth

    I have never been interested in authors declarations of the import of good Design. After all no one would promote bad design. When asked What are the Boundaries of Design? Charles Eames countered What are the boundaries of problems?

    Urban Splash work in some very difficult places, where money and aspiration are often curtailed by the events of history. They know perhaps better than anyone that there are many problems and few boundaries. That is why they live by design.

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