RSA Journal Issue 1 2023 - RSA

The RSA Journal: Issue 1 2023


In this issue:

We explore the role of place and placemaking, and the potential impact of place-based solutions, in the transition towards a resilient, rebalanced and regenerative future.

“From the global to the hyper-local, placemaking has never been more important”

The RSA is in the regeneration game. Its mission is the regeneration of people, place and planet. This edition of RSA Journal explores the role of place and placemaking in generating the resilient, rebalanced and regenerative communities we will need if people and planet are to flourish. Effective placemaking is a core component of our Design for Life mission, which aims to unlock the opportunity in people through innovative, place-based interventions.

Read this issue's articles online:

The centrepiece of those interventions is our Urban Futures Commission (UFC), launched earlier this year in conjunction with Core Cities UK and Lloyds Bank. The RSA has a rich history in this area through its earlier City Growth Commission, but large structural gaps remain across the UK. Co-chair of the UFC, Bristol City Mayor Marvin Rees, observes that these gaps “were always there to be seen if people chose to see them”. The task now is to close these gaps and unlock the potential of the UK’s major cities.

The RSA’s Jamie Cooke, writing with Fellows Lolita Jackson and Grant Ervin, offers insights into the unique relationship between sister cities Glasgow in Scotland and Pittsburgh in the US. Both cities have a long and distinguished industrial past, followed by a protracted period of post-industrial decline, and both are now reinventing and regenerating for the 21st century. They are exemplars of levelling up in practice.

Whether revitalising a post-industrial US city or developing a new skyline in the deserts of the Arabian Peninsula, building the places of the future requires inspiring architects such as Rami el Samahy. Here, he explores the importance of vision and community participation in the process of developing building guidelines. Closer to home, Alistair Barr of architects Barr Gazetas shares important lessons from King Charles’s model housing developments in Nansledan, Cornwall and Poundbury, Dorset.

It is increasingly recognised that community participation should be at the core of placemaking. Practitioner Cara Courage argues that, for true ‘placemaking’ to occur, local people must be equal partners in setting the vision, and regeneration efforts should be artist-led. We showcase public-placed art in the form of David Goldblatt’s ‘Periodic Table of a Feasible Utopia’, the core of a public art installation in Bristol.

Nicola Bacon of Social Life draws on research to explore how a sense of belonging affects people’s attachment to place. Cohousing consultant Salla Korpela took a leap of faith when setting out to build a communal home for her extended family and friends. Stories like hers show that ‘home’ has no fixed definition, a view shared by author Suad Aldarra, who in our ‘Last Word’ reflects on the meaning of ‘home’ when the home you knew no longer exists.

A key theme of many of these pieces is the importance of reimagining the communities in which we live. Yet people find it hard collectively to imagine a better future and far easier to imagine a worse one, especially at times of uncertainty. Futurist and science fiction author Madeline Ashby explains why, reflecting the question the RSA is asking in 2023: “What could go right?”

Finally, Sean Kline (US Director of Policy & Innovation for the RSA) and Jim Pugh (co-director of the Universal Income Project) discuss the Benefits Access and Equity initiative in California; Professor Mercedes Bustamante details what we can expect from the newly elected government in Brazil when it comes to protections for the Amazon; and Clare Gage FRSA reflects on her experience developing Create Change Chesterfield in her hometown.

From the global to the hyper-local, placemaking has never been more important. The inspiring real-world examples discussed in this edition of RSA Journal should give us hope that lasting change is possible if we approach placemaking with imagination and ambition in a way that is human-centred and planet-conscious.




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Picture of Andy Haldane
Chief Executive, the RSA

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