Hatch Opportunities

Hatch: DCFW’s network for fresh-thinking shapers of the built environment in Wales



Hatch is the Design Commission for Wales’ network for fresh-thinking shapers of the built environment in Wales

Our next event is…

Hatch Christmas Social

6-7.30pm Thursday 29th November 2018

Little Man Garage, Tudor Lane, Cardiff CF10 6AZ

Register here


Hatch aims to…

  • Be a voice for good design and make sure it’s heard by the right people
  • Raise awareness of the value of good, joined up design and planning, and the difference it can make to individuals and communities
  • Learn and improve our skills to become better designers, enabling us to raise the standard of design in the built environment in Wales and make better places which are more sustainable
  • Tackle the challenges and risks faced by talented designers in Wales together, bridging the gap between built environment disciplines
  • Demonstrate the value of innovative design processes and solutions
  • Raise design aspirations in Wales
  • Have fun in the process!

To meet its aims, Hatch will…

  • Proactively uphold the strategic aims of the Design Commission for Wales
  • Meet, talk and do things together to achieve our aims
  • Share ideas and information
  • Look for, create and share opportunities
  • Celebrate good design in Wales
  • Take an interest in the politics influencing design and the built environment
  • Connect with and inspire Wales’ future generation of designers

Download the Hatch Flyer to spread the word

Hatch Programme Part 1 will provide you with dates of upcoming events

Follow @HatchDCFW on Twitter

Want to get involved?

If you’d like to join Hatch, please download and fill in this Joining Form and send it back to us.

Hatch Joining Form

Hatch is open to all enthusiastic, open-minded and ambitious designers, planners, engineers and other shapers of the built environment in Wales.  Give us a call if you’d like to find out more.

Once registered, you will receive email updates about Hatch events and opportunities, and you will be added to the list of active Hatch participants on our website (with your permission)

Some Hatch events will have an attendance fee as indicated on the programme.  This is to help cover costs and will help us to bring in speakers and to visit places that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to do.  This will be kept to a minimum with most events costing just £5 and others will remain free.

The Design Commission invests its resources to facilitate Hatch, and we expect those who join to actively contribute their skills and ideas to the group.  (Those who have not contributed for a period six month will be removed from the website.)


The active Hatch network includes…

James Stroud, Project Designer, Loyn & Co Architects

John Lloyd, Lead Energy Engineer, Amber Energy

Emily Hall, Associate Architect, Hall + Bednarczyk Architects

Steve Coombs, Architect/Lecturer, Coombs Jones/Welsh School of Architecture

Kate Davis, Planning Student, Cardiff University

Lauren Philips, Urban Designer, The Urbanists

Wendy Maden, Design Research Assistant, Design Commission for Wales

Jamie Donegan, Urban Designer, The Urbanists

Michael Boyes, Architect, Hall + Bednarczyk

Mark Lawton, Landscape Architect, HLM

Emma Pearce, Urban Designer, Arup

Elan Wynne, Principal Architect, Stiwdiowen

Emma Price, Director, EMP Projects & Associates

Peter Trevitt, Peter Trevitt Consulting

Richard Williams, Veritii

Rob Chiat, Urban Designer, Arup

Claire Symons, Senior Landscape Architect, Stride Treglown

Jack Pugsley, Assistant Consultant Planning, Amec Foster Wheeler

Thomas Wynne, Associate Architect, UNIT Architects Limited

Lindsey Brown, Urban Designer

Eleanor Shelley, Architectural Assistant, Scott Brownrigg

Priit Jürimäe, Architectural Assistant, Scott Brownrigg

Efa Lois Thomas, Architectural Assistant, AustinSmith:Lord

Ruth Essex, Consultant & Creative Producer

Graham Findlay, Inclusive Design Consultant, Findlay Equality Services

Olympiada Kyritsi, Architect, Inspire Design

Adam Harris, Architectural Lead

Patrick Barry, Bridge Engineer, Arup

Karn Shah, Assistant Engineer, CH2M

Hatch Flyer


Hatch Programme 2018

Here you can download a programme of Hatch events for the first half of this year so you can put the dates in your diaries.  Details of site visits and speakers will be announced when confirmed.

Please note that some Hatch events will now have an attendance fee as indicated on the programme.  This is to help cover costs and will help us to bring in speakers and to visit places that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to do.  This will be kept to a minimum with most events costing just £5 and others will remain free.


Discovering Wales’ post-war architectural delights

Virtual Hatch! Discovering Wales’ post-war architectural delights
Thursday 1st June 5-7pm

June’s Hatch meeting clashes with the start of the Champions League Final in Cardiff, so we are going virtual!  This means you can join in from wherever you are, so please mark the date and time in your diary.

Good post-war architecture and design in Wales, as with the rest of the UK, is often overlooked, and many examples have been forgotten or demolished. This month, we are setting Hatch the challenge of hunting out the best examples in Wales so we can highlight their design quality.  Whether it’s a beautiful Brutalist building or a Modernist feat of engineering, we want to know about it – so get exploring!

Between 5pm and 7pm on Thursday 1st June we want you to Tweet us as many examples of good post-war architecture and design in Wales and you can.  You can Tweet us photos and a description or a link to a website.  If you don’t use Twitter, please email us your discoveries in advance and we’ll Tweet them for you.  We want to create a bit of a buzz about this, so please try to stick to the timings.  We will add all the examples to this Pinboard:

Use @HatchDCFW and #PostWarArchiWales when Tweeting.

Need inspiration? Listen to DCFW Design Review Panelist, Richard Woods on how Post-War Architecture inspires him:

Comment Hatch

Exploring the Potential of the National Development Framework

By Efa Lois Thomas

On the 2nd of March 2017, Hatch members came together with Young Planners Cymru for an event at DCFW that provided and opportunity to explore the potential of the National Development Framework (NDF). It was particularly interesting for me, as I come from an architectural background, not a planning one, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was interesting to think that the preparation of this plan could have real impact on what happens on the ground in Wales in the next 20 years.

The presentation began with an explanation of the National Development Framework, how Wales needs an overarching vision for planning, how we want to create change in our communities and what makes a good place. We also discussed how Planning Policy Wales will be reviewed and integrated with the NDF.

We then split into two workshop groups, one discussing the National Development Framework and the other thinking about the objectives of planning and sustainable places for Planning Policy Wales.


The National Development Framework workshop considered the 20-year national development plan (which will replace the Wales Spatial Plan) and the key issues that face Wales now and in 20 years’ time . Some very interesting ideas were discussed including: the inherent potential in linking the NDF to the Well-being of Future Generations Act and Active Travel Act, how large nationally important projects might be reflected and, on a smaller scale, how every town and village could have safe routes for people to walk to amenities, and how the focus should shift to more sustainable travel methods, such as cycling or trams.

We also discussed how the character of some towns is being slowly eroded by the impact of national retail chains, resulting in the closure of local independent businesses and the loss of a sense of ‘place’.

The potential for Wales to increase and improve its tourism industry, through better marketing and planning emerged as a key theme. We discussed how some towns outside of Cardiff have tourists commuting from Cardiff to get there, just because there aren’t enough hotels in the capital. We also considered how the protection of historic Welsh place names could potentially become part of the NDF as they are something completely unique to Wales, which is a perfect opportunity for marketing tourism.

IMG_0352 (2)

On the subject of decarbonisation, we discussed exciting opportunities presented by the tidal lagoon projects, as well as how the devolution of control over natural resources could affect Wales’ carbon output. It was also raised that, in an ideal world, there should be financial incentives to reinsulate existing housing stock as the ineffective use of energy greatly affects the amount of carbon that is used.

We also briefly explored the potential of re-wilding Wales’ farming landscapes and the impact of changes following departure from the EU.

After half an hour, we swapped workshop groups to go to a workshop on Planning Policy Wales.

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This was much more focused on the potential of what the Planning Policy Wales specifically could do to rectify the problems that Wales currently faces.

We discussed how planning should operate, for example, whether putting planning notices on lampposts is an outdated custom.  The issue that current demographics that are usually consulted in planning are either those over the age of 65 or school children was raised and we considered what could be done to rectify this.

A complicated issue that emerged was how to give a town or area that arises from a new development ‘soul’ and ‘community’. We discussed how some areas on the outskirts of Cardiff only have two supermarkets, a school and a few housing complexes and what could be done to make this place better.

We then had a discussion about why people wouldn’t want to live in certain areas, and what makes people feel safe in a particular area. I was personally reminded of Jane Jacob’s theory in ‘The Life and Death of Great American Cities’, about having eyes on the street, and people feeling ownership of the street. We explored what makes us personally feel safe and what may deter us from walking somewhere, but feel perfectly comfortable in a car or a bus. We then considered whether improving the safety of some areas would make people want to live there.

The evening concluded with a brief Q&A session with the representatives from Welsh Government’s Planning Division. It was an enlightening evening and it was very exciting to see what could potentially be shaped into the Welsh landscape over the next 20 years.

Efa Lois Thomas is at Part 1 Architectural Assistant at Austin-Smith:Lord and Winner of the National Eisteddfod Design Commission for Wales Architecture Scholarship 2016.

Events Hatch

Hatch: Exploring the potential of the National Development Framework

Exploring the potential of the National Development Framework (NDF)

a joint event with Young Planners Cymru


Starting with light refreshments

A great opportunity to contribute your thoughts and design/planning talents to the shaping of a nation!

The Planning Directorate at Welsh Government has begun work on the NDF which will set out a long-term land use framework for Wales.  Hear from the Welsh Government team working on the NDF and their vision for Wales, discuss opportunities for design and collaborative working to shape the future of Wales, find out how you can get involved and make a real impact as work begins on this important piece of work.  We like to think of this as a giant masterplan design exercise for the whole of Wales, and work is just starting on defining the brief and analysing the site and context; so it’s a great time to get involved.

There are a couple of things you can do now to help you prepare for the event…

  1. Read Alister Kratt’s short essay, ‘Welsh Plan: National Vision’.  Written for DCFW’s LandMarks publication in 2015, it considers the opportunities the NDF offers.  Here’s a link to the publication:
  1. Consider the following questions:
  • What are the overarching issues for Wales in relation to land use and infrastructure?
  • What makes a sustainable place?
  • What information, resources and evidence exist which could be useful in understanding Wales as it is now? (maps, databases, research…)
  • How could the public be effectively engaged and consulted during the preparation of the NDF and subsequent reviews?
  1. Take a look at the current call for projects and evidence:

Please let us know if you will be attending

Find out more about Hatch here

Events Hatch

Hatch: Culture change

Two hours to change the world!  Well, we can make a start anyway!

Culture change requires fresh-thinking, creative people like you.  We’ll spend November’s Hatch meeting discussing ways to improve the built environment culture in Wales, from planning, to design, to delivery.  We’ll think about what needs to change and how those changes can happen.  Come with questions and ideas.


Refreshments provided.

Save the date for our Christmas social event: Thursday 1st December

Find out more about Hatch here


Hatch: Effective Engagement

Hatch, Thursday 1st September

Effective Engagement

By Wendy Maden


A recent change to the requirements for pre-application consultation with the community and other stakeholders in the planning application process has highlighted the need for to think about how to engage. Can we avoid ticking yet another box and going through the motions? Can we add value through engagement and participation and if so how? September’s HATCH network meeting considered these issues and the challenges and opportunities presented by consultation and engagement.  Three built environment professionals were invited to share their experience and thoughts on the subject and stimulate debate.


Action & testing

Ruth Essex shared her experiences of working with people through a ‘tactical urbanism’ approach. Ruth is a regeneration consultant and creative producer who currently manages the Arts Council of Wales’ Ideas-People-Places programme. She began by challenging the language of ‘engagement’ and ‘consultation’ by instead suggesting that describing the activity as ‘working with people’ or ‘co-production’ can create a different dynamic that can be more productive. Ruth described tactical urbanism as ‘DIY urbanism’ which allows people to quickly change their environment instead of spending time talking about possible changes. She explained that, from her experience, this method of working with communities to change their built environment has been more productive than the classic model of consultation-then-action. It allows ‘quick wins’ which are motivating for communities as they see instant change and are given agency to change their environment. This direct approach can be more exciting for people than looking at plans for a potential project – it essentially minimises planning and maximises activity.

Ruth noted that as well as better engaging people, tactical urbanism can also be used to test different ideas before possibly settling on a more permanent intervention.  Ruth noted how conventional planning processes emphasise the need for perfect results, following lengthy consultation, without room for testing, and learning from the testing process.  Therefore the tactical urbanism method can allow for trial and error whilst preventing costly changes if a project is unsuccessful. An example might be wasted or unused space in towns and cities, awaiting development, that provide opportunities for tactical urbanism to allow ideas to be implemented and tested early. Part of this testing, she noted, is the ability to observe how people use the space and any newly installed hardware, which can help inform future action in the area.

A number of examples from around the world were highlighted by Ruth to demonstrate how this concept had been used in practise. A well-known example was Times Square in New York where a sequence of interventions were successful in leading to pedestrianising the area. Examples from central Europe and the UK demonstrated a range of projects of different scales. 72 Hour Urban Action is a unique architectural competition whereby eight teams are given a different public space in one city and they must design and build a project in three days and three nights. Ruth described this as a successful model for engaging and motivating the community and creating almost instantaneous action in public spaces.


Develop a relationship

Following Ruth, Owen Davies discussed his recent experience of community engagement on the Arts and Minds project by Arts Council in Wales. Owen is director of Owen Davies Consulting Ltd, a regeneration and planning practice focusing on making places more liveable, memorable and viable. Owen began by defining ‘consulting’ as the action of seeking advice or information, as opposed to ‘engaging’ which is to occupy attention, meaning that engagement should be viewed as a long term interaction with a community.

Catching people’s attention

Owen described his involvement in a particular project which provides valuable lessons for successful engagement. The example was an estate improvement project St George’s Court in Tredegar, South Wales. The team had developed a ‘yellow brick road’ idea and in order to catch people’s attention, prior to organised consultation, they painted a yellow strip through a well-used car park on the estate. This served to signal change and stimulate curiosity amongst the community. In terms of organised consultation sessions, Owen stated that the intention was to make the community feel comfortable coming to the team to talk about their area, so hot water bottles and an abundance of tea and cake were available at the sessions. Although small gestures, they made people feel welcome and ‘warm’ during these events which naturally aided discussion and engagement. Following the event all of the written material was left in situ, to allow residents to view the content and as a reminder that change will happen.

Establishing a welcoming, regular presence

In order to develop a long term relationship with the community, Owen described how the team used a vacant flat on the estate as their project base. This was open every Wednesday for the community to pop in and discuss the project or any other issues relating to the estate. This open house approach led to discussions with the residents about their real day to day concerns, one of which was a concern about front doors being replaced for safety reasons. In order to address this concern the resident artist started to photograph every door in the estate as a record and these images were subsequently displayed on the estate. The process of doing this not only made the project personal to each resident, but also facilitated a reason for one to one contact with and between residents.

Owen concluded that this level of attention and time given to engagement with the community led to a better understanding of their concerns and how the project could help improve their wellbeing. However he noted that the provision of funding from the Arts Council meant this process could be facilitated, whereas in the case of other projects this close and lengthy contact may be less possible.

Like Ruth’s description of tactical urbanism, the observation was made that the success of this engagement could be the punctuation of a long term process with physical interventions and activities. In this instance the social regeneration was most important and this engagement created a sense of ownership and legacy that would outlive the project itself.


The value of creativity

Emma Price is Director of EMP Projects, an arts consultancy which works in brokering curatorial partnerships specialising in the planning of small to large-scale creative and cultural developments. Emma began by reiterating the distinction between consultation and engagement and the many different terms used to describe this process, both within the development and art ‘worlds’. In specific relation to her work Emma explained the value of having an artist on a design team, not necessarily to create a piece of art work but rather to provide a different perspective and alternative method of engagement. Examples she cited were artist Rick Lowe’s What We Made: Conversations on Art and Social Cooperation from Project Row Houses, Houston, Texas, 2006 and The Blue House, a durational art project initiated in the Netherlands by artist Jeanne van Heeswijk in 2005, which was an example of creating space within a development for creative interaction and exchange of ideas. This example demonstrated the benefits of having artists’ in residence within a city and for new development.

Artist Rick Lowe - Project Row Houses, Houston, Texas
Artist Rick Lowe – Project Row Houses, Houston, Texas

Emma also provided some examples of working with artists as creative place-makers and art for the community which is about peoples’ experience of a place, such as the ‘art of getting lost’, whereby participants were directed around a town in such a way that led them to discover a part of their area with which they were unfamiliar.

Emma had a positive outlook on the changes to consultation requirements and saw these as an opportunity rather than a burden.  She has experience of working with developers on the type and scale of projects that will be affected by the new consultation requirements. She works on projects where a portion of the arts budget from private sector developments, via section 106 agreements, is allocated towards arts and creative projects which may have no physical presence. This included national house builders and the challenges of engaging with not only new residents, but existing ones. Emma noted the example of Hafod care home in Barry where funding was allocated for an artist in residence, Heloise Godfrey-Talbot who welcomed new residents as they moved in and gathered stories about them and the place.  Another example was the commissioning of artists Owen Griffiths and Fern Thomas to work with the community on a project based around ecology at a Barrett Homes development in Wick.

The concluding remarks from Emma were that effective engagement through art and design can be about talking with and listening to people and developing a dialogue to allow ideas and creativity to flow. She has found that action attracts a wider range of people, not just objectors, and so can be more effective in creatively engaging a community. Emma recommends that, where a 1% section 106 agreement is allocated for public art, clients and design teams should make the most of it and that in practice she is seeing more developers engaging with this creative process because they see the value of it, rather than out of necessity.

Several examples demonstrated the value of creativity and of tailoring engagement to different projects to yield effective results. The speakers in their different roles documented varying methods to engage more usefully and purposefully with communities, but there was a clear consensus that long term engagement is very different to one-off consultation and that participants will be better engaged with creative change rather than formal consultation.

Sifting the comments from the speakers and the debate, and reflecting on the event I thought that the typical ‘classic consultation event’ is insufficient to truly engage a community on the issues that affect them and will ultimately mean a significant change to their built environment.

How we approach engagement on different schemes and proposals will require creativity with regard to the type of development, the location and the local demographic. As we’ve learnt from the speakers, these creative ideas could vary from tactical interventions, to resident artists, to tonnes of cake! Tailoring ideas to suit the specific project and community will be invaluable. I don’t think that a different form of engagement needs to take a huge amount of time or resources. Even if there is only the time and budget for one consultation event, a little more innovation and forethought can make events different and more engaging and can really make the difference.

From my perspective as a planner, the new consultation requirements can be seen as an opportunity to engage earlier and more usefully with a community and with Statutory and non-statutory Consultees. If the design and development team enters into the process as a creative, stimulating exercise, rather than as a necessary box ticking exercise, great value can be added.

The statutory requirement is for details of consultation to be recorded and regarded within a Pre-Application Consultation report, to be submitted with an application. However if consultation is inadequate and the community and stakeholders are not properly engaged it will be difficult to demonstrate a worthwhile process that improved the quality of the proposals. So this early consultation is only likely to be useful and meaningful if the form and methodology of the engagement is genuine, innovative and creative. If not all participants and design team will fall into old habits and fail to discover fresh, value adding opportunities.

Comment Hatch

Developing Cardiff Bay: Hatch Review

The latest Hatch event involved a walk around Cardiff Bay, guided by urban designer Dr Mike Biddulph, from the Place Making team at Cardiff Council.  To reflect the range of built environment disciplines represented in the Hatch network we have collated the perspective of an urban designer, arts consultant, public engagement and experience design consultant and an energy and building physics engineer to see how their views on the event varied.



Emma Price, Arts Consultant reflects on an illumination of Cardiff Bay and the common aspects of seemingly different disciplines.

I was not sure what to expect at the latest Hatch event as I am not an urban designer, landscape architect, planner, or architect. So when it was my time to introduce myself, I hesitated, before revealing that I am an arts consultant working predominantly in commissioning art in the built environment. It is my professional experience in this field which therefore framed my interaction with the workshop.

The walk and talk brought together a range of designers and innovators working in the city. Mike set out the challenges of urbanisation and the creative potential of speculative design. We collectively examined the constraints and areas for potential development; exploring the physical factors that can affect development prospects, and the potential for urban design solutions for an ever evolving Cardiff Bay

I learned that urban design is a particular form of enquiry into the nature of our city, its form and function.  We all seek to understand the city as a place of human coexistence and to contribute to the creation of strategies and projects that inform its future development.  This struck me as similar to the new and innovative ways that artists are approaching working in the public realm.

We were encouraged to look for and explore new ideas around the design decisions faced by Mike and his colleagues when developing an urban space that works for a wide section of the local population and visiting community.

During our walk we explored and reimagined the Bay through its physical landscape and its role in cultural regeneration. The discussions reminded me of the Situationists and their interpretation of psychogeography. This is something that I have long been interested in, but until now, only from the perspective of working with artists to investigate the experiential and physical elements of place making. But in fact we are all, in some way, psychogeographers.

Psychogeography and the dérive

…The Situationists’ desire to become psychogeographers, with an understanding of the ‘precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behaviour of individuals’, was intended to cultivate an awareness of the ways in which everyday life is presently conditioned and controlled, the ways in which this manipulation can be exposed and subverted, and the possibilities for chosen forms of constructed situations in the post-spectacular world. Only an awareness of the influences of the existing environment can encourage the critique of the present conditions of daily life, and yet it is precisely this concern with the environment, which we live, which is ignored.

(Source: Plant, S. (1992) The most radical gesture: The Situationist International in a postmodern age’ P58: Routledge.)

Mike enthused us as to the benefits of walking through a place with eyes wide open, and the need to truly address and represent contemporary urbanism in future plans.  Mike also brought home to us the challenge in resolving complex issues facing transport, public space (including streets and land use), and building typologies through creative design plans.

The group’s critical contribution throughout the walk paid homage to the importance of cross-sector consultation, mirroring Mike’s generous, site-specific explanation of the work of urban designers in creating our streets, buildings and transport routes that consider both people and place.

Although I had worked in the Bay for several years, I was now seeing the Bay’s streetscapes in a new light. Perhaps we are so tuned out and focused on travelling through places for practical reasons that we don’t pay sufficient attention to our journeys – on foot, via varying modes of transport, or via our creative imagination. The workshop highlighted that fully engaging our senses and emotional awareness on something as basic as a short walk can be used to positively influence place.

As the site-responsive workshop progressed I felt increasingly at ease with the contributions I could make when discussing potential opportunities in line with the cultural heritage and future aspirations for this part of the city. This comes from working with artists, many of whom, through the context of their practice, research place, people and the cultural offerings of a particular site and whose work directly or indirectly offers creative development opportunities. So, not too dissimilar to that of an urban designer.



John Lloyd, Energy and Building Physics Engineer, enjoys the bigger picture offered by urban design.

Coming from an engineering background, I must admit to being a little in the dark as to exactly what Mike’s line of work as an Urban Designer entailed, so before arriving did a little internet search, turning up the following:

Urban design is about making connections between people and places, movement and urban form, nature and the built fabric. Urban design draws together the many strands of place-making, environmental stewardship, social equity and economic viability into the creation of places with distinct beauty and identity. Urban design is derived from but transcends planning and transportation policy, architectural design, development economics, engineering and landscape. It draws these and other strands together creating a vision for an area and then deploying the resources and skills needed to bring the vision to life.

(Source –

As interesting as that sounded, I still was still a little vague on the specifics so went along with an open mind and no preconceptions. To all of our surprise, Mike Biddulph chose to focus on the area of the Bay where Lloyd George Avenue connects Bute Street and Roald Dahl Plas. Hatch members in attendance initially struggled to visualise the development of a site, which on face value, appeared to be an area of the city that was already “complete”, modern and a significant part of the local road network. After some encouragement or perhaps coercion, we all came to agree that while the area may not require redevelopment, it is underutilised space in a prime location and the focus of the evening’s conversation therefore centred on how it might be improved.

This is one of the parts of Cardiff that has seen substantial change over recent decades, but there is scope to think about it differently if infrastructure projects such as a South Wales Metro system extends down to the Bay. Routes can be found to better link Cardiff Bay to other areas of the city and one of a number of routes could bring a tramline through the road network around Craft in the Bay and the Red Dragon Centre. If this were to go ahead then the significant construction work required would in itself bring opportunities to redesign and make better use of the spaces around this area; most of which is currently uninviting to pedestrians and therefore arguably a poor use of such large open public space.

While the Hatch group is made up of a fairly diverse set of disciplines, all of which demand a degree of creativity, I think it’s fair to say that most of us rarely need to operate on the scale and with the lack of restriction that Mike’s job demands. As an Energy and Building Physics Engineer, I’m usually focussed on small details and technical calculations and personally found the lack of constraints on Mike’s current work as quite liberating, if perhaps a little overwhelming!

From our starting point at the Millennium Centre, we walked along an old footpath behind buildings facing onto Bute Street, leading to the old derelict train station building. Mike chatted though how he would think about such an area, including ideas for how this listed building could be brought back to life and how, on the back of this, the Council could try to influence further development of this area.

We walked along Bute Street to discuss the importance of the Loudon Square development, how Bute Street could potentially be opened up to allow access across to the Lloyd George Avenue area and the benefits this could bring to the Butetown community. Finally, heading back towards Bute Place for a closing conversation bringing together all that had been discussed, Mike worked through one possible vision for how this part of our city could look in the future.

One of Mike’s opening lines at the start of the evening was that he thought that his was the best job in world. By the end of the evening and now with a better understanding the full scale of the positive influence someone in his position could have on the future of our city and its communities, I think he might have a point!



Peter Trevitt, Public Engagement and Experience Design Consultant, on the importance of someone looking at the bigger picture.

Gathering outside the Wales Millennium Centre (WMC), Mike set out to provide a flavour of what his work as an urban designer in the local authority is all about, by taking us on a journey around his mind, as well as the Bay.  He then surprised us when he asked us which part of the bay we thought he was thinking about at the moment. We all assumed it would be one of the obviously run down or under-used areas, but in fact his focus is on the relatively well-kept area between Lloyd George Avenue and Roald Dahl Plas.

Mike explained that his work involved thinking long term about the big picture, and that it was a fluid process of exploring how even quite radical changes and options might work and being prepared to reconsider them as often as necessary. It was as if in his mind he has a big pencil and eraser does endless sketches of road layouts, development blocks and landmark features, using his skills to find interesting configurations. He works with other specialists at the Council to provoke wider discussion and consultation, long before a scheme is formally defined.

This strategic approach felt very appealing, but also very necessary – if no one is considering our environment in this way, how can we be sure that the best solutions are being found at an early enough stage?

Continuing our walk there were more surprises in store. We quickly found ourselves on a long footpath following the line of the old dock boundary that most of us had never seen before, and provided a new angle on very familiar sights. We looked at the old Bay Station building and then explored more of Bute Street, as far as the potential cross-route to the south of Loudoun Square. Mike explained that if a tramline comes to Cardiff Bay, this could become a key point to provide a new east-west route in Butetown. We began to appreciate better how his mind worked now, always looking for the links and connections that were key to opening up the city and attracting investment.

This fascinating walk ended back near the WMC drawing tram stations on a large piece of paper on the floor, and debating the merits or otherwise of whether high rise development could even be accommodated in this area or not. Mike had said he loved his job, and it was not difficult to see why.



Lindsey Brown, Urban Designer reminds us of the importance of ‘looking beyond’ ourselves and our everyday, and to future legacies.

As an urban designer it is almost impossible not to stand in a public space or on a street and refrain from analysing the urban fabric, watch what people do or wonder why all the seating has been positioned on the shaded side of the street. We’re never off duty!  So when the invitation arrived to join Hatch’s latest event exploring development and placemaking around the Bay, it went straight in my diary!

Meeting outside the Wales Millennium Centre Mike began the workshop by asking us what we thought of the space around us.  There was a suggestion it was the culmination of the Bay’s transformation; once a redundant and inaccessible dockland, now a popular destination for visitors and residents of Cardiff.  There was discussion too on the connection between the city and the Bay, focusing on Lloyd George Avenue, its poor level of use and disjointed links to the city centre.  Mike immediately turned this on its head and asked us whether this is really the burning issue for the future development of the Bay?  His assertion being that Lloyd George Avenue exists and people do use it to walk, cycle and drive between the city centre and the Bay.  Instead he posed a different question; what connections and opportunities in the Bay have not yet been realised?  And so the tone for the evening’s workshop was set – where is the potential in the Bay and how, as designers, can we shape its development?

We focused on ‘The Flourish’, the rather large traffic island home to a Grade II listed building housing Craft in the Bay.  Mike led us along a narrow path, edged by original dockland railings.  It forms one of the many north–south linear routes in this part of the Bay, but it was the opportunity to introduce east-west connections and bring together the dotted collection of galleries and art spaces that appealed to Mike.

Heading further north talk of unrealised opportunity went up a level.  We gathered on Bute Street and Mike asked ‘What about punching a hole through this wall?’  The wall in question being an 8ft stone wall bounding the railway track.  Whilst eyebrows were raised, eyes also lit up!

We walked through Cardiff Bay railway station and Mike mentioned the possibility of a tram and the opportunity to extend the line to the Flourish.  An opportunity to not only create a sense of arrival befitting of the Bay but improve connectivity for everyday passengers and visitors alike.

Stretching alongside the railway line we touched on Lloyd George Avenue and how introducing a tram line would create opportunity for new building lines and streets that would add layers to the Avenue rather than erode people’s patterns of movement.

Our final stop brought us to the traffic island in the centre of the Flourish and it was here that a blank plan was cast on the floor in typical urban designer style.  Thoughts and ideas from the discussion were quickly sketched, bringing to life the opportunities and potential we had spotted during our walk.  For me it was an inspiring and somehow reassuring experience.  We are all familiar with plans and drawings but so often we don’t get to see the journey of how we have arrived at the design on the plan.

The event came with the brief ‘to be prepared to look and talk’.  This reminded me of an urban design phrase I often use when exploring the built environment, ‘look up, around and along’.  For me Mike’s workshop has added a fourth dimension to this: ‘look beyond’.   To remember that as designers we are not just here to celebrate the good and undo the bad but to realise the potential.


Samuel Utting, Architect welcomes the opportunity to think more strategically.

From an architect’s perspective, the workshop was an opportunity to better understand the thinking processes and frames of reference of urban designers, who generally operate at a more strategic level and within longer timescales.

As we were gathering in Roald Dahl Plass to start our workshop, Mike asked what we thought of the space. Although it is a place quite familiar to us all, it wasn’t easy to pinpoint why we weren’t instinctively in love with the space. The solutions to transforming it into a successful public square became clearer as we walked through the area with our guide, reorganising it and solving its issues in a piecemeal way. Talking and walking around Butetown and Cardiff Bay was a welcome reminder of the principles behind successful urban spaces that the likes of Jane Jacobs, Jan Gehl and William H Whyte introduced to us in architecture school. It was good to see these principles in the future vision of Butetown and Cardiff Bay… at last.


Thank you to all of our contributors.

Events Hatch

Hatch: Developing Cardiff Bay

For our next Hatch event we hope to make the most of the light evenings and (hopefully) nice weather and get outside.  Mike Biddulph will to lead a workshop looking at development and place-making in Cardiff Bay.

In this on-site workshop we will explore and discuss the area of Cardiff where Bute Street and Lloyd George Avenue become Roald Dahl Plas. We will explore the heritage, look for development opportunities and consider the key constraints and opportunities for anything that could happen here in the future. In addition we will reflect on the role of various actors in bringing forward improvements to this well-known bit of city.

Be prepared to look and talk.

Dr Mike Biddulph was Senior Lecturer in Urban Design at Cardiff University and now works in the Place Making Team at Cardiff Council.

We will meet at 6pm outside the Wales Millennium Centre.  If you arrive a little late you should be able to find us around that area.  If you can hang around for a bit longer we will also go for a drink somewhere in the bay after the workshop.  On the off chance it’s raining we will meet at our office instead.

Click here to find out more about our Hatch Network and how you can join

Comment Hatch

Who Are They? Hatch’s evening with the Policy Makers

DCFW Hatch member, Elan Wynne, reflects on Hatch’s evening with the Policy Makers

…Who are these people that make the decisions on what can and can’t be built, and what guides their decision making? This is a question often asked by designers of all disciplines and their clients as they navigate the statutory requirements, the planning system and the impact of policy.

The most recent event organised by HATCH, presented an opportunity for designers working in the built environment to hear from ‘Them’; the experts who are driving, influencing, changing and upholding current planning policies. And guess what? They came across as being passionate about doing what was right for the community as a whole at a local, national and international level.

The evening covered the hierarchy of policy and planning through presentations from the following speakers:-

  • Gretel Leeb, the Deputy Director of the Environment and Sustainability Directorate at the Welsh Government on the Well-being of Future Generations Act (Wales) 2015
  • Stuart Ingram, Senior Planning Manager at Welsh Government on the Planning Act (Wales) 2015, and Planning Policy Wales
  • Judith Jones, Head of Planning at Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council on Local planning policy

The night was kicked off by Gretel Leeb’s heartfelt presentation on the Well-being of Future Generations Act (Wales) 2015 (FGW). We were introduced to this recent piece of legislation which aims to encourage ‘joined up thinking’, and is one of the first of its kind.  The FGW Act will call on public bodies in Wales to find ways to meet all of the 7 goals identified in the Act, working together toward a more prosperous, resilient, healthier, equitable country that has more cohesive communities, a vibrant culture and thriving Welsh language, and is globally responsible. Gretel viewed the role of designers, as specialists in problem solving and joined up thinking, as vital in helping to achieve the goals and positively influencing the construction industry. Gretel reminded us of our capacity to enthuse and educate people through the way that we design.

Stuart Ingram of the Welsh Government Planning Directorate, presented a very clear account of what national planning policy is, and how it works at a national level. His role includes briefing, advising and preparing information for Ministers, who when they speak on an item in public, may be seen to be making policy. Stuart is one of the team that helps shape, communicate and monitor policies that are made, ensuring that they are evidence based and made in the best interests of the people.

Policy making in this country is of course part of a democratic context, and if not perceived as the speediest of processes, provides time for anyone who is interested to be properly consulted, informed and involved. Inevitably, policies made will not please everyone, but through the careful practice of identifying a need, evidence gathering, developing, consulting, adapting, implementing and monitoring, it is now said that we have a good track record of evidence based policy making in Wales.

Decision makers undertake a balancing act to ensure that one policy doesn’t clash with another. There may complexities that challenge good intentions. For instance, planning for the natural environment and local carbon reduction might not always be a harmonious match; wind turbine farms or photo voltaic arrays might be not always be appropriate to a local natural environment or its immediate community. As new challenges become apparent, new policies have to be made to address their effects. Like the editor of Vogue magazine, people like Stuart have the continual task of keeping on top of emerging trends, so that we can be safe in the knowledge that our country can cope with the latest land use issues.

Judith Jones discussed, what was, to me, the more familiar side of how local planning policy is utilised, and how it guides planning departments and designers alike in the parts they play in the continually developing built environment. Her references to Patsy Healey’s lecture at the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape at Newcastle University in 2011, Civic Capacity, Progressive Localism and the Role of Planning, addressed the responsibility of society to engage in the process, as well as planners’ roles in providing ‘explanations not just of how formal regulations work, but why it has evolved and what value it carries’.

Judith went on to discuss how emotional attachment to an area or building is often not considered as important as it should be, and that design and planning processes and policies can at times fail to address this fully. And yet emotion is still part of the decision making process at a certain level, where a planning applications can be decided or influenced by an officer’s preference. It is a difficult task that planners face, this balancing act; and alongside local policy which sets out the fundamentals, such things as ‘material considerations’ can also become grey areas. Weighing up considerations can often be influenced by the responses received from those that are consulted. This highlights the need for an early local voice, getting people in the community involved so that the community affected can be part of shaping their own environment. Whether the disillusioned voice of many is a good thing against the inspired thinking of a few is something we at HATCH have all discussed before and I’m sure will come up again. In this age of social media and global trends, an up to date local policy has an important role in regulating the evolution of the environment in which we live, which is happening at lightning speed.

As designers we have a responsibility to ensure and promote good design, and by the same token planners have a responsibility to avoid poor outcomes and use tools within planning policies to support them in saying ‘no’. From tonight’s illuminating talks, which helped us all gather a clearer picture of the legislative and policy environment within which we all work, it is evident there are bigger challenges ahead with which we may be able to help.  As designers we can play a key role in inspiring more people to become involved, in getting communities more interested in their built environment, in developing better understanding of the work of these professionals, juggling complex realities every day. Moving us all closer to collaborative, cohesive working practice for the future is the key to doing our bit for well designed places.

Elan Wynne is Principal Architect at Stiwdiowen and an active member of DCFW’s Hatch network for fresh-thinking shapers of the built environment in Wales.

Events Hatch

Hatch Event: Who are THEY?

THEY want to build 400 new houses on the edge of town.
THEY won’t allow us to build an extension to our listed house.
THEY might get rid of Design & Access Statements.
THEY keep going on about newts and bats!
THEY are spending a fortune on that new road.

Who are THEY?

Join us for an evening with the Policy Makers and find out how policies are made, what policy means for you and how you can get more involved.

We will have three expert speakers on hand to explain the ins and outs of Welsh policy making and the influence it has on design of the built environment:

  • Stuart Ingram, Senior Planning Manager at Welsh Government – on Wales’ national planning policy
  • Judith Jones, Head of Planning at Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council – on local planning policy
  • Gretel Leeb, Deputy Director, Environment & Sustainability Directorate at Welsh Government – on  the Well-being of Future Generations Act (2015), aimed at improving the social, economic, environmental and cultural well-being of Wales

There will be plenty of time for you to ask questions and discuss the issues that are important to your work as shapers of the built environment in Wales.

Light refreshments provided, of course.


Click here to find out more about our Hatch Network and how you can join

Events Hatch

Hatch Event: Housing in Wales

Housing is a key issue and focus for DCFW in 2016.  We will be holding a series of Hatch events on this theme ahead of our annual international autumn conference.  The Hatch events will allow you to contribute to and help us shape and the conference.

This initial discussion will be introduced by Professor John Punter.  John is part-time professor in urban design at Cardiff University and sits on the DCFW design review panel.  His introduction will consider the Welsh housing crisis and provide a perspective on recent and emerging residential development in Wales.

After this thought provoking introduction the floor will be open for discussion.  We are interested in hearing your perspective and experience of the challenges and opportunities facing the delivery of quality housing in Wales.  Feel free to bring along examples and share ideas.  Even if you don’t have much experience of housing projects, we still value you input as a shaper of the built environment.  This initial discussion is about teasing out the issues that will help us to frame future debate, seminars and our autumn conference.

If you have not attended a Hatch event before please have a look at what the network is about here and if you think it is for you please join us.

Refreshments on arrival.