Press & Comment

Call for Entries: Places for Life II

Entries are now open for Places for Life II.

The Design Commission for Wales invites submissions of abstracts of up to 400 words for written reflections and/or articles on the theme of Places for Life for inclusion in a new publication as a follow on to the first Places for Life conference.

Held in 2016, the conference explored the connection between the places where we live and our health, well-being, relationships, access to work, social life, and impact on the environment. It brought together a multi-disciplinary group of professionals to engage with the subject and challenge the status quo.  The conference was followed up with a publication capturing post-conference reflections and key messages from the speakers, workshops and discussions, which can be found here.

We now encourage submissions from designers, planners, developers, surveyors, policy and decision makers, academics, artists, authors and others with an interest in what makes a great place to live and the difference that where we live makes to health, happiness and wellbeing.

The submission may be a reflection on the last four years since the Places for Life conference, research findings from studies that you have been involved in, new ideas, fresh perspectives or case studies.  It may relate to the current COVID-19 context but does not have to as we are looking for a range of perspectives on different aspects of placemaking. It could relate to a conversation, an idea, a shift in practice, or a change of thinking. Images, diagrams and illustrations to accompany the text would be welcomed.

Abstracts and essays may be submitted in English and/or Welsh language. Joint authorship is allowed. You may enter more than one abstract. All abstracts received will be reviewed by the Design Commission for Wales, and a range of proposals will be selected for inclusion in the publication. Abstracts will be judged on the merit of their critical response to the theme of Places for Life, clarity of structure and expression, and their potential to stimulate and contribute to the debate.

Authors of selected abstracts will be asked to submit text of no more than 3,000 words with relevant illustrations to be included in the publication which will be made available on Design Commission for Wales’ website.

Jen Heal, Design Advisor with the Design Commission for Wales said: “These are unprecedented times; never has the need to think and plan for the future of our places been so important. Placemaking is at the forefront of planning policy in Wales through Planning Policy Wales 10 (December 2018) and there is growing recognition of the long-term impacts of the places we make and the need for quality places not just quantity of houses.

“As we adapt to the new normal enforced on us by Covid-19, and think about what the future might hold beyond this period, it is important that we work together to promote good placemaking and build back better. That’s why we are inviting you to join the discussion by contributing to a Places for Life II document.”

Abstracts must be submitted to the Commission by Friday 3rd July 2020.  Selected authors will be announced by Friday 17th July 2020. Completed essays should be received by Design Commission for Wales by midday on Friday 7th August 2020. The selection and editorial decision of the Design Commission for Wales is final.

If your article is chosen to be included within the Places for Life II document, you will receive a copy of the publication and be profiled in future Places for Life activities.  Please contact Jen Heal, Design Advisor at the Design Commission for Wales if you have any questions and submit your abstract to Jen at the following email address:



Hatch: Digital Placemaking

Join us for a co-hosted event by the Landscape Institute Wales and Hatch (DCfW) on Digital Placemaking.
Dr Jo Morrison will launch Calvium’s Ideascape: Digital Placemaking for Porth Teigr Report; a six month research project supported by the Porth Teigr Community Fund and sustainable developers Igloo. Its ambition is to inspire local communities to imagine how the creative use of digital technologies in the public spaces of Porth Teigr might foster new and engaging experiences for all those who spend time there. The event will explore how digital technologies can be used to support urban innovation and people’s experiences of the public realm. It will focus on regeneration and use the ‘Ideascape: Digital Placemaking for Porth Teigr’ project to illustrate how digital placemaking can enable rich social experiences in public spaces, help local economic activity to thrive and celebrate cultural heritage. After the presentation, the audience will be invited to have an open discussion with Jo and other members of the panel which has been specially convened for the evening.


Places for Life: Design Commission for Wales Conference 2016

Where we live affects how we live and how we live affects everything else including our health, wellbeing, relationships, access to work, social life,  and impact on the environment.  Wales needs more homes and the future of residential development in Wales must be about more than just the number of ‘units’ that can be built – it must be about creating thriving ‘places for life’.

DCFW’s Places for Life conference will explore the interrelationship between mobility, green infrastructure, social infrastructure, placemaking and the important role of a clear vision in creating great places to live.

We are pleased to welcome the following speakers:

Keynote speech | Lesley Griffiths AM, Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs

Happy neighbourhoods, placemaking and mobility systems | Marten Sims, Senior Design and Engagement Specialist, Happy City

Drawing on the research undertaken and presented in the 2010 publication Happy City, Marten explores the powerful connection between urban design, place-making, mobility and happiness.

Delivering healthy homes | Ashley Bateson, Partner & Head of Sustainability, Hoare Lea

Ashley discusses the role of procurement and management in the delivery of healthy homes, including:

  • An overview of UK-GBC research on health and wellbeing in the home
  • Designing for comfort and wellbeing
  • Getting procurement and delivery right
  • The role of management

A vision for life in Cardiff Bay | Mark Hallett, Development Director, igloo Regeneration and Victoria Coombs, Architect, Loyn & Co Architects

The developer and architect of the proposed Porth Teigr residential development in Cardiff Bay will cover how igloo’s FootprintR policy has influenced the scheme in the context of a mixed-use masterplan and the importance of a vision for new homes based on a micro/macro design approach, the needs and aspirations of its future residents and research into “how we live now”.

Why it pays to invest in placemaking | Susan Emmett, Director of Residential Research, Savills

Creating great new places requires a dynamic mix of amenities, retail, employment, education and public realm as well as housing. Susan will focus on what is required to make the sums stack up financially for developers and landowners.  By drawing on experience in a number of case studies, Susan will look at what works, examine existing barriers and suggest potential ways forward so everyone wins.

There will be a choice of interactive workshops:

Applying Happy City’s holistic wellbeing framework | Marten Sims, Happy City

Strategic planning and placemaking | James Brown, The Urbanists

Developing a vision for places to live | Mat Jones, Coombs Jones Architects

The event will also provide space for discussion, debate and the exchange of ideas across sectors and disciplines.

By understanding the impact of design on the health, happiness and wellbeing of residents, those who shape the built environment, including planners, urban designers, architects, leaders and developers, can play a lead role in creating better value and better places.

Join us and expect to engage, question, debate, think and contribute.

Book now tickets £98

(Student tickets £45, limited places)

Eventbrite - Places for Life - DCFW Autumn Conference


If you experience problems using Eventbrite, please contact us on 029 2045 1964

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


What Makes A Sustainable City?

DCFW Hatch member, James Stroud reflects on ICE Wales’ event which took place in Cardiff on 13th January 2016

Guilt weighed heavily upon me as, running late, I drove my petrol guzzling car hastily across the city, heading to What Makes a Sustainable City’, a lecture by Kirsten Hensen of KLH Sustainability, hosted by ICE Cymru and Sustain Wales.

Parking a few yards away from the venue in the pouring rain, I was reminded how lucky, in some ways, those of us who live in Cardiff, a relatively small city, are when it comes to how easy it is to just jump in your own car to get around. This is something that, given the growth expected in Cardiff over the coming years, is likely to become an unsustainable luxury.

Less than five minutes in to a well attended event, it was clear to me that the main draw was Kirsten, not the sandwiches, as she began a broad and interesting talk about her beliefs in the benefits of ‘Green Spaces’ and in particular their role in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and at the Favelas of Rio.

Hensen, who trained as a Civil Engineer, opened with some interesting facts – reporting that, in an age where sustainability should be at the forefront of all our minds, the construction industry is a key sector that needs change. The industry uses 400 million tonnes of material each year, with a staggering 13% of materials delivered to site going unused. We have known this for many years but the pace of change still seems glacial.

Hensen also endorsed early contractor involvement which, at the Olympic Park, provided, she said, significant savings, such as avoiding the need to export 2.5m tonnes of waste by reusing site-won materials for gabions, and adding value by reducing the need for importation of similar quantities, something with which I whole heartedly agree.

The lecture, however, quickly broadened out; “It’s about more than climate change,” Kirsten exclaimed. She spoke of the notion of ‘place–keeping’ rather than ‘place–making’, specifically in relation to the often socially challenging areas to which her projects had taken her. Speaking again of her role at the Olympic Park, staggeringly, Hensen said that for every tube stop on the Jubilee line between Westminster in central London and Stratford, an adult male loses one year of life expectancy. She stressed the need for community engagement, understanding and respecting the context, recognising that whilst not everyone wants to shop in a Westfield and live in a zero-carbon home, the former offers employment which alongside other measures to retain and enhance the existing culture will lead to social regeneration and ‘place-keeping’. Interestingly, Hensen told us how the residents of the Rio Favelas had been commissioned by the Rio Olympic committee to make 45,000 ‘athletes cushions’ following engagement with the entrepreneurial community. She spoke of the project involving the 40 Knowledge Hubs being created on the outskirts of the Favelas where people from the surrounding, more developed communities, can interact and together fill the skills gap that exists, leading to, hopefully, a better future and greater social integration.

Finally and particularly relevant, Hensen gave examples of the importance of the concept of ‘soft failure’, an interesting idea, citing the recent UK flooding as an example – if we are to admit that flooding is going to happen, she said, then why not embrace the idea of a soft failure, that is, plan our cities, town and villages with anticipation of such floods, meaning that we identify the low impact areas that could be flooded, spaces such as football pitches, parkland etc? This would be far less of a danger than flooding of people’s homes, schools and hospitals or aiming to stem immensely powerful water flow with inadequate barriers.

I didn’t mind being distracted from the sandwiches as Kirsten Hensen provided plenty of food for thought in a thoroughly interesting hour!

James Stroud is a Project Designer at Loyn & Co Architects and an active member of DCFW’s Hatch network for fresh-thinking shapers of the built environment in Wales.


What could designers of the built environment be doing in Wales to tackle flooding?

Lindsey Brown, urban designer at Sustrans and DCFW Hatch member considers flood risk and how our approach to street design can help.

To help us tackle flooding we need to use our urban designers better and change the way in which we view and approach street design.  Streets and roads should not be designed only as channels for movement, but as places in their own right.  Designed well, streets can be multi-functional, not only helping us to manage the flow of water at a local level, but to be attractive, social spaces that encourage interaction and activity.  Properly considered Sustainable Urban Drainage (SUDS) – rain gardens, permeable paving and other forms of attenuation – can slow water run-off, helping to reduce flood risk, assist traffic calming and create a more attractive street scene for visitors and residents to enjoy.

Sustrans Green Streets Lambeth

Green Streets, Lambeth: Sustrans community-led street design. Image courtesy of Sustrans

So how do we change the approach to street design here in Wales and create streets that can help us tackle flooding? The Active Travel Act (Wales) 2013, introduced in November 2013, is a world-first in terms of legislation, aiming to get more of us walking and cycling for everyday journeys.  Part of the approach is linked to building better infrastructure, including homezones and shared spaces.  Interventions such as these not only create more opportunities for walking and cycling, but also for urban green infrastructure like rain gardens, filter beds and tree planting.  They provide an opportunity to counter the very real problem of hard surface run-off, endemic to most urban areas.  Even better, the principles can be applied in both retrofit and new development scenarios.

Taking a holistic design approach alongside smaller urban interventions can work alongside larger flood prevention schemes.  SUDS can form part of a system that will not only help us to manage water better, but help create a sense of place and improve our wellbeing.

Lindsey Brown has an MA in Urban Design and is Area Manager (Cities) at Sustrans Cymru.  She is actively involved in DCFW’s Hatch network for fresh-thinking shapers of the built environment in Wales.