What does Citymaking mean to you? From the experts at Citymaking Sessions


In the run up to Citymaking Sessions - a one day conference exploring how cities are made - we asked our speakers to share their opinions on what citymaking means to them. Here are some of their answers ... 

 Learn more about Citymaking Sessions here 



Peter Griffiths, city strategist, ING Media 

"Citymaking may be where we appreciate that the urban world around us doesn't just happen. The most complex and largest infrastructure we've ever put together - i.e cities - are products of many, many choices. There's an agency to this, but perhaps also less of an excuse for building or governing in a way we know to be subpar, or underselling cities by not sharing their unique stories" 


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Lois Innes, MArch at Central Saint Martins 

"Citymaking is an elusive term, as I found the first time I visited Makkola Market in Accra, Ghana. It's a bustling marketplace and shopping district in the heart of the city, selling everything from traditional textiles to cured meat and fish. Hot, noisy and disorientating - it's the most intense urban experience I've ever had! But given that there are no formal arrangements, what inspired me most was just how dynamic, creative and full of life the market was. Sometimes, you don't need any infrastructure at all to create a place" 



 Will Wiles, author, Sharmaine Love Grove, publisher Dialogue Books, Nick Searl, partner, Argent 

Will Wiles: "We could define 'citymaking' simply by recalling that the city has been made by us and will continue to be made by us. Many aggregations, which seem inevitable and intractable, are in fact choices that are refreshed every day" 


Sharmaine Lovegrove: "I was very inspired by my childhood in 90s London, having the spave and time to roam and no place or community being off limits. Where I learnt new languages, customs and the experiences of others with a naive freedom and open mind. Yet coming back to London after several years in Berlin, I was utterly distressed by the advanced capitalism, the levels of segregation, the political apathy and the vast levels of inequality which meant people were responsible for but couldn't see. My city had culturally changed beyond recognition and I could no longer be part of it." 


Nick Searl: "Citymaking requires drawing together the strands of physical place, society and economy. Architects and urban planners deliver us a framework for streets, spaces and buildings, but it is the content, the activity, the people and the exchange of ideas, services and goods that ultimately makes the city. I have visited carefully 'designed', well-built places that are no more than that. I have also enjoyed the company of crowds in the slums and market places of Bangkok. To me, the latter is more of a 'city' than the former will ever be" 


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James Parkinson, head of Crowdfund London, regeneration and economic team, GLA

"I'm a disciple of Jane Jacobs, Henri Lefebvre and David Harvey when it comes to citymaking - the production of space, in other words. To jumble and paraphrase: Cities can only provide something for everybody when they are created by everybody and everyone deserves the right to be part of the process of making and remaking the place where they live. A common right to urban resources. I think these ideas will become increasingly important over the next century as we try and deal with the two biggest threats to modern urban society; inequality and the global climate change emergency."



Benedict O'Looney, director, Benedict O'Looney Architects 

"Citymaking requires a generous approach to architecture. It's about pushing projects further - hopefully creating cheerful, eye catching townscapes for the community. People love indoor/outdoor spaces: front porches and loggias are great for creating un-programmed shared public spaces ideal for rest or convivial chat. Our citymaking approach is inspired by the Beaux Arts ideal that architecture, sculpture and painting all come together in making good buildings. Our mosque in Croydon has a huge Qur'anic frieze in glazed terrocotta and where possible we deploy colourful decorative work in bricks and tiles."


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Anna White, property and business journalist 

"A city's identity cannot be manually constructed but evolves over time around stories and language. Citymakers should start with people first, building the physicality from their emotional and practical needs and continuing the narrative rather than rewriting it ... I love a topping out ceremony, standing in a raw urban structure. I was the only national journalist at the topping out ceremony for 20 Grosvenor Square. Although it's now fully dressed in Venetian plasterwork and marble I fell in love with the cavernous, concrete shell that smelt of dust and dirt, was completely empty and its deep empty windows overlooked a sea of lavish Mayfair properties. Quite the contract. A building does not need to be finished to have character." 


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Kenjiro Kirton, founder, HATO 

"Citymaking is designing spaces with an 'us' mindset rather than 'for them'. Adopting a human-centric design process. Responsibly engaging communities, ensuring a fair value exchange and a legacy that provides for and enhances the everyday. And facilitating and empowering communities with sustainable tools, that offer opportunities to create, make and do"  



Vivi Kala, Jestico + Whiles 

"For me, Citymaking is a socially responsible and collective undertaking. Cities are not only made up of just brick and mortar, Gherkin plazas, Walkie-Talkies and Shards of glass but of people and of public space. Citymaking is therefore an act of creating places for people, an act of huge civic responsibility for our citymakers. As best described by urban writer and activist Jane Jacobs, "Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody" 


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Lisa Jones, event producer and placemaker, Produce UK and Zung Nguyen Vu, strategy lead, digital studio, Arup

Lisa Jones: "Citymaking to me is an exercise in empathy and sharing. To build and design a productive, diverse and healthy city takes an innate understanding and care for all its citizens' needs. A city's value is created in part by its history and the character and imagination of its people. It should be safe, open, clean, nurturing and ever evolving. Citymaking takes a brave, progressive and open mind and above all the ability to really listen; only if we continue to ask questions and take feedback from its inhabitants can we make places that serve us all now and in the future."


Zung Nguyen Vu: "Alain Bertaud (NYU Institute of Urban Management) published a research article about how in 2008, 80% trips within Hanoi were conducted by motorbikes within a 19-minute travel time. High mobility and high density contributed to keeping the city fairly affordable and reducing spatial income segregation. In the past few years, returning to Hanoi, I have seen a rise in gated, suburban style American neighbourhood developments in the outskirts of the city, encouraging car commutes and furthering segregation. It is a terrible model that threatens the soul, wellbeing, and economic viability of the city" 


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John McRae, director ORMS, Claire Fram, senior product manager, Arup, Alice Haugh, futurist, UNStudio, Theo Blackwell MBE, chief digital officer, GLA 

John McRae: "Citymaking is not just about buildings and landscapes providing a framework and opportunity for the city to operate, people to overlap and interact; it is the ability to use our moment in time as custodians to inform and create long term legacy. In order to do this authentically we need to understand and challenge current political and economic trends, seek the input of city dwellers to remake and re-create within social, cultural and spatial parameters but most importantly invest heavily in cultural meaning not just financial return" 


Claire Fram: “Citymaking is fundamentally about people living together. It is the layering of interconnected systems that we, as members of cities, build and use. It is the cultural and social fabric that ties people together, institutions and businesses, and the physical infrastructure that we share."


Alice Haugh:  Citymaking is a bit of a paradox because it’s near impossible to design friction into new neighbourhoods. The book that most shaped my understanding of citymaking is still Christopher Alexander’s ‘A Pattern Language’ which intended to give ordinary people a way to work collectively to improve a neighbourhood. The book preceded what we now know as patterns in parametric design and indeed A.I. - increasingly important in contemporary citymaking. It argued that the process should be collective not individual, and today I would also add that it should be more than human - equally considerate of nature and machines."


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Oliver Cooke, director, Cooke Fawcett Architects 

"Citymaking is a provocative term - it hints at a utopian ambition to 'make' a perfect city. I don't believe cities can be successfully made. The most prolific urban tool, the grid, as an armature, works because of what it leaves un-made: the variety of buildings and spaces which develop within it. Equally, the unplanned nature of London creates a character which would be impossible to make. To me city making is about understanding how the DNA of a place can inform its future. I think layering is much more interesting than trying to change something or make something new"



Matthew Bennett, cabinet member for planning, investment & new homes, Lambeth Council

"People make cities. Our job is to make sure the built environment, the infrastructure, the urban fabric, meets the needs of and unlocks the potential of all people in the city."