It feels only weeks since we celebrated this year’s great places at the excellent Urbanism Awards ceremony in London. It’s actually three months now, and time to start our search for next year’s candidate places.
You will already have had a nomination form – sent with the current editions of Here and Now and Space Place Life. It’s really important that we all give careful thought to the places we have worked in, visited, or know of, from which we and others might draw lessons and inspiration as urbanists.
The process of shortlisting begins on 22 April, and I hope many of you will be able to join the extraordinary combination of art and science led by Kevin Murray. It always amazes me that we manage, through a combination of method and inspiration to derive five lists of 10 places from the array of diverse nominations we receive.
The distinctiveness of the Academy’s Urbanism Awards is that we celebrate places and the communities that make them, rather than particular developments or teams. The success of our Awards process relies on the range and quality of the places put forward. The 15 places reaching the finalist stage of the Awards will all be visited by Academicians and their assessments will be written-up to inform our votes in October.
You will know of places that you think could stand alongside those we have celebrated in the past; please put them forward. Our assessment goes much deeper than their visual attractiveness, and we know that we can learn much from unexpected, and possibly relatively unknown, places. You may think you have more important things to do, but what could be more important than pushing to the forefront of our attention places you know deserve greater recognition and celebration of their achievements. If you are uncertain of the seven criteria we use to assess the success of places, have a quick look at the Awards page online.
If you need further inspiration have a look at the past finalists, and the huge store of images. (Be careful, it‘s addictive.)
The prospect of sunny visits to great places is uplifting as I gaze out on gloomy February. Gloom is all around it seems at present. The civilising characteristics of urbanism that we celebrate are under threat globally, and to some extent domestically, from disease, hatred, greed and so many inequities. We do well to remind ourselves that the region from which we select our examples of great places is not necessarily representative of global urbanism. We may get to that one day, but in the meantime our evaluation of great places should look beyond the attractive places, and the economically favoured regions. We should champion those that have pulled together and made good use of individual and community resources; those that have identified and pursued the potential for transformation; and those that have embraced change to secure a happier, healthier community as a result.
Such success is special, and will never be complete. It will be compromised and sometimes vulnerable. But we can learn from and encourage the effort of those who see the possibilities for improvement. I look forward to visiting as many of them as possible this summer, and hope you will too.