• Laura Maidment

People-First Outcomes. A Campus Mindset

Updated: Jul 1, 2021

Once the domain of education and innovation, now we see campuses as the careful clustering and curation of activities. An ideology which allows for city developments and districts to grow organically, whilst staying true to their roots of culture and community.

Hosted by Adam Scott, founder of Freestate, the 'CAMPUS Tribe' at SPACE UK explored the concept of 'campus', referencing their projects and experiences of curating and managing developments.

Adam kicked off the discussion by suggesting that the powerful idea of campus is led by an "ecosystem approach" to designing, delivering, and operating large complex projects.

It allows for "purpose-led initiatives, whilst balancing stakeholder requirements which are socially constructive and commercially astute".

It works on a vision that the idea of campus works to better align teams, partners, and stakeholders.

5 Key Themes

Adam set out five key questions for Tribe:

1) Campus relevance – Why the whole ecosystem approach?

2) Campus beginnings – A people first approach.

3) Campus Vision – Creating a story of shared purpose.

4) Campus in action – How do we better balance the everchanging human needs with ever relevant places?

5) Campus forever – are campuses getting better with time?

Campus Relevance

The whole ecosystem approach

To start the discussion Adam brought in Lloyd Lee of Yoo Capital to discuss how this theme resonates with investors, occupiers, and communities alike.

Lloyd welcomed this theme in making the statement that people crave interesting stories in real estate; places to eat, to live and exist. A successful campus is about "allowing creative story-telling to take place".

Lloyd has experienced that the more varied the tapestry of story-telling, the more demand there is from the users and occupiers, and by defintion - from the investors.

"We seek to share the pen around, to tenants, occupiers, operators and partners"

Lloyd related it back to the work at Yoo Capital and the real estate it owns and manages. They focus, he says, on the phrase story-telling and how to enable that story to be told.

In “sharing the pen around the table” to occupiers, partners and directors this allows collusion to take place. This allows more complex and interesting stories to manifold themselves. Effectively, by putting the onus on the group involved, this facilitates those stories to be told and grow organically.

In saying this, Lloyd highlighted one of the criticisms of the industry; when large scale developments lose touch with the stories they are trying to tell, visitors and residents feel a sense of sterility. Therefore, it is incumbent on us to try and incorporate that sense of originality. Investors are becoming more discerning. Starting with an original story infers originality in development.

Kat Hanna of Lendlease echoed the importance of asking the right questions. As Lloyd said, this allows people to share the metaphorical pen around. Telling the story is essential. When people think of what campus means to them, the majority think back to universities or business park models. Yet at Lendlease, Kat thinks about about inner city urban locations. This then allows you not to start with a blank page.

It is about understanding about what is already there in existence. By utilising current assets and extenuating them, whether it be people or the organisations and institutions, it is the act of identifying the purpose that will then help bring those different entities together to produce a cohesive ‘campus like’ area.

Kat also paid homage to the fact that the idea of campus and storytelling does not necessarily resonate with everyone. People want to see substance and proof on how this new development would improve their daily life. There needs to be a balance with story-telling, with listening and understanding the substance that will make that impact to people’s daily lives.

In response to this, Adam then posed a question back to Kat about how we reach out and think about this idea of ‘completing a neighbourhood.’ How do we ask questions about what people are going to do, not just now, but in the future?

"People want to see substance; proof of how this new development would improve their daily life."

Kat acknowledged this was a big challenge. Dealing with issues such as these during a pandemic is obviously a logistical problem. To understand people’s headspace is essential just as it is difficult to conceptualise what people want twenty years down the line. Therefore, it is about understanding challenges and opportunities now.

By recognising that people are very much experts of their own area, developers can not be arrogant in thinking that they know best. This is a pivotal part of creating an authentic place of which people can be proud.

Campus Vision

Creating a story of shared purpose

Adam, furthering Kat's point, channelled the thoughts of Roger Madelin of British Land. By taking the time to listen and building consensus, not having a blinkered approach to a development will allow a development to evolve naturally.

Stanhope's Penny Cameron then talked of a ‘shared purpose’. She suggested it's more important to develop and deliver a lively and relevant vision for an active community rather than the physical buildings themselves.

Since the pandemic has struck, it has highlighted a deficit in what people are craving; a sense of community, not property.

It is about being with other people.

At Stanhope, Penny explained that at the start of every project, they ask several questions: - What is this place? What does it mean to people? What is going to make this place special?

There needs to be an element of guiding principals upfront. A backbone which informs everyone, every step along the way, from design, to running and to selling. Using Stanhope’s development at the Television Centre as an example; a place which is rich in heritage and has vast amounts of creative history.

There needed to be an opening premise of creating a place for creative people, therefore creating an environment in which creativity thrives. There needs to be a level of authentic curation in every decision made to build on the roots you already have.

“A campus needs the ability to solve big problems.”

Morgan Baker of Fabrix agreed on the premise Penny suggested. “Shared ethos”, he says, is a big part of what Fabrix is trying to achieve as a company. Whether you are curating or facilitating, there needs to be harmony.

Morgan used the example of working with MVRDV on a six-acre film campus; taking the view of the space as villages, and what constitutes a village. Then applying that to different areas of a campus. It allowed it to go beyond from just a physical standpoint, it needed to have the ability to solve problems by fostering diversity in its residents to ensure varied experiences and create memories.

Fabrix as a company, has embodied Satish Kumar’s “Trinity of sustainability” – “Soil, Soul and Society”. By bringing in nature, the wellness aspect and going beyond credentials thus making people happy within their environment.

By maintaining this level of intimacy within a campus and a company, it redacts the issue big developers encounter when people feel isolated within a large development. This is why Morgan included the word “celebration” on the back of the Kumar’s Trinity, amending it to “Soil, Soul, Society and Celebration”.

To create spaces which celebrate people’s successes as well as catering for their needs.

Campus in Action

Balance the everchanging human needs with ever relevant places?

Sky's Diana Foxley talked about how front of house curation and personalisation might analyse planned, and unplanned curation, asking how can this ideology be more active during the current situation?

Diana spoke of how to gain an understanding of, and to what extent, as place makers, do we guide people to use places? Should there be prompts on how to use the spaces?

She also acknowledged that spaces are not necessarily used but having them available for people to use is still important. It takes time; time for people to find their own personal connection to that space.

Looking to the future, people can’t imagine what is was like without it. Adam defined Diana’s viewpoint as almost giving place makers the role of an “Impresario,” giving people a prompt of how to use a space but ultimately allowing people to find their own feet.

Diana finished on the suggestion that people just need to see a tangible change which demonstrates that developers are listening.

By the use of market research through pop-ups and trials as well as receiving bonafied results and acting on them, leads to a positive community response which inevitably leads to consumer trust, and being effectively, “one step ahead”. This, of course, is a brilliant result for a developer.

“Technology can give real connectivity to a campus.”

Jo Martin of Honeywell, gave a different perspective - a back of house viewpoint. Jo was quick to acknowledge the importance of AI learning, when discussing campuses. By utilising technology to be able to “listen, process and solving what the issues are” is where developers can future proof their schemes.

Everyone has a different need or ask. By applying them to technology, it allows for concepts to be future-proofed, not only for today, but for years to come.

In relation to campuses, they must be more mobile to adapt to the current world we live in. If one is steadfast in planning and delivery, yes it may be ok for the short term, but in the long run, it will not have the ability to adapt, which is, of course, essential in the current market.

Jo maintained, that by acknowledging the change technology is making to our lives, it allows businesses to move forward. At Honeywell, Jo poses the question of how can, if needs be, do we take the information an individual needs in real time, and understand a job or an issue that needs to be resolved, without ever needing to go into an office.

Accessibility of information within the modern market is the crux of the argument.

Campus Forever

Are Campuses getting better with time?

Adam posed this question to Barry Jessup of First Base. How can we as an industry fast track organic growth?

Barry admitted this was a very difficult question to answer. How can an industry fast track growth against a backdrop of a whole system which fights against it? The planning system is all about building. Yet buildings are not “places”. The places that people like are the spaces in between buildings and areas with common access.

All developers can really do, Barry says, is take small steps. As a starting point to involve communities around a campus, liken its design to the environment it finds itself in. This allows communities to feel involved and does not determine the campus as an area to be ostracised.

Barry drew hope in the fact, however, that investors' mindsets are changing. Time is becoming less of a constraint and more of a device, thus leading to organic growth which then drives their value.

“If you have to actively curate the space in perpetuity, it means you failed somewhere.”

Luka Vukotic, Development Director at Art Invest, added to the discussion that by understanding both the social and environmental eco-system, and listening, allows you to understand what is missing.

This will allow developers to understand where and how to utilise time and money to really make a difference. The only way of testing this Barry says, is by the test of time. By understanding how curation of a place works, and if you have to curate a space in perpetuity, a mistake has been made.

Developers need to be enablers, kick-starters of an idea by being allowed to collude with stakeholders. Adding a little essence trying to make a positive change, which is not imposed by developers, but facilitated by and embraced by the community, he believes, is essential when discussing and understand how campus as an ideology will work for times to come.

In Summary

  • 'Share the pen around' - allow multiple stakeholders to write the campus story

  • Ask the right questions and be active over time, focusing on mixed use and adaptability

  • Be 'one step ahead' by utilising technology and personalising the experience

  • Work from the ground up to help find spirit within a place

  • Fund community interaction to enable developments to grow organically

Watch the Discussion On-Demand here.

About the Host

Adam Scott is the creative force and founder of FreeState, the pioneering experience masterplanning agency.

Based in London but working globally, Adam and his team advise some of the world’s most innovative brand builders and city makers, including Nike and Google.

Adam’s thinking is captured in the recent RIBA publication ‘RETHINK Design Guide: Architecture for a Post Pandemic World’ that launched in January ’21 and is co-author of The Experience Book, published in 2022 by Black Dog Press.

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