Later living isn’t just about residents… it’s more complex than that

November 12th, 2019 Posted by All, Senior Living

During last week’s Later Living Conference organised by Property Week there was a big focus on the residents of later living schemes and various discussions on how they are portrayed by operators and other sector consultants in the media.

Yet despite this people-centric focus, we saw presentation after presentation in which no real people featured at all! Rather, we saw artificially posed images and caricatures of older people drinking wine, sipping coffee and walking along beaches wearing Panama hats. We were also told that the sector’s future residents will be funky 70-year-olds performing handstands, wearing leather jackets and dying their hair blue.

Whilst it’s encouraging that the sector is trying to better understand its residents’ needs, we need to be careful not to base our schemes on the aspirational and imagined residents of retirement living brochures or assumptions about what the lifestyles of the next generation of senior citizens might be. After all, the Later Living Sector is not only about residents; it is much more complex than that. It is about creating residents’ communities; it’s about hospitality and care. We create places for living and places to work. We offer a range of hospitality services, as well as care and support. All elements work holistically to create successful schemes that will benefit real residents, enjoying life however they themselves see fit.

Sonia Parol | Senior Associate Director

The expert view on senior living

The expert view on senior living

October 28th, 2019 Posted by All, Senior Living

By 2040, nearly one in seven Britons will be over 75 according to a recent report by the Resolution Foundation. The report also estimates that a third of people born today can expect to live to be 100. This increased life expectancy is one of the great triumphs of modern society, but with this triumph comes many challenges, not least an ever-growing need for quality, well-located housing suitable for senior living.

At Urban Edge Architecture we believe that senior living needs to be provided within our towns and cities and we are working on schemes with developers and operators that actively encourage social connection through the provision of shared and social spaces. We want to create developments where young and old can live side by side, both benefiting from the social, cultural and economic opportunities of a multigenerational community.

Ideas around urban senior living have gained some traction in recent years and Urban Edge has seen its influence growing in the sector, with our dedicated experts invited to share their in-depth knowledge within a number influential journals and at high-profile events.

Earlier this year, the Parliamentary Review editorial committee identified Urban Edge Architecture as an outstanding leader in its field, and Director Russell Gay was invited by former Conservative Communities Secretary Lord Pickles to contribute to the Review’s 2019 edition. One of the topics Russell took the opportunity to discuss was the need for senior living provision in urban areas, calling on policy makers to help facilitate the creation of mixed-use, multigenerational developments that can foster a diverse and sustainable urban and suburban economy.

Writing in the Review – an esteemed annual journal that shares best practice amongst policy makers and business leaders in an effort to raise standards – Russell said: “As architects, we see at first hand that high-quality, innovative design is crucial to attract people 65 years and over.

“Older people are increasingly demanding the opportunity to engage in the social and economic life of the wider community. They want to live in urban and suburban areas and continue to lead an independent lifestyle, maintain and build new friendships.

“With the extremely high land values in cities, the creation of mixed-use developments not only answers the demands of modern living but also creates better funding opportunities. We believe mixed-use schemes are key to the creation of a diverse and sustainable urban and suburban economy, providing activity, employment opportunities and vibrant public spaces.”

Our contribution to the Parliamentary Review follows a number of recent high-profile speaking engagements for Urban Edge’s Senior Associate Director, Sonia Parol. Drawing on her wealth of experience working on both sides of the globe, including multi-residential, specialist housing and mixed-use projects in the urban living sector, Sonia has been a much sought-after expert for events such as Inside Housing’s Ageing In Place Summit and the Property Week Retirement Living Conference.

Sonia passionately believes that there is an urgent need to transform the UK housing market to ensure that senior citizens are treated equally, able to make the same meaningful choices as everyone else about where and how they live. To do this, she says, we need to make it a mandatory requirement to design and deliver all new homes to be accessible and adaptable to people’s needs over time.

Speaking ahead of her appearance at this year’s Ageing In Place Summit, Sonia said: “The UK government is pledging to build 300,000 homes a year until the mid 2020s to tackle the housing crisis. That’s why it’s so important to get the design of our housing correct now. If we don’t, we are locking in age-restricted housing for decades and poorly serving the needs of future generations of senior citizens who want to remain and play an active part in the communities in which they have lived all their lives.”

A Brighter Future For Retail Parks Feature Img

A brighter future for retail parks

October 16th, 2019 Posted by All, Retail

The Government’s Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission’s interim report grabbed headlines recently with its call for retail parks and large supermarkets to be redeveloped into mixed-use communities. A month earlier, LDC data suggested vacancy rates across UK retail parks had risen sharply between the first half of 2018 and the end of the first quarter of this year. Reading all of this, one might conclude that the time of the retail park is nigh.

Dig deeper beneath the headlines, however, and it seems the death of the retail park has been greatly exaggerated. The LDC data, for instance, also reveals that some brands are actually starting to increase their retail park presence. Our own experience, having recently completed four new build retail park projects and with a number of new sites at planning and pre-planning stages, also suggests that the death of the retail park has been greatly exaggerated. We have also been appointed to several retail park facelifts where landlords are looking to improve and enhance their assets, preferring to retain and attract retail tenants rather than repurpose for alternative use.

Of course there may well be a compelling case for change of use in London and other major cities where demand for housing and residential values are at their highest, but change of use may not suit all landlords. For some, the prospect of getting a retailer in on a long lease may still be more attractive than redevelopment.

We recently met with a landlord client just outside central London, whose 1980s-era one-storey retail park was located in an area surrounded by multi-storey, mixed-use redevelopment. The client had fully planned on going down the same route with their site, but an analysis of the costs and a recent dip in the London resi market suggested that a comprehensive refurbishment and re-let to existing tenants would produce more of a return over five to ten years than an enormous multi-million-pound mixed-use development. So it’s clearly not always the case that one size fits all.

Retail park landlords do need to be mindful, however, that in areas of oversupply there will inevitably be winners and losers. As the retail park reinvents itself to suit the 21st century requirements of both tenant and customer, owners of outdated or inadequate retail park assets risk being left behind and losing tenants to better designed, competing sites.

The good news for landlords is that there are plenty of clever solutions that can deliver an impactful uplift, even within the financial constraints they find themselves under. However, there are often challenges above and beyond budget, particularly in relation to third party and tenant agreements. Our experience tells us that landlords often seriously underestimate the time it will take to negotiate with existing tenants. Early engagement is essential; otherwise potentially great schemes cannot be successfully delivered and can often result in schemes with ‘holes’ where tenant and landlord have failed to reach agreement.

Part of our role as architects is trying to help the landlord with those discussions and selling the benefits to tenants. But what are the essential ingredients for a successful 21st century retail park?

Firstly, the out-of-town retail model is becoming more experiential. For retail parks to truly distinguish themselves as a destination, this might mean landlords considering a greater integration of asset classes to emulate successful town centres and increase dwell time – coffee, food, playgrounds and crèches, gyms and climbing walls, flexible space for pop-up parks and pop-up food are all elements that now distinguish a quality retail park. We are also seeing an increase in interest in double-sided shopping, where the retail element of the park is completely pedestrianised and devoid of cars.

Parks that focus on creating a high-quality environment within their public realm are also likely to prove an attractive prospect. Unattractive public realm merely becomes a route from A to B or best avoided entirely. Well-conceived and attractive public realm, on the other hand, will encourage people to use the space, prompt lingering presence, resulting in better sales, client satisfaction and repeat business.

Landlords may also need to consider providing alternative travel choices for both tenants and customers whilst also futureproofing for electric cars by including charging points.

All of these measures clearly involve thinking about the bigger picture and serious investment, not merely replacing the glazing and re-painting the cladding. However, we believe that there are still plenty of long-term opportunities for those landlords with well-located sites to create viable and popular retail park destinations with the ability to retain existing and attract new tenants.

This is an extended version of an article that first appeared in Property Week on the 27th September 2019.

Tom McNamara | Director

Parliamentary Review 2019 - Retail Experts

The expert view on the retail sector

October 15th, 2019 Posted by All, Retail

Recent years have proved challenging for the retail sector, but at Urban Edge we firmly believe that change brings opportunity and find ourselves called upon to provide innovative solutions for our retail property clients. We have also seen our influence growing in the sector, with our retail experts invited to share their in-depth knowledge within a number of influential forums and journals.

Earlier this year, the Parliamentary Review editorial committee identified Urban Edge as an outstanding leader in its field and Director Russell Gay was invited by former Conservative Communities Secretary Lord Pickles to contribute to the Review’s 2019 edition. The Parliamentary Review is an esteemed annual journal that shares best practice amongst policy makers and business leaders.

Russell took the opportunity to highlight the continuing plight of the UK’s high streets and how, as the crisis has grown, our skills have become much sought after by developers and property owners looking to repurpose retail assets.

Writing in the Parliamentary Review, Russell says: “We have been urging retail property owners to forward plan to minimise the possible impact on their assets as much as possible. At Urban Edge we believe there are still plenty of opportunities for physical retail to prosper – it’s just a case of landlords thinking differently about the spaces they own, especially the opportunities to be had in converting or redeveloping existing assets into alternative uses.”

We have been working with forward-thinking owners and developers to adapt their existing assets for a good number of years, using our experience and good technical know-how to make the appropriate decisions for each scheme. A good example can be seen at Highcross in Leicester where, following the closure of the House of Fraser store in July 2017, we worked with Hammerson to develop proposals for the sub-division and remodelling of the vacated four-storey retail unit, reactivating high street façades and creating new revenue streams for the client from areas of the building considered to be ‘dead space’.

Our experience on this and other such projects, has now led us to examine similar schemes for clients and look at repurposing existing units for other complementary uses such as offices, hotels or even retirement housing.

Of course, we also understand that change of use may not suit all landlords. For some, the prospect of getting a retailer in on a long lease may still be more attractive than redevelopment. This is particularly true for ‘out-of-town’ retail, a sector that continues to prove resilient despite the changes impacting the high street – however retail park landlords need to act early to reap the benefits from well-located sites.

Writing in the September 27th issue of Property Week, Urban Edge Director Tom McNamara said: “Retail park landlords do need to be mindful that most major towns now have an oversupply and there will inevitably be winners and losers. As the retail park reinvents itself to suit the 21st century requirements of both tenant and customer, owners of outdated or inadequate retail park assets risk being left behind and losing tenants to better designed, competing sites.”

“Landlords need to think about the bigger picture and serious investment, not merely replacing the glazing and re-painting the cladding. For retail parks to truly distinguish themselves as a destination, this might mean landlords considering a greater integration of asset classes to emulate successful town centres and increase dwell time – coffee, food, playgrounds and crèches, gyms and climbing walls, flexible space for pop-up parks and pop-up food are all elements that can now distinguish a quality retail park.”

Russell has now been invited to attend a high-level event at the House of Commons in late October where he will be raising some of these issues with parliamentarians, policymakers and other senior business leaders.

You can read Russell’s full Parliamentary Review article by clicking here.

Accessible Retail Conference 2019

We’ll be talking sustainability at this year’s Accessible Retail Conference

October 4th, 2019 Posted by All, News, Retail

Senior Associate Director Dave Frost will be speaking at this year’s Accessible Retail Conference, the trade body which represents the property interests of the retail warehouse and retail park sector of the retail industry. Held at the Royal Institution of Great Britain in central London on the 10th October, and attended by some of the key influencers and decision makers in the sector, the theme of this year’s conference is Sustainable Partnerships.

Dave, who takes to the stage at 10.30am, will be discussing how we delivered Nando’s ‘next generation’ restaurant at Cambridge Retail Park – the chain’s most sustainable restaurant ever. Utilising ‘One Planet Living’ principles, the restaurant was designed to be extremely energy efficient, generate its own electricity and use waste heat from cooking for space heating. Material specification prioritised low-impact elements, fittings and furniture.

“Nando’s wanted to implement new sustainability principles and we produced a design that integrated this philosophy while complementing the existing retail park environment where the restaurant is located,” says Dave. “It presented an opportunity for us to build a restaurant using clean and sustainable materials, better design processes that reduced carbon impact and with technologies to operate the restaurant more efficiently. This pioneering development was an incredible journey for both Nando’s and Urban Edge and I look forward to recounting that journey and the learnings that came out of it with the Conference audience.”

Further details on this year’s Accessible Retail Conference can be found here.

Ageing In Every Place

Ageing in every place – All homes should be appropriate for all ages

October 2nd, 2019 Posted by All, Senior Living

I’m often asked how best we can design suitable homes for senior citizens. Implicit within the question is the idea of an entirely separate strand of homes for older people, when really we should be asking how we can design all homes to be appropriate for all ages.

When it comes to housing provision, a new generation of senior citizens – many of whom chose to or will have to continue working – represent an increasingly unsatisfied market. They don’t always want or need to move to a retirement village or specialist housing, they want a home that better meets their lifestyle requirements and aspirations. Many would prefer to remain in their current homes, but struggle with properties that were not designed or built for ageing.

Whilst there will always be a requirement for specialist housing, we urgently need to transform our housing market to ensure that senior citizens are treated equally, able to make the same meaningful choices as everyone else about where and how they live. But we can only do that if we make it a mandatory requirement to design and deliver all new homes to be accessible and adaptable to people’s needs over time.

With the right legislative levers in place, this should not be too hard to achieve. It’s incredible to think that, at the turn of this century, very few buildings in the UK were even accessible because it was perceived to be too expensive or over-excessive to make every new development wheelchair friendly. Yet the introduction of Part M of the Building Regulations in October 1999 with its requirement that ‘reasonable provision shall be made for disabled people to gain access to and to use the building’ changed all of that. It was found surprisingly easy to implement and very little evidence has ever been put forward to suggest that the regulations have added to development costs.

Yet despite the ease with which Part M has been adopted, there is still a terrible shortage of accessible homes in the UK – only seven percent of homes in England meet basic accessibility features according to the Government’s own housing survey. And just because a home is accessible does not necessarily mean it is liveable or adaptable for all needs and requirements over time. We therefore need more ambition in the standards the Government sets for homes to ensure that all new housing is suitable or can, at the very least, be easily adapted for people as they age or if their needs change.

Ageing In Every Place Caption

Enshrining such measures in regulation is important. According to JRF research, prior to the introduction of Part M, many builders had little or no knowledge about disabled people and their design needs. Now that Part M has become the norm it has become second nature for architects and developers to design and deliver accessible and inclusive homes and nobody ever questions it. In much the same way, we now need to put the needs of our ageing population front and centre by bringing together a full range of measures on improving access and inclusion in the built environment into a coherent and transparent strategy.

It needn’t be a stretch. Many of the requirements would be similar to those already included in Part M, but they need to be more robust and extend to the long-term liveability of a home for all age groups and abilities. Many design guides for ageing in place already exist and often include simple measures such as open-floor plans with few obstructions, larger windows, specific colours to aid with depth perception, no-step entries and slip-resistant floor treatments – all fairly straightforward and easy enough to incorporate in any type of newly built homes. It neither sounds complicated or expensive.

Equally, whilst most discussions on ageing in place focus on the home, we also need to look at applying the same rules and regulations to the broader communities that play a crucial factor in people’s ability to stay put. In part, this requires a cultural shift, a better understanding of the psychological and physiological needs of older people by society as a whole. However, our built environment has a crucial role to play, too.

Creating a housing market where people have the option to remain in their homes and communities for as long as possible benefits the whole of society, reducing the burden on the NHS, and encouraging more cohesive, intergenerational communities.

According to a 2018 House of Commons CLG report, the costs of poor housing to the NHS is estimated to be £1.4 billion per annum; of which nearly half (£624 million) is attributed to poor housing among older adults. At the same time that many older people are struggling with poor quality homes not designed for ageing, we are also seeing new houses being built that are not suitable for young or extended families. The lack of joined-up thinking and forward planning, as well as a failure to understand and design for the changing social needs of residents, has seen the continued segregation of generations and the inevitable fracturing of communities.

The UK government is pledging to build 300,000 homes a year until the mid 2020s to tackle the housing crisis. That’s why it’s so important to get the design of our housing correct now. If we don’t, we are locking in age-restricted housing for decades and poorly serving the needs of future generations of senior citizens who want to remain and play an active part in the communities in which they have lived all their lives.

Sonia Parol | Senior Associate Director

Monks Cross Shopping Park - Retail Park Facelifts

Retail park facelifts can be a profitable alternative to complete redevelopment

September 30th, 2019 Posted by All

The death of the retail park has been greatly exaggerated. In this two part article, Senior Associate Director, Dave Frost looks at why and how relatively straightforward retail park facelifts can be a profitable alternative to complete redevelopment.  

The news on the future of retail parks is mixed. Although recent LDC data suggested vacancy rates across UK retail parks had risen sharply between the first half of 2018 and the end of the first quarter of this year, the report also revealed that some brands are actually starting to increase their retail park presence. Our own experience supports this, and suggests that retailers such as Lidl, Aldi, Home Bargains, Food Warehouse, JD Sports and B&M are continuing to expand out of town.

In addition, the BRC/Springboard monitor covering the four weeks 30 June – 27 July 2019 indicated that retail parks are bucking the trends in non-online shopping. As high street footfall declined by 2.7% and shopping centres by 3.1%, retail park footfall increased by 1.2%.

So with this mixed picture, what is the future for retail parks in the UK and is a beautifully designed refurbishment, bringing in a wider range of retail outlets, adding leisure options and generally trying to persuade families to linger, the key to success?

Enhancing the offer

Certainly, refurbishment is a valid option, with landlords looking to improve and enhance their assets, preferring to retain and attract tenants, rather than repurpose for alternative use. Over the last 18 months we have completed four new build retail park projects, but in the same period we have also completed several successful retail park facelifts. Our focus is to improve the commercial viability and sustainability of the development by creating renewed appeal and interest in the shopping park.

Diane Wehrle, Springboard Marketing and Insights Director, is quoted as saying “Consumer demand is ever more polarised between convenience and experience, and the stronger performance of out of town destinations reflects the fact that retail parks are successfully bridging the convenience-experience gap.”

Simply put, the landlord who has the best asset in terms of how it looks, how it operates, the size, the quality of the public realm, the quality of the car park etc will be the top one or two that will survive.

Much of the current retail park stock is first generation, 1980s built assets, which are looking tired, out-of-date and do not respond to current demands. In order to survive and prosper, a comprehensive refurbishment has to deliver facilities demanded by the changing trends in retail park usage.

Although it’s tempting to start with the aesthetic of the park, one of the key factors in a retail park’s success is the choice it offers to the shopper. The change from ‘big box’ only shops such as DIY or furniture, to a mix of large and smaller units has imposed the need for the unit sizes to be equally flexible. Many historic units are now generally too large, and too deep at around 45/50m. Current requirements are generally for smaller units from 1,500 sq.ft to 7,500 sq.ft. Our design at the popular Retail World near Gateshead included five new retail units, ranging from 2,200 sq.ft to 2,700 sq.ft and are now let to retailers such as Card Factory, O2, Bells Fish & Chips and Costa, plus a planned KFC.

Monks Cross Shopping Park - Retail Park Facelifts

Work is currently underway to transform the façade at Monks Cross Shopping Park in York

Stay a while

Part of the changing aim of retail parks is to increase the feted ‘dwell-time’ by offering a range of activities to encourage the public to go beyond the commando-style ‘get in, get item and get out again’ mentality. In most cases, landlords look to make their park more shopper or family friendly, partly through improved public realm and partly by the range of its shops. In addition to improving the spaces around the more usual food and beverage units, we are currently putting forward designs that include more leisure activities such as playgrounds and climbing walls. The idea is both to keep adult and child happy and entertained and breaking up a longer shopping trip into manageable parts.

Creative use of the external public spaces can add to the feeling of safety, encouraging visitors to take their time. Simple additions such as integral timber benches in concrete planters, can provide places to rest when moving along the terrace. More involved design, such as at Retail World, use low level planting, ‘rain gardens’ and trees to create a haven, separate and partially screened from the traffic.

Many of our designs, for example the Monks Cross Shopping Park in York, are also now including open, flexible spaces to house occasional events such as farmers’ markets or Christmas Fairs. Some of our current designs contain space to group ‘pop-ups’, short term leases on ‘pod’ or pop-up units that allow park owners to maximise their income. Pulling these together in an allocated space makes them a coherent element within the park design and avoids the feeling of disorder that comes if they are scattered across the space.

Getting in

The attractiveness of a retail park depends not only on its shops and facilities, but also on how it operates. Shoppers faced with long traffic queues or difficulty in parking will easily move to another park, further away but less hassle once they get there. Landlords can look at acquiring additional land, where possible, not only to add more floor space, but primarily to provide additional access routes and improve circulation. The easing of the traffic flow can substantially improve the attractiveness of the park, supporting tenants and improving its commercial viability.

Ample car parking does create its own problems. At parks which can house thousands of cars, it’s important – harking back to the idea of user friendliness – to avoid shoppers being faced with an enormous sea of metal. At Team Valley the distances within the retail park are quite vast in pedestrian terms, so we introduced units in centre of the car park to break up the vista and create a pedestrian friendly safe zone, a ‘respite island’ that reduced the perceived distances and added interest and variety in the public sight line.

Access to car parking at a retail park has always been vital, but in recent years the growth of sustainable transportation has become an increasingly important element. Although ample car parking is still a must have, accessibility via public transport and facilities for alternatives such as secure bicycle racks and electric charging points have become the norm.

In the second part of this article, Dave will consider what makes a good design and how it can have a direct impact on the tenants’ bottom lines.

Dave Frost | Senior Associate Director

Ride Across Britain 2019

Urban Edge Graphic Designer Stuart Hill completes epic 980 mile Ride Across Britain

September 27th, 2019 Posted by All, Charity

Resident Graphic Designer Stuart Hill is a keen cyclist and can often be spotted in lycra, before diving into the office to get changed, on his morning commute. This year however, he decided to push himself a bit further and took part in the Deloitte Ride Across Britain. This involved riding over 100 miles a day for nine consecutive days, starting from Land’s End and finishing at John O’Groats. Stuart was also raising money for Prostate Cancer UK which is our Foundation’s chosen charity in 2019. He successfully completed the Ride Across Britain on the 13th September and has raised a fantastic £2,975! To find out more about his incredible journey and view a gallery of professional images from the event please visit the Urban Edge Foundation website.

Parliamentary Review 2019

Urban Edge Director Russell Gay contributes to influential Parliamentary Review

September 26th, 2019 Posted by All, News

We are delighted to announce that Director Russell Gay is a key contributor to this year’s Parliamentary Review, the esteemed annual journal that shares best practice amongst policy makers and business leaders. Featuring an exclusive foreword from the Prime Minister, an address from the Review’s co-chairmen Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, the Review has become one of the UK’s most influential reads for business people and politicians alike.

Identifying Urban Edge as an outstanding leader in its field, Russell was invited by former Conservative Communities Secretary Lord Pickles to take part in the Review earlier this year. Russell has also been invited to attend a high-level event at the House of Commons in late October where he will discuss some of the most pressing issues facing the property sector with parliamentarians, policymakers and other senior business leaders.

The 2019 edition of the Review is published this month and, as a best-practice representative, Russell has presented expert testimony on some of the key topics of the day, particularly the crisis enveloping the UK’s high streets and the practice’s response, providing innovative solutions for developers and property owners looking to repurpose their retail assets. Russell also takes the opportunity to discuss the need for senior living provision in our towns and cities, calling on policy makers to help facilitate the creation of mixed-use, multigenerational developments that can foster a diverse and sustainable urban and suburban economy.

“It is a privilege to be asked to participate in the Parliamentary Review alongside cabinet ministers, government agencies, associations and other leading businesses,” says Russell. “As an architectural practice acting for financial institutions, investment funds, developers and operators on projects throughout the UK we have much to contribute to the debate on the future our built environment.

“We have overseen the design and delivery of numerous high-profile projects with recent highlights including the completion of prime mixed-use developments and retirement villages and several major retail and leisure destinations. We are therefore in a privileged position to offer expert insight to the people who make crucial decisions on policy in these areas of the property sector.”

Writing in the 2019 Review’s foreword, Lord Pickles said: “The ability to listen to and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones… It is essential that politicians have a firm understanding of the challenges with which British organisations must contend; and that leaders in both the public and private sectors are aware of the difficulties faced by those working in all levels of politics, from local government to the national arena.”

You can read Russell’s contribution to the 2019 Parliamentary Review here.

Mercury Business Awards 2019 - Large Business of the Year

Urban Edge crowned Large Business of the Year

September 25th, 2019 Posted by All, News

We are delighted to announce that we have been crowned ‘Large Business of the Year’ at the 2019 Mercury Business Awards.

The announcement was made at a black-tie gala awards ceremony attended by more than 260 guests at the Greetham Valley Hotel on 20th September 2019. Directors Russell Gay and Tom McNamara, alongside Senior Associate Director Sonia Parol and Associate Director Darren Hodgson, were in attendance to collect the impressive trophy made from Lincolnshire limestone from host, Rutland Radio’s Rob Persani.

“It’s an absolute honour to be announced as the winner of the ‘Large Business of the Year’ category at the 14th annual Mercury Business Awards,” said Russell Gay. “This award recognises all that we have achieved over the last 12 years and the hard work, dedication and expertise of all our employees. Since our formation, we have seen year on year growth and have a strategy and vision to continue this trend.”

Russ and Darren were interviewed ahead of the Mercury Business Awards by Leo Media who put together this short film

The Mercury Business Awards, headline sponsored by economic development agency InvestSK, are the biggest of their kind in the Stamford, Bourne and Rutland area. Speaking at the awards ceremony, Rutland and Stamford Mercury editor Kerry Coupe said the awards were “about celebrating the best of our community” and said the standard of entries had once again been incredibly high. Indeed, the judges faced the tough task of narrowing down more than 150 entries to just a handful in each category.

Whilst we work nationally on a portfolio of retail, specialist residential and leisure developments for high-profile clients, we are a local employer with a large percentage of our workforce residing within Stamford and the surrounding areas. The business started with just three employees in 2007 and has grown to nearly 50 in 2019! We have worked tirelessly to give something back to the community that has contributed so much to our success. We are a supporter of local charities and, in 2015, established the Urban Edge Foundation to raise funds and awareness for established charities that support people whose lives have been mercilessly overturned by injury or chronic ill-health.

Clock Tower Retail Park, Chelmsford

Making good time at Clock Tower Retail Park

September 19th, 2019 Posted by All, Retail

The opening of several major stores and food and beverage outlets at Clock Tower Retail Park in Chelmsford, including Aldi, Furniture Village, DFS, Tapi and Costa, marked a significant moment in the life of a site once occupied by the Britvic soft drinks factory. When the Marks & Spencer Foodhall officially opened there in November 2017, the local press were on-hand to report how ‘customers streamed through the doors after a year of hard work to bring the disused site, off Westway, back to life.’

Just over 18 months on from that opening, we returned to Clock Tower Retail Park to see how our design for the scheme was performing and gather some opinion from the current tenants.

We were originally asked to develop proposals for this brand new retail park at Westway, Chelmsford for our client Aberdeen Standard Investments and Exton Estates. The location for the park proved to be very interesting, sitting as it did on the site of the former Britvic soft drinks factory. Opened in 1955, the factory had been a huge employer in Chelmsford and at its height was bottling 13 million soft drinks a year. It was therefore important that the design acknowledged the site’s history.

A decision was made to replicate the factory’s iconic clock tower that had been a popular local landmark on the city skyline and from which the retail park now takes its name. The new tower features unique lighting designed to mimic the bubbles in a fizzy drink; they are illuminated and rise up the tower on the hour. Looking at it now, it’s immensely gratifying to see how the new clock tower has become as iconic as the original and, importantly, how it acts as a beacon for the retail park itself.

It’s equally satisfying to see that the crisp contemporary retail architecture featuring a simple and refined pallet of materials including glass, brick and dark metal cladding, is performing well. It’s interesting also to reflect on how the design has proved to be highly on-trend – for instance some elements of the façade incorporated design features which are currently very in vogue, such as the unique signature laser-cut signage cube to the M&S unit which incorporates an organic perforated design and bookends the retail terrace. It looks great day and night and we’re now installing a similar system on a façade enhancement scheme in York.

Likewise, it’s pleasing to see how our choice of cladding for the Costa unit at the front of the park picks up on the current trend for brassy tones. In seeking an alternative to cor-ten steel, we found a similar product with brassy-orangey tones – not only did this turn out be a lot more cost effective but it’s also proving to require a lot less maintenance as well. Looking at how this has performed in Chelmsford, we’re now proposing to use it elsewhere.

More importantly for us, however, is seeing and hearing that that the park is trading well and tenants are happy. Speaking to the store managers, the overwhelming impression we get is that the car park is always very busy, even during the daytime, and that the stores are trading well in comparison with other nearby facilities. Tenants attributed this success to the great visibility of the stores from the main highway approach and from the car park areas.

The clock tower helps, of course, because it clearly advertises the retail park. However, the park is also an ‘L-shaped’ format and we designed it so that every unit faces the road. In all of our retail park projects we try to get the signage as tall as possible so that it’s visible – admittedly, this is not always the preference for the planners, but at Clock Tower Retail Park we were able to project the parapet line, not only to break down the mass, but also allowing us to push up the signage and giving it more prominence from the road. From the tenant feedback, this decision is paying dividends and clearly works well for trading.

Of course there are always things that, on reflection, one might do differently, for instance wider paving or the inclusion of more amenities and events spaces, but overall Clock Tower Retail Park has turned out to be a very successful project, bringing big-name brands and employment to the local area.

Arguably, most major towns in the UK now have an overcapacity of retail parks and, in the current retail climate, only the very best will survive. In carefully considering its design to ensure quality and endurable finishes, well-conceived high-quality public realm and a greater visibility than all the other retail parks in the area, Clock Tower Retail Park was able to attract anchor tenants Aldi at one end and M&S at the other, alongside Furniture Village, DFS and Tapi Carpets amongst others. That fact alone is a statement, proving that it is the best park in the area and, from the perspective of both a design and tenant mix, guarantees it a successful future.

You can read more about this project in our portfolio.

Retail World

New units improve offer at Retail World

August 23rd, 2019 Posted by All, Leisure, Retail

We have recently delivered five new retail units, totalling 12,223 sq.ft at the popular Retail World near Gateshead. The project contains a mix of retail and food and drink units with external seating areas, alterations to existing car parking and landscaping.

Our design reflects the area’s strong mining and manufacturing heritage. Powder-coated composite panels, resembling the rusted steel of the nearby Angel of the North. The intention is to create an aged industrial feel to contrast the extensive modern glazing and aluminium framed glazed shopfronts. A glazed canopy projects slightly from the units fronting the pedestrian link, providing both an elegant and unifying finish to the units and offers a partial shelter to pedestrians and users of the external seating area.

The new terrace is situated in a prominent location, directly on the site entrance, the design fits coherently within site as a whole. Its frontages establish a relationship with the units already within the retail park, giving a sense of enclosure and cohesiveness to the space generally. The distances within the retail park are quite vast in pedestrian terms and the new units create a ‘respite island’, reducing the perceived distances and adding more interest and variety for the public.

Josh Rowley, Associate Director says: “The withdrawal of one of the previous anchor tenants from the original line-up, gave us the opportunity to redesign the terrace, increasing the number of proposed units and enhance the park’s retail offer without impacting the existing tenants.”

Creating a pedestrian-friendly space where people would be happy to spend quality time, was an important factor in our design. Around the new terrace, a number of fixed benches are set between ‘rain gardens’ and trees in tree grills which together will partially screen and give a softer edge to the development. The rain gardens contain wetland grasses and perennials beds which will contribute towards surface water attenuation.

In addition to reconfiguring the existing car parking to maintain the overall number of parking spaces, a key pedestrian route was developed to improve links across the site. This pedestrian pathway is a bold and highly legible feature, lined by columnar Hornbeam trees. A row of lower flowering Dogwood trees provide a splash of colour and a more intimate scale, creating a physical barrier but allowing views through to the retail park beyond. Careful siting of this route will make it possible, in the future, to link through to the Minories site, part of a wider masterplan.

Concludes Josh Rowley: “Our client, Gateshead Retail World, Team Valley, handed the units over to the tenants in February and they are already home to recognisable names such as Card Factory, O2, Bells Fish & Chips and Costa, plus another planned fast food operator. The modern aesthetic of the terrace, plus the pedestrian friendly landscaping and the strong mix of retailers will add significantly to the park’s offer and improve dwell times.”

You can read more about this project in our portfolio.

Tamatanga, Highcross

Urban Edge celebrates double opening at Highcross shopping centre in Leicester

August 14th, 2019 Posted by All, Leisure

A new 18,000 sq.ft Treetop Adventure Golf, complementing the existing retail offer at Highcross with more family orientated activities, launched in June, with the independent Indian street food brand Tamatanga opening its doors in July.

Our design for the £10 million refurbishment has previously attracted such high street big hitters as Zara and JD Sports. Already existing tenants at the centre, Zara have moved into a 30,000 sq.ft flagship store and a full-line JD Sports have doubled the size of their space by taking an extended 20,000 sq.ft unit.

Darren Hodgson, Associate Director says: “With such challenging times on the UK high street, retailers are extremely exacting in the location and configuration of the units they rent. We were able to apply our expertise in retail developments to reconfigure an old-fashioned, department store-centric layout into new units suitable for modern retailers. Lower and upper ground floors are now the key retail areas, with other spaces attracting alternative tenants, such as indoor golf, or even being converted into car parking; all to make the whole visitor experience more attractive to customers.”

We developed and delivered a scheme which subdivided and reconfigured the three storeys that made up the former House of Fraser department store within the Highcross shopping centre. Our design created new retail, leisure and food and beverage offers for the centre, in addition to converting part of the upper retail levels into additional car parking, extending the existing roof top car park and providing an extra 130 spaces.

Darren concludes: “This is our first delivered scheme to date for Hammerson, and it gave the Highcross centre a renewed presence on Leicester’s high street and strengthened the developing human connectivity of the city centre. Our design re-imagined the internal layout to not only maximise the useable floorspace but create units that appealed to the changing needs of the hard-pressed high street retailer.”

You can read more about this project in our portfolio.

  • Treetop Adventure Golf, Highcross
    The Clubhouse serves thirsty adventure golfers
  • Treetop Adventure Golf, Highcross
    The immersive interiors transport you to the heart of the jungle
  • Tamatanga, Highcross
    The re-development works have revitalised this once inactive frontage
  • Tamatanga, Highcross
    Customers can expect a colourful and unique dining experience at Tamatanga
Costa, Heanor

Bespoke Costa completes at Heanor

July 30th, 2019 Posted by All, Leisure, Retail

In our first project delivered for client CBRE Global Investors, we were tasked with selecting a site and developing a bespoke design for a new c£600k Costa pod at the popular Heanor Retail Park in Derbyshire.

The team’s first task was to carefully select the site to give the 1,840 sq.ft unit prominence, but without negatively impacting the sight lines to the existing retail terrace. Having chosen a plot situated on the A6007, one of the main arterial routes through the centre of town, our design had to create an individual contemporary drive-to unit that fitted in with the feel of the Costa brand but was bespoke to the site.

We worked beyond the standard Costa design, with its mono-pitch roof and white render/timber façades, and created a modern minimalist design to give the unit its own identity. The quality of the materials used were a key aspect of the finished unit, with the external façade being a mixture of reconstituted stone cladding, cedar cladding and aluminium cladding in dark red to tie in with the Costa brand identity. The addition of an extended canopy along the front elevation offers a semi-covered area for the external seating.

Director, Tom McNamara said: “We think our Costa pod is a real asset to the park, serving the existing customers well and hopefully increasing dwell time. Feedback from the Costa staff is that the unit is trading better than expected, and the reviews on the coffee shop’s Facebook page have been very complimentary.”

Mercury Business Awards

Urban Edge Architecture announced as finalist in the Mercury Business Awards 2019

July 16th, 2019 Posted by All, News

We are delighted to announce that we have been selected as a finalist within the ‘Large Business of the Year’ category for this year’s Mercury Business Awards.

The Mercury Business Awards, headline sponsored by economic development agency InvestSK, are the biggest of their kind in the Stamford, Bourne and Rutland area, and the judges faced the tough task of narrowing down more than 150 entries to just a handful in each category.

Our business started with just three employees in 2007 and has grown to nearly 50 in 2019. We are a local employer with a large percentage of our workforce residing within Stamford and the surrounding areas and are delighted to be recognised for our achievements over the last 12 years.

“We are absolutely thrilled to be included among the finalists in this year’s Mercury Business Awards,” said Darren Hodgson, Associate Director. “We are proud of Urban Edge and what we have accomplished and are delighted to be recognised for what we have achieved. We have been in Stamford for 12 years and hope that our success in these awards will increase our local exposure as a dynamic and engaged employer. We are very much looking forward to the finals in September.”

Winners of the Mercury Business Awards will be announced at a black-tie gala dinner awards ceremony at the Greetham Valley Hotel on Friday 20th September 2019.

Make Room For Green Cover Img

Make room for green – How retail can profit from considered landscape design

June 25th, 2019 Posted by All, Landscape

Trees and landscape in retail parks and shopping outlets have been a controversial topic ever since I started designing landscape for commercial sites. It sometimes seems that trees are the ‘baddies’ that obscure the visibility of branding and logos and, just as bad, require maintenance due to their leaf and possible fruit drop. The disregard for trees can also sometimes lead to their demise: In historic retail sites and car parks they may have been placed into tree pits too small to give them a chance of survival – so not only were they a cost to plant, but then also a hassle and additional cost to remove, never to be replaced. Alternative plantings such as low-maintenance evergreen shrub beds have been equally mistreated, often outgrown their space and, continually suppressed by rigorous maintenance regimes, now look tired and ill, sending all the wrong signals to the potential customer.

In order to appeal to the new generation of consumer and to mitigate the impact of online shopping, retailers are now going to great efforts to offer customers a unique experience. A lot of money is being invested in making shop interiors look luxurious, quirky, chic and memorable. And equal attention is increasingly being given to the shop’s setting to entice customers in and give them a taste of what’s awaiting them within. Shopfronts and their surroundings have a great influence on the shoppers’ positive or negative perception. Therefore, the appearance of the public realm has a great influence on making the experience interesting and appealing.

A wealth of research has been carried out in the UK and abroad to assess shoppers’ perceptions and preferences in relation to varying shopping environments with and without trees and mature landscape. And, unsurprisingly to me, the results have very much been in favour of vegetation, particularly mature trees, shaping the space and framing views, providing shelter and improving general visual amenity of the space. Equally, there are numerous studies proving that plants are beneficial to our health and well-being both indoors and outdoors, that vegetated open spaces are the key to help people relax and get closer to nature. On a smaller scale, biophilic design in the workplace – which can include such simple measures as placing plants in offices – are seen as beneficial to employees’ productivity.

Finding time to go out, listen and experience ‘the outdoors’ is crucial for our mental and physical well-being. But it’s not enough to just walk down a busy, noisy street and expect results. The quality of ‘the outdoors’ environment is very important too. And that relates to every scale. A picnic in the park, an outdoor movie night or a bonfire on the beach is by no means better or worse than a dinner party in the privacy of our own garden. It’s all about creating a friendly and cosy atmosphere, slowing down our busy lifestyles to enjoy a moment.

To me, this calls to mind those oft-heard buzz terms such as mindfulness and hygge – in essence, enjoying the little things in life and celebrating the moment. It’s all about feeling good in our surroundings and spending quality, fulfilling time, indoors and out. It is important to go out, meet people, interact, enjoy the sounds, smells and sensations that come with being outside. But with hygge being all about cosiness, how does that translate to the spacious outdoors? It’s all about bringing the scale of the space back into size and proportions that are easier to relate to, creating enclosures, using natural materials, softening the hard edges with soft landscape elements. And then it’s all about senses too, introducing smells and sounds, water or even fire (in a controlled fashion, of course!).

So why wouldn’t this recent shift towards nature, well-being and mindfulness seep into the retail environment? Well, luckily it has, the changes are slowly shaping up and hopefully soon all developers and retailers will realise that creating a high-quality environment within their public realm provides a tremendous subconscious attraction, resulting in better footfall and better sales. Unattractive public realm merely becomes a route from A to B or best avoided entirely. Well-conceived and attractive public realm, on the other hand, will encourage people to use the space, prompt lingering presence, resulting in better sales, client satisfaction and repeat business from time spent in a pleasant environment.

Make Room For Green Caption

There are some practical benefits to plants in public realm, too. If placed correctly, trees can provide shading to the shopfronts which in turn helps avoid solar heat gain, reducing the need for air conditioning and subsequently reducing energy consumption. Tree planting will also be required to achieve the high ecological and biodiversity credentials that most sites aspire to achieve these days. Drainage is another crucial aspect to take into consideration and trees and shrubs are our natural allies in improving draining qualities of waterlogged soils and storm-water management. Needless to mention their instrumental role in climate management and wind-speed reduction. And last but not least, I don’t think I have ever come across a local authority that would reject a landscape design based on too many trees or too much planting – but I’ve encountered many applications rejected due to not enough tree planting and the development lacking character.

So let’s not vilify trees and stop banishing them to unsuitable tree pits. Far better to plant the correct trees in the correct places and allow them enough space for compaction-free root growth. The softness of greenery and seasonal colour afforded by attractive shrub beds and the vertical accents that trees bring into a sometimes very rigid, horizontal and geometric architecture (no disrespect to the architects and their hard work), as well as a well-designed public realm can make the prospect of a day out shopping far more enticing, exciting and pleasant.

The retail world is changing and customers’ expectations have developed towards more biophilic design and experiential visits. The retailers’ outlook needs to change too – and the landlords will follow.

Gosia Soltan | Landscape Architect

Dragon Boat Festival

Urban Edge crew on fire in this year’s Peterborough Dragon Boat Festival!

June 10th, 2019 Posted by All, Charity

Our team of rowers bravely took to the water in June for this year’s edition of the Peterborough Dragon Boat Festival. We were ‘silver’ sponsors of the event which was raising money for Sue Ryder Thorpe Hall Hospice; a charity close to our hearts and one that we continue to support. As well as our sponsorship of the race, we raised an additional £1,000 in donations for our Dragon Boat crew, with a significant contribution coming from Stamford-based building firm, Whittlestone Builders who were our main team sponsor.

Conditions were challenging as it rained constantly all morning! We huddled gratefully under the shelter of our gazebo, drinking hot cups of coffee, waiting for our crew to be called. Having not practised at all, we were a bit apprehensive getting into the boat for the first time. However, all that melted away when the gun sounded and our Dragon Boat sped down the lake to the beat of our precariously perched drummer!

We placed 3rd in the first race with a time of 65.41 seconds. A good start, but we knew we could do better. A little more confident, we lined up at the start of the second heat raring to go. We managed to improve and placed 2nd with a fantastic time of 61.86 seconds! We waited in anticipation to hear our team name as the leaderboard was read out over the loudspeakers. We kept waiting but still nothing, perhaps we missed it, we couldn’t possibly be this high up, but then there we were… 12th place, with one race to go. It looked like we were going to make the semi-finals!

As we headed down the lake to line up for our third race our skipper remarked how well we were doing and suggested that if we leant into the rowing, we could generate a bit more power. Unfortunately, this tactical change proved fatal and lead to a very uncoordinated start resulting in a time of 65.38 seconds. Not disastrous, but the fight for a semi-final berth was hotly contested and we had a nail-biting wait as the rest of the teams completed their third race.

As the results came in, we realised we had just missed out on the semi-finals by a few places. Finishing in a very respectable 15th place. We were slightly crestfallen, but buoyed by the fact that we’d had a fantastic day, despite the weather, and raised lots of money for Thorpe Hall Hospice. Yet, a few days later when the results were posted online; we received the surprising news that we had finished second overall in the mixed-teams category! Jubilant with this news, we look forward to improving our ranking at next year’s Dragon Boat Festival and raising lots more cash for charity.

Please click here to view the Peterborough Dragon Boat Festival 2019 results.

  • A huge thank you to our team sponsor Whittlestone Builders
    A huge thank you to our team sponsor Whittlestone Builders
  • Silver sponsorship entitled us to have a our branding on one of the Dragon Boats
    Silver sponsorship entitled us to have a our branding on one of the Dragon Boats
  • Preparing to depart
    Preparing to depart
  • Team huddle
    Team huddle
  • In action in our second and fastest race
    In action in our second and fastest race
  • Our triumphant crew
    Our triumphant crew
Gateway Retail Park, Lowestoft

The most easterly town in the UK welcomes brand new Gateway Retail Park

May 21st, 2019 Posted by All, Retail

We are celebrating the realisation of our £7 million new build retail park on Tower Road, Lowestoft, Suffolk. Gateway Retail Park was completed on the 2nd May 2019, with the tenants now starting to fit out. The circa 70,000 sq.ft development marks a substantial investment in the region, as well as turning a redundant brownfield site into an impressive new gateway for the town.

Anchored by Aldi and The Range, the scheme includes a new retail terrace, coffee drive-through and a mixed retail and restaurant unit, complete with a remodelled site access, car parking and hard and soft landscaping. We were pleased to work with TPS Development and Project Managers on behalf of our client Freshwater Group, to create a contemporary response to the requirements of modern out-of-town retailers, including such names as Costa, Greggs, Subway and Card Factory.

Director, Tom McNamara said: “We are excited to see our design finally completed. It has been a long journey – with the original planning being granted in December 2015 – but the finished development is a quality new retail destination that will boost Lowestoft’s economy and offer good local employment opportunities, as well as creating a positive first view of the town from the south.”

Mark Newton, Director at TPS, adds: “It’s great to see Gateway Retail Park finally completed for our client Freshwater Group. It’s a great testament to the team involved who have worked hard to deliver this new retail facility. It’s been great to track the scheme’s progress through the time-lapse camera Stainforth Construction provided. The retail units are currently being fitted out with the first units opening within the next few weeks. The retail park was 75% pre-let prior to completion and we are pleased to announce that the remaining 15,000 sq.ft is now under offer and will introduce some new brands to Lowestoft.”

The design puts emphasis on the integration of this new development into the wider area and creates a strong link between the existing retail and commercial uses to the south of the site. Stylish design and quality flows through into the public realm with the provision of an attractive landscape, with a variety of native trees and shrubs adding visual interest for customers.

Vacancy - BIM Manager

BIM Manager required

April 10th, 2019 Posted by All, Vacancies

If you are looking for a new opportunity where you can nurture your own development and work with dedicated and passionate people, this may be the role for you.

Due to our continued growth, we’re looking for an experienced BIM manager to join our team. Based in the heart of the picturesque town of Stamford, we work across the UK for a large number of high-profile clients and the position will offer a challenging and rewarding opportunity to apply your knowledge, experience and problem-solving skills.

If you have a passion for architecture, Revit and BIM, and want to understand where a career as a BIM Manager with Urban Edge may lead, then we would love to hear from you.

About the Role

This is a great opportunity for an experienced BIM Manager to join and help a growing business by developing the practice’s BIM protocol and office standards. Other duties include but are not limited to:

  • Daily Management of BIM workflows
  • Support and train teams on Revit and BIM protocols
  • Creating Revit families for use by teams, including bespoke components
  • Troubleshooting BIM model issues
  • Active production of project information in Revit

About you

You should have good decision-making skills, operate pro-actively and work well in a team as well as using your own initiative.

As well as this, ideally, you’ll have the following skills:

  • Architectural background
  • Strong Revit skills and understanding of BIM protocols
  • Experience working on large scale Revit models with multiple users
  • Ability to work effectively both independently and within a team with precise attention to detail
  • Excellent communication skills and an aptitude to mentor and train
  • Ability to work accurately and efficiently to meet deadlines and client expectations

It would be a bonus if you also possess:

  • BIM Level 2 Certification
  • Experience of delivering large scale architectural projects

What we offer

At Urban Edge, we are dedicated to our people and offer an extensive benefits package. In return for your hard work you can expect to receive:

  • Competitive salary
  • 26.5 days holiday
  • Company Pension Scheme
  • Company Bonus Scheme
  • Gym membership
  • Private Healthcare
  • Life cover

Salary negotiable depending on experience.

To apply please email your CV to: jobs@urbanedgearchitecture.co.uk outlining what you would bring to the role. Please include a portfolio with samples of your work.

Candidates must be eligible to live and work in the UK. If you require a Certificate of Sponsorship please make this clear as part of your application and include the expiry date.

NO RECRUITMENT AGENCIES

Path to Wellbeing

The innovative path to wellbeing

April 3rd, 2019 Posted by All, Senior Living

As designers we should ensure the residents of senior-living developments are encouraged towards positive behaviours. We should do this not by controlling their environment and focusing solely on safety and reducing risk, but by providing a range of opportunities to continuously take part in active life in an integrated, wider community setting.

Generally speaking, there are two reasons why people move to housing within care developments. First of all, they value the lifestyle connected to enhanced facilities and public spaces; and, secondly, they value the safety and security of the future care provision. Whilst most residents might not have a need for care when first moving to a retirement community, they want to be safe in the knowledge that they will be supported should their needs change. However, it is our tendency to focus on the elements of safety and security in senior living and care home design that conversely, in my view, could have long-term negative impacts on the wellbeing of residents.

In October 2008 the New Economics Foundation was commissioned by the Government’s Foresight project on Mental Capital and Wellbeing to develop a set of five evidence-based actions1 to improve personal wellbeing. Whilst feelings of happiness, contentment and engagement are often cited as characteristic of someone who has positive life experiences, equally of importance for wellbeing is our functioning in the world. According to the NEF report, experiencing positive relationships, having some control over our lives and having a sense of purpose are all important attributes of wellbeing.

Yet in our attempts to deliver technically perfect and safe senior-living and care home environments, we seriously risk designing out those very opportunities that encourage residents to become active and aware, form positive relationships and have some control over their own lives.

The problem, in part, is our strict adherence to near 30-year-old best practice guidance, the primary intent of which is to deliver design solutions that minimise or avoid risks to residents rather than to develop solutions to improve residents’ lives. Equally the rules and regulations that we have at the moment are principally aimed at the care end of the spectrum, yet with so many different models of senior living now on the market and targeted at different ages, abilities and lifestyles schemes cannot – and should not – all be designed in the same way. Whilst we clearly have building regulations and standards to which we must adhere, these standards and regulations should not drive the design of the schemes that we create.

Path to Wellbeing Quote 1

It concerns me that we do not often challenge the rules and considered norms in the UK senior living and care sector. We have focused on creating safe and attractive environments, but still within the same standard concept of a nursing home. In other words, we are just wrapping the same concept in nicer material.

We still have a cluster of bedrooms with one lounge, a quiet lounge and a dining room. We might add a shop or a hairdresser, but they are only available to the residents and only accessible via an internal lift – residents don’t have to put a coat on, they don’t have to walk far, they don’t see anyone other than carers at the hairdresser or the shop. We are still worried about their interaction with other people, we want to keep them safe and in a completely risk-free environment. When you stop to consider it, this is about as far from a ‘normal’ environment as possible and residents have few opportunities to experience positive relationships or have some control over their lives. We should always aspire to do better and we can only do that if we focus on the residents we are developing for. If you think about the people who are going to live in the space that you are designing, then you start thinking about their wellbeing and how you can create truly sustainable communities.

So where to start? During our workshop at last years’ Housing LIN annual conference, we asked what the future of senior-living schemes should look like. We got great feedback from people attending our seminar and the main message was that we should create spaces that work for everyone, no matter what their background or age; an inclusive environment that allows people to connect with each other.

That care and senior living schemes ought to be integrated into the local community with the ability to share facilities where practical, is something I learnt whilst working on vertical villages in Sydney, Australia. I learnt that people should be able to continue to lead an independent lifestyle where they can easily access shops, restaurants, cafés and other forms of retail and leisure whenever they choose. These ‘vertical villages’ allowed their 65-year-old and older residents to have easy access to the Sydney Opera House, Darlington Harbour and the public transport of ferries at the Circular Quay.

It is my view that we should aim to create truly intergenerational communities that include care home, assisted living apartments as well as student accommodation and a crèche – actively encouraging social connection, where young and old can live side-by-side, benefiting from the social, cultural and economic opportunities of multigenerational living. As an example, a recent report by United for All Ages suggests that twinning nurseries with care homes encourages older people to engage in physical activity by playing with children and enjoying the spirit and joy that they can bring to their home environment. Interaction with children helps lessen symptoms of loneliness and isolation in older residents who gain a new sense of self-worth, an opportunity to transfer knowledge and the ability to serve as role models; whilst children who regularly mix with older people see improvements to their language development, reading and social skills.

Path to Wellbeing Quote 2

In looking to push beyond the norms, we have looked to apply some of my learnings from Australia, as well as observations from European care homes and villages in Copenhagen, Hogeweyk and Deventer, at a truly multigenerational mixed-use scheme in the UK. We focused our design on provision of diverse public open spaces, including a variety of accessible green spaces such as play areas, allotments and outdoor eating areas to support wellbeing. Providing facilities and interest in public open spaces such as outdoor seating increases potential for social interaction and extends the use of space. In the case of care homes or dementia facilities, if physical connection is challenging we could provide visual connection where residents of the care home can see and hear children playing.

Whilst focusing on shared public areas we must also consider the provision of private space, enabling residents to have a choice to participate in community daily life or retire to tranquil, more private space. As people’s situations change with age, they may progressively need a calmer, more private environment. The older years are a particularly vulnerable time; physically and psychologically, therefore we made sure we provided here safe, semi-private and private spaces to reduce levels of distress and insecurities. This can be still achieved whilst providing the visual/aural connections with the outside world.

As we age we lead an increasingly sedentary lifestyle, encouraging a modest level of activity becomes important in order to improve cardiac health and maintain general fitness. Moving up and down stairs is a simple and effective solution. On the other hand, for those who are physically disabled or are wheelchair users, we made sure that our design accommodated their needs. Our design considerations incorporated strategies to ensure that partners and carers of wheelchair users are encouraged to remain active too. Clearly such a lot of social connection and activity is dependent on the operators, their staff and the residents themselves – but architecture can encourage everyone’s wellbeing – and happier staff means they will be attracted, retained and be more productive and supportive of residents.

Looking at the bigger picture, it could be argued that the overall residential sector in the UK lacks vision and innovation. In other sectors, where the status quo has been challenged, we have seen the design and delivery of some fantastic, cutting edge buildings, particularly in leisure, retail and workplace. Yet the residential sector has changed little. There are new houses being built that are not suitable for young families, whilst at the opposite end of the scale there are many older people struggling with homes that were not designed for ageing. The lack of joined-up thinking and forward planning, as well as a failure to understand and design for the changing social needs of residents has seen the segregation of generations continue a pace and communities fracture. Not only are shared and social spaces important for physical and mental health and wellbeing, but they will also be considered a necessity for the next generation of senior citizens who want to continue to play an active part in society.

Within the senior living sector, care and dementia care present the biggest challenges for connected living, yet examples in Australia, Copenhagen and the Netherlands, as well as our own efforts here in the UK to explore the benefits that can come from social connection and multigenerational living, prove just what can be achieved if we begin to challenge the expected norms. And if we can see the benefits even in these most challenging environments, then applying it to other areas of residential development should be very easy.

Sonia Parol | Senior Associate Director

Footnote:
1In October 2008 New Economics Foundation published five ways to well-being.
NHS evidence suggests that these five steps improve our mental wellbeing:
1) Connect
2) Be active
3) Take notice
4) Keep learning
5) Give

2018 – A year in our practice

January 17th, 2019 Posted by All

What a fantastic year 2018 was for our practice. We continue to grow both in terms of turnover, staff and most importantly projects.

The practice expanded its workforce by a further 25 percent and revenue was up despite the tough economic climate. We saw our influence growing, particularly in the senior living sector, with Urban Edge’s dedicated experts invited to speak at a number of leading conferences and contributing to several influential publications. We also refreshed our student training program, now branded the Urban Edge Academy, to support our architectural interns.

Furthermore, many schemes reached fruition in 2018, with highlights including:

  • The construction of two new retail destinations at Chelmsford and Canvey Island;
  • Completion of Phase II at two of our care villages – Hampshire Lakes and Bishopstoke Park;
  • A prime mixed-use renovation of a former nightclub on Balham High Road;
  • New-build coffee pods at Willowtree Lane Retail Park, Meteor Retail Park and Slough Retail Park to name a few;
  • Delivery of a brand-new 30,000sq ft Next store in Plymouth;
  • Façade refurbishments at Valley Retail & Leisure Park, Retail World Gateshead, Meteor Retail Park and Euro Retail Park;
  • Extensive alteration works to the car park and former House of Fraser at Highcross, Leicester.

Looking forward to 2019, Urban Edge Architecture’s Director, Russell Gay, commented: “In 2019, we expect the care sector to grow and are working on multiple schemes that have great potential. It will likely be another challenging year for retailers, but with change comes new opportunities. We will continue to provide innovative retail solutions that exceed expectations. Finally, we would like to take this opportunity to thank all our clients for a fantastic 2018. Now let’s make this year even better.”

Sue Ryder Thorpe Hall Hospice - Lights of Love 2018

Urban Edge to sponsor Sue Ryder Thorpe Hall Hospice ‘Lights of Love’ concert

November 30th, 2018 Posted by All, Charity

Urban Edge Architecture is proud to sponsor this year’s Sue Ryder Thorpe Hall Hospice ‘Lights of Love’ concert in Peterborough. For thousands of people across the area, ‘Lights of Love’ has become an important event in the festive calendar and this year’s concert will, for the first time, take place at Peterborough Cathedral.

Sue Ryder Thorpe Hall Hospice is the only specialist palliative care inpatient unit in Peterborough and provides expert palliative care and support for people who are living with life-limiting conditions, as well as supporting their families. The ‘Lights of Love’ concert is an opportunity for families to remember and celebrate the lives of those they have lost as well as a chance to raise much needed funds for the hospice, which costs £9,000 a day to run.

Russell Gay, Director of Urban Edge Architecture, comments: “As a local employer with staff drawn from all over the region, we have often been touched directly or indirectly by the care and support provided by Thorpe Hall Hospice. The decision to sponsor ‘Lights of Love’ was easily made and the least we can do to give something back to the community that surrounds our business. The volunteers and staff from the hospice are exceptional individuals, helping people through some of the most difficult times of their lives and they need all the support they can get. We’re expecting 600 plus people at the event and it will no doubt be an incredibly emotional and special evening; one which we are beyond pleased to be able to support.”

This year’s ‘Lights of Love’ concert will hear festive readings from the staff at Sue Ryder Thorpe Hall Hospice, singing from a local school choir and carols from the City of Peterborough Concert Band. Guests can look at Thorpe Hall’s remembrance books and place their dedications on the Lights of Love Christmas trees.

Sue Ryder Thorpe Hall Hospice ‘Lights of Love’ concert takes place on 16 December 2018. For further information or to make a donation, please visit the Sue Ryder website.

Highcross, Leicester - Repurposing the High Street

Retail therapy – Why repurposing the High Street is the key to a brighter future

November 15th, 2018 Posted by All, Retail

It seems that not a week goes by without news of another casualty on the UK High Street. The perfect storm of high business rates, lack of consumer confidence and the exponential growth of eCommerce has this year already seen the likes of Toys R Us and House of Fraser fall into administration, whilst Marks & Spencer, Mothercare and Debenhams have all announced significant programmes of store closures. The Chancellor’s recently announced reforms to business rates may offer some relief to smaller retailers, but for large High Street retail chains the changes offer little additional comfort.

The risk of further High Street failures and more retailers entering into CVAs poses a serious threat to retail property owners – a threat starkly illustrated in October this year when the Nicholson Shopping Centre in Maidenhead went into receivership. According to retail analyst Nelson Blackley, from the National Retail Research Knowledge Exchange Centre, more than 200 shopping centres across the UK are now in danger of falling into administration as major anchor stores decline. Blackley points to the unexpected collapse of BHS two years ago, catching landlords off-guard and leaving large, empty units in around 200 shopping centres, with more than half of those empty units still not yet filled.

In this climate of declining rental income, falling values and potential store closures, retail property owners need to urgently forward plan to minimise the possible impact on their assets as much as possible. Despite the negative headlines, there are still plenty of opportunities for physical retail to prosper – it’s just a case of landlords thinking differently about the spaces they own. As more retailers seek to reduce the space they occupy and the rents they pay, carving up large retail floorplates into smaller, more flexible units is an immediate option for landlords looking to fill vacant space.

However, there are also opportunities to be had in converting or redeveloping existing assets into alternative uses. In fact, evidence seems to suggest that mixed-use schemes will not only add value to landlords’ assets, but could also be the key to town centre salvation. According to recommendations in the Grimsey Review 2 earlier this year, town centres could be reinvigorated by placing less focus on retail to underpin the High Street and instead focusing on alternatives such as housing, leisure, entertainment, education and commercial office space.

For landlords looking to adapt their assets for alternative uses there are, of course, many hurdles to be overcome – not least of which is the fact that many existing shopping centres, retail parks or town centre high streets weren’t conceived with future flexibility in mind. When department stores were designed 30 or 40 years ago, for instance, little thought was given to their future adaptability, as it was probably believed that the like of House of Fraser or British Homes Stores would be there forever. Architects looking to remodel these assets into something fit for modern purpose are faced with a number of challenges: department stores are often self-contained units with footprints and orientations that do not lend themselves to easy reconfiguration; they often have deep footprints with small frontages limiting the opportunities for sub-division into sensible units; large inactive façades create dead areas within a town centre or shopping centre context and they are often well integrated into town centres or shopping centres meaning reconfiguration can impact on other essential infrastructure.

Whilst challenging, none of these issues are insurmountable; it just takes experience and good technical know-how to make the appropriate decisions for each individual scheme, balancing tenant needs against costs to landlords. At Urban Edge, we have been working with forward-thinking owners and developers to adapt their existing assets for a good number of years. A good example of ‘repurposing the High Street’ can be seen at Highcross in Leicester where, following the closure of the House of Fraser store in July 2017, we worked with Hammerson to develop proposals for the sub-division and remodelling of the vacated four-storey retail unit.

Our scheme has reconfigured the existing floor space into a mix of retail, leisure and food and drink units. Internally a new large-format retail unit was created for existing centre occupier Zara to relocate into, whilst lower ground floorspace was used to increase JD Sports’ existing unit to just over double its size. Meanwhile, new outward-looking food and drink units reactivate the Shires Lane and High Street façades.

A great example of how lateral thinking can maximise a client’s asset can be seen on the upper floor of the building. This was initially considered to be ‘dead space’ as there was no retail tenant demand for this floorspace, it lacked connectivity to the mall for leisure use, and was deemed unsuitable for office or hotel use due to its deep floorplates. It was, however, connected to the existing car park and our recommendation was to extend the car park into it, immediately adding value for the client who will be shortly benefiting from the additional income from those parking spaces, particularly during the busy periods.

Our design for Highcross also strengthens the link between the centre’s busy St Peter’s Square and Leicester’s High Street, with users drawn between the two by the architecture and activity created by new offers. The new façade units take references from the centre’s existing architecture and materials, maximising visibility into the shopfronts.

Our experience on this and other such projects, has now led us to examine similar schemes for clients and look at repurposing existing units for other complementary uses such as offices or hotels. In some instances, we are also exploring air rights developments, building on top of existing assets such as department stores or car parks to accommodate offices or residential. We are also working with clients and local authority planners to change policy and help promote the future of high streets and shopping centres.

It is clear that recent years have seen a revolution in the way that we shop – and those changes will continue to impact the retail property sector for the foreseeable future. Given the pace of change and the threats posed to retail centres by CVAs and major store closures, quick decisions are now required by landlords on how best to re-purpose their assets and design in future flexibility to weather the choppy waters of the retail environment. Our experience working with forward-planning and open-thinking clients tells us that the threats posed can be mitigated and, importantly, new opportunities can be created. Cause, we think, for great optimism.

Darren Hodgson | Associate Director

Senior Living Landscape

Senior living landscape – Time for change

November 1st, 2018 Posted by All, Landscape

That people are living longer is an incontrovertible truth of the 21st century. Innovations and improvement to healthcare, advancement and convergence of technologies, alongside a broader health consciousness and adoption of healthier lifestyles are extending lives beyond the limits imagined by previous generations. In the United Kingdom, some 18 percent of the population is aged 65 years and older, with this number predicted to grow over the coming years to reach almost 25 percent in 2046 [Office for National Statistics, 2018]. At the same time, there has been a revolution in the way we choose to lead our lives – people no longer feel compelled to marry, are consciously opting to stay single or refrain from having children. In the very near future, it will be incumbent upon elderly living provision to keep this new generation of senior citizens active, whilst also combating feelings of isolation and loneliness.

Whilst there is understandably a lot of focus on the internal environment of senior living and care accommodation, it is our view that for developments to be truly successful they should be looked at holistically. Residents should have an opportunity to live a good life inside and outside their homes whatever their age, gender and background. After all, numerous studies have shown that being outdoors has a positive impact on the health, well-being and overall quality of life of elderly people. This is where well thought out senior living landscape design comes in.

It’s arguable that, in the past, landscaping provision for senior living developments was ostensibly decorative – regimented pathways with smooth paving through carefully manicured lawns – rather than providing functional and active spaces that encourage residents to head outdoors. It’s interesting to note how studies conducted in the USA found that landscape elements that increase outdoor engagement by elderly people are sometimes not what we would most probably think. It wasn’t always the smooth paving, stable seating and easy access to paved walkways that encouraged outdoor use, but good views from the walkways and windows that scored highest and would potentially increase the time spent outside by 3.5 times that of the average rate.

Unsurprisingly, clean footpaths and a wide range of plant material were also recognised as an encouragement for residents to spend more time outside on a weekly basis. Also interesting from the social and architectural point of view is that seniors highly appreciated the privacy afforded by their resident rooms, and even more, the views of vehicular movement during their outdoor activity. Furthermore, the top desired landscape features that would encourage outdoors activity were: the ability to see the birds or wildlife in general, the opportunity to take a round trip by linked walkways, and the outdoors visually linked to the indoors [ASLA, access 28.07.18].

Results of these studies also allow us to formulate the main design concept and should include aspects such as: nature elements, choice/autonomy, safety/security, comfort/accessibility and activity to achieve the most sustainable and comfortable senior living design.

In many care or senior living scenarios, one often observes a lack of activity and residents tending to remain indoors in their apartments for large parts of a day. One of the reasons for this may be the lack of confidence in overcoming real-world obstacles. Well-designed landscape should provide features that encourage people to push their boundaries, for instance different kinds of paving that can help seniors extend their mobility in an environment that they perceive as safe. Comparative examples of this can be seen in implemented solutions such as the introduction of changing levels [Tabar P., 2014]: ramps may be challenging at first, but in time residents can set up their own goals and slowly conquer the ‘obstacles’.

Additionally, giving seniors a choice can prove liberating and improve their life quality. Simple solutions should be included in the design process, such as the provision of more footpaths and diversifying the experience that can be gained during a walk. Making the space attractive all year round is imperative; as landscape architects we need to focus more on seasonal planting to give the end user opportunities to enjoy and revel in their favourite times of year. Introducing multiple, interlinking closed-loop footpaths will increase the attractiveness, the feeling of making your own choices and, at the same time, an opportunity to eliminate the anxiety of being lost. The therapeutic benefits of safe and engaging community spaces are already recognised as a way of dealing with dementia.

As the senior demographic rapidly changes, the concept of independent senior living developments in urban areas has gained traction. Urban living is attractive to seniors who have spent their whole lives in vibrant environments or who just want to live ‘where the action is’ and where there are multiple amenities accessible. Additionally, seniors are increasingly reluctant to live in age-segregated communities. They want to stay up-to-date with the surrounding life [Mullaney, 2017]. Limited urban space is more challenging and needs a flexible landscape solution tailored to different activities, but makes it possible to give the elderly in need of care a whole new opportunity to live and interact easily with other generations.

Seniors want to interact with all ages of the community that surrounds them, so it is important that the outdoor spaces should provide a mix of activities. One of the current trends is to engage seniors in gardening, giving them a real purpose to go outdoors. Well-designed beds with herbs, vegetables and other types of planting can improve physical health and mobility and, more importantly, can reduce stress, eliminate loneliness and create choices to work independently or integrate with others. Indeed, research has found that gardening can give a sense of well-being and satisfaction with life [Teo J., 2016].

The present concern is that senior living could get commoditised – or “McDonald’s-ised” [Perkins B., 2009], but as landscape architects it is imperative that we provide designs for the senior sector which have a human scale and local uniqueness with all the care provided.

To conclude: “There is no building type where you can see a more direct correlation between doing something right and its impact on people’s lives. You can build an environment for the ageing that is confusing, imprisoning, and depressing, or you can build one that frees them, encourages them, and enhances their quality of life. This is a building type where you don’t have to look very hard to see what difference you’ve made in people’s lives.” [Perkins B., 2009].

Gosia Soltan | Landscape Architect

Sonia Parol Appointed Senior Associate Director

Sonia Parol appointed Senior Associate Director

October 9th, 2018 Posted by All, Senior Living

We have appointed Sonia Parol as Senior Associate Director. As part of her new role, Sonia will be looking to develop strategic business partnerships, further expanding our workload into care and residential, as well as exploring opportunities for the use of innovative solutions such as modular construction.

Sonia, who has worked for Urban Edge for the last two years as our Head of Care and Specialist Residential, has overseen our continued growth into the care sector and has led the design and delivery of several major senior living projects, including Bishopstoke Park, an innovative retirement village for Inspired Villages Group, recently shortlisted in the British Homes Awards Best Community Living category.

Prior to joining the Urban Edge team Sonia was also leading large-scale residential and PRS schemes in the rg+p office in Leicester. She has a breadth of experience from working on both sides of the globe, including multi-residential, specialist housing and mixed-use projects in the urban living sector. Between 2009-2011 Sonia was the Practice Manager in an award-winning practice in Sydney where she worked on high-end residential and aged care projects.

Sonia said: “I have always shared the strategic vision of the Directors and I am excited to now be playing a part in the continued growth of Urban Edge. This includes further expansion into areas for which I have a strong passion, such as intergenerational urban living, the repurposing of retail and identifying innovative solutions for care and retirement living models, such as modular construction. I am looking forward to – and would warmly welcome – discussions with forward-thinking developers, operators and contractors in these fields.”

Russell Gay, Director at Urban Edge, added: “This promotion recognises not only the hard work and innovative thinking that Sonia has shown over recent months, but also the obvious passion she has for the retirement sector. We are delighted that Sonia will be playing a larger part in the forward momentum of our business.”

Bishopstoke Park shortlisted for British Homes Awards

Bishopstoke Park shortlisted for prestigious Sunday Times British Homes Awards

September 19th, 2018 Posted by All, Senior Living

Urban Edge Architecture is delighted to announce that Bishopstoke Park has been shortlisted for the prestigious Sunday Times British Homes Awards in the Best Community Living category.

Bishopstoke Park is a major project comprising 48 care bedrooms, 36 village centre apartments, 19 assisted living apartments and 169 village apartments. Urban Edge Architecture was appointed by Anchor Trust and English Care Villages (now Inspired Villages) in 2011 to design and deliver the first two phases of this £42m innovative retirement village on the outskirts of Southampton. We worked closely with retirement village pioneer Keith Cockell, as well as concept architect Ed Tyack, to develop a self-contained community which will allow older people to live independently with different levels of care as and when they need it.

Sonia Parol, Senior Associate Director at Urban Edge, said: “Architecture is not just about bricks and mortar, it’s about creating spaces that encourage social connection. Having visited Bishopstoke Park since it was completed, sharing stories and experiences with its residents, it has been a delight to hear that the spaces we designed have created a great sense of community where older people feel happy, connected and less isolated.”

“Whilst moving to retirement accommodation can be one of life’s major decisions, it is thrilling to hear that Bishopstoke Park has become an aspirational place to live and the development’s shortlisting for The Sunday Times British Homes Awards is confirmation that we have created a true community for older people.”

The Sunday Times British Homes Awards take place on the evening of 20th September 2018 at the Marriott Hotel, Grosvenor Square. For further information, please visit the British Homes Awards website.

Humanitas - Deventer

Learning to innovate – Part 3: Humanitas

August 29th, 2018 Posted by All, Senior Living

In the final part of her ‘learning to innovate’ blog Sonia and the Lincoln University students visit the Humanitas centre in Deventer, Netherlands.

At Urban Edge Architecture we want to create developments that actively encourage social connection, where young and old can live side by side, both benefiting from the social, cultural and economic opportunities of a multigenerational community. There are numerous examples of this socially connected, multigenerational approach in the Netherlands, but perhaps the most famous is the Residential and Care Centre Humanitas in the riverside town of Deventer. Humanitas Deventer is not a new care home – in fact, the original building dates back to the 1970s – but it has recently attracted international media interest because it is one of the first long-term care facilities to also double as a student dorm. In exchange for 30 hours of volunteer work per month, students are able to stay in the centre’s vacant rooms free of charge. It’s an excellent example of intergenerational living and we were keen to see first-hand how it worked.

The first thing to note upon arriving in Deventer is how the care home sits within an existing residential area of the town. There are 160 residents and, incredibly, some 200 volunteers. This is the result of having the care home in the residential area where the majority of residents once lived – neighbours and friends volunteer for an hour or two each week and ensures a seamless connection to the area where residents have lived all their lives. As we saw in our previous study trip to Copenhagen, this is in marked contrast to senior living models in the UK where care homes are frequently located in rural areas and often isolate residents from the communities in which they once lived.

Allowing students to live in Humanitas has also helped residents stay connected with the outside world, whilst equally benefiting their mental wellbeing. There are different options available for the students – they can live there for three weeks, three months or three years… and anything else in between! There is no separate wing for students, they have individual rooms that are spread out throughout the home so that they can get to know and interact with their older neighbours. The accommodation is free on the proviso that they commit to 30 hours of social work a week. The social work does not involve ‘care’ and is based more on wellbeing and supporting residents in their daily activities, whether it be having a chat over a cup of tea or going for a walk.

When I asked Peter Daniels, the manager at Humanitas Deventer, if he could see any changes in the senior residents since the students moved in he said that, whilst there was no scientific proof, one just needed to look around to see how happy everybody is. He also noted that the young people benefit as well – they start to understand the importance of living in a community. One of the students said that, before he moved to Humanitas, he would avoid older people in town and on public transport; whereas now he has started to value the company of the elderly people, the many stories they can share and the history and experience they can impart.

Addressing us as architects, Peter Daniels said that we should focus our design intent on wellbeing as, in his opinion, this is what senior living should be about: happiness and wellbeing at the end of your life. He said that there are some care homes in the Netherlands that are much newer and brighter, yet there is still a waiting list to move into Humanitas because of the environment and community it provides. He also said that we should always consider the social context and be adaptable to the individual needs of the people who move in.

At Urban Edge Architecture, we are interested in all aspects of senior living, from retirement to extra care. We also believe profoundly in the benefits that can come from social connection and multigenerational living. Not only are shared and social spaces important for physical and mental health, but they will be considered a necessity for the next generation of senior citizens who want to continue to play an active part in society. Within the senior living sector, care and dementia care present the biggest challenges for connected living, yet examples in Copenhagen and the Netherlands prove just what can be achieved if we begin to challenge the expected norms.

Sonia Parol | Senior Associate Director

Hogeweyk - Netherlands

Learning to innovate – Part 2: Hogeweyk

July 6th, 2018 Posted by All, Senior Living

Continuing Urban Edge Architecture’s research into innovative solutions for senior living, Sonia Parol visits two care homes in the Netherlands that have placed the happiness and wellbeing of residents at the center of their design and operation. This article will cover the Hogeweyk care village, with a post to follow covering the Humanitas centre in Deventer.  Both schemes are highly successful, yet differ greatly from models commonly found in the UK – is it time we started to challenge the accepted rules, regulations and concepts that have dominated the UK care home market for several decades?

As part of our ongoing research into senior living developments in urban settings, Urban Edge Architecture recently undertook a study tour of several innovative care homes and senior living accommodation schemes with students from the University of Lincoln. Our trip to the Netherlands follows a visit made to two care homes in Copenhagen last year where social connection is actively encouraged through the provision of shared and social spaces (see part 1 of Sonia’s blog).

That spirit of challenging the norms could clearly be seen at the Hogeweyk care village in Weesp. It was clear from the outset that this care home was very different from those we see in the UK. Whilst it is a nursing home for severe dementia, at no stage during our three-hour visit did it feel like a nursing home. For a start, there were plenty of people walking around independently and it was almost impossible to distinguish whether they were residents, workers or visitors. Usually, when you go to a dementia ward or care home in the UK, you have locked doors because the focus is on creating safe environments – but in Hogeweyk doors are left unlocked and sometimes wide open, minimising the frustration and irritation that is often symptomatic for people living with dementia. Incredibly, even the main door to access the care village remains unlocked! The focus at Hogeweyk is on normality – a simple concept perhaps, but a really huge challenge to maintain in a care or nursing home setting. Eloy van Hal, Project Manager for the realisation of Hogeweyk and Senior consultant at Be (part of the Vivium Care Group), told us that keeping the doors open, having fresh air and encouraging people to leave their rooms and participate in daily life keeps residents in better physical and mental condition.

Eloy told us that 24 years ago, there was a nursing home on the site but it wasn’t a great place for people to continue their lives because they had too many people living together and it was too institutional, more focused on care rather than wellbeing. He said that people want to continue their lives in recognisable environments with a normal daily life. So they decided to challenge the norms by introducing some changes, for instance creating smaller groups of people living together and matching those people who lived together according to their lifestyle, ideas, history, hobbies and values. After 10 years they noticed how beneficial this was and so decided to demolish the existing building and create something new.

The result is the Hogeweyk village we see today – 23 homes (growing to 27 by the end of this year) with small groups of six or seven like-minded people living together, the matched lifestyles and preferences ensuring a regular rhythm to residents’ lives, creating less stress, irritation and aggression. Residents, even with severe dementia, can leave their homes and walk inside the village neighbourhood, accessing amenities such as shops, restaurants and pubs.

Whilst Hogeweyk provides a really high level of nursing care, the priority is on creating wellbeing and as normal a day-to-day lifestyle as possible. In each house they cook their own meals, with residents buying ingredients and other household essentials from the village shop. Whilst the shop is part of the scheme, it can be accessed from the local neighbourhood and is also used by the wider community. Much like the Bomi-Parken development we visited in Copenhagen, spaces within Hogeweyk are also rented out, not only to provide additional revenue streams but also to provide more activity and opportunities for residents to interact with a variety of different people. Indeed, the scheme has been designed to make it very easy for visitors and is a much more pleasant place to visit than a standard nursing home.

Eloy explained that it was very important to bring people of different ages into the village – whether they are volunteers or visitors to the shop and restaurant – to create a liveable, vibrant society with lots of activities going on. This is important because it starts to question our understanding of ‘activity’. In the UK, we tend to have activity managers in care homes who run classes, whereas the Hogeweyk model focuses on natural and organic activity. Having a ‘normal’ lifestyle – whether walking around the village, going shopping, sitting in the café or cooking your own meals – generates natural and real activities.

Of course, many people reading this may be thinking, ‘Well, this is the Netherlands, they’re traditionally relaxed and probably don’t have the same volume of regulations as the UK.’ But, actually, there are lots of rules and regulations in the Netherlands that the care sector must follow – however, the rules and regulations often follow innovation, they do not stifle it. It concerns me that in the UK we no longer challenge the rules and considered norms. We have focused on creating safe and attractive environments, but still within the same standard concept of a nursing home. In other words, we are just wrapping the same concept in nicer material.

We still have a cluster of bedrooms with one lounge, a quiet lounge and a dining room. We might add a shop or a hairdresser, but they are only available to the residents and only accessible via an internal lift – residents don’t have to put a coat on, they don’t have to walk far, they don’t see anyone other than carers at the hairdresser or the shop. We are still worried about their interaction with other people, we want to keep them safe and in a completely risk-free environment. When you stop to consider it, this is about as far from a ‘normal’ environment as possible. I think we have to do better and we have to look for innovation.

Pointedly, Eloy also said that instead of following the rules, we should make our own. This may seem a like flippant statement, but in witnessing these different approaches to senior living in other parts of Europe it struck a chord and made me consider whether we have become too reticent to challenge the accepted norms in the UK. The majority of care homes in the UK may look architecturally different, but they are very similar in their concept, with operators and developers adhering to the concepts they have delivered for the last 20 years or so. However, the mindset of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” will no longer wash because the people who will be moving into retirement or care homes in the future will have completely different lifestyles and expectations. In many care homes – as well as children’s developments, it has to be said – our focus has been on reducing risk rather than creating an environment for happy people. Perhaps it is time to challenge our risk-averse mindset?

Sonia Parol | Senior Associate Director

Bomi-Parken - Copenhagen

Learning to innovate – Part 1: Copenhagen

May 10th, 2018 Posted by All, Senior Living

As part of our ongoing research to develop innovative senior living schemes in our towns and cities, Urban Edge’s Sonia Parol has visited care homes and senior living schemes in Europe that are taking a different approach to those found in the UK. In the first of three blogs, Sonia shares some of her observations from two urban care homes in Copenhagen that actively encourage social connection through the provision of shared and social spaces.

One of the key observations we made at the recent Housing LIN conference was that the senior living sector in the UK is at a pivotal moment: it is a sector that recognises the changing needs and expectations of its core demographic and is interested in innovation and evolution. Yet to do this, it must seek to challenge the rules and change the concepts that we have been applying to senior living schemes for years.

That the sector is poised to embrace innovation was good to hear as it backs up our long-held view that we need to find innovative new solutions for the people coming into retirement age now as they will have completely different lifestyle expectations to those that went before. For some time in the UK, the retirement or care sector has been focused at the high end of the market – luxurious care and retirement villages, often located in rural locations. These developments may suit the silent generation, who perhaps haven’t travelled far and have worked and saved to feel safe and secure; but the baby boomers who are now entering retirement, who were brought up in the revolutionary era of The Beatles and the Stones and have often travelled widely are increasingly demanding the opportunity to engage in the social and economic life of the wider community. They want to live in urban and suburban areas and continue to lead an independent lifestyle, maintain and build new friendships, participate in community activities.

At Urban Edge Architecture we are interested in developing innovative senior living schemes in our towns and cities that actively encourage social connection through the provision of shared and social spaces. We want to create  communities where young and old can live side by side, both benefiting from the social, cultural and economic opportunities of a multigenerational community. We are therefore always keen to further our knowledge of these types of development and, over the last six months, we have travelled to other parts of Europe to visit care homes and senior living schemes where there is a physical connection with the wider community. This ongoing research not only allows us a better understanding of the advantages of these schemes, but also to consider the challenges and how these could be overcome. After all, as physicist William Pollard once famously said: “Learning and innovation go hand in hand.”

In September last year we embarked on a study tour to Copenhagen where our first port of call was to OK Huset Lotte in the Frederiksberg district of the city. This state-funded, 60-resident dementia care home lies just 15 minutes’ car journey from the main city centre and, upon arrival, it is immediately striking how different a model it is to those that we see in the UK. Lotte is designed over six floors and is very contemporary in style – the furniture, for instance, is very modern and minimalistic in keeping with the Scandinavian vernacular. The reason for this is simple: the majority of the residents were from Copenhagen and would have lived in apartments in the city before moving to Lotte and therefore the surroundings and living accommodation would have been recognisable to them.

The ability for residents to remain in the area where they had lived also meant that their neighbours who were still living independently could easily come to visit, ensuring a continuous and seamless connection to their local community. Whilst much store is set, quite rightly, on maintaining connections with family, it has to be recognised that a connection with your neighbours and friends is also very important. If you remove a person from one place to live in a care home that is 100 or even 50 miles away from where they were living then you break their connections with the community. In Copenhagen, having care homes in rural locations as well as in city centres and other urban locations gives people a choice to remain in the community in which they lived. This couldn’t be in starker contrast to many of the senior living and care home facilities we see in the UK, which often isolate older people from their local communities.

Physical connection to the local community couldn’t be better exemplified than at the Bomi-Parken care home we visited next on our tour. Part of the Gyldenrisparken residential complex in Copenhagen, at Bomi-Parken there are no fences or gates and the care home is physically linked with the housing and schools that surround it, as well as being near to a local neighbourhood shopping centre. The elderly can interact with families and children going about their daily activities and greatly helps to combat loneliness and keep minds active.

Lars Bo Sørensen, the Manager of Bomi-Parken, told us that visual and physical connection with the local community was the key design element when they considered the scheme. He said that the people who live around the care home use the facilities – they come in to use the gym and the café; they come in to use the food therapy room and the diabetes clinic. This is in marked contrast to care homes in the UK, where shops, hairdressers, cafés and therapy centres may well be included, but are often enclosed within the development – not facing a public square and local shops to be used by the local community.

Visual and physical connections are maintained in other ways, too. Residents of the care home could see and hear children at play in the adjoining school playground. A zipwire, running just 10m away from the windows of the care home, had children zooming along it; rather than it being annoying, the sound was happy and people from the care home were sitting on balconies watching, smiling and laughing. In many ways, it was really overwhelming to see the joy this brought to residents.

Observing the residents of Bomi-Parken choosing to sit on their balconies, go down to the garden, or visit the local shops, it struck me that in a lot of care and nursing homes in the UK, people don’t have a need to leave their bedrooms as there isn’t much activity – and the activities that are provided sometimes feel institutional and involve little personal choice. Yet even facilitating a visual connection to the activities taking place in the local community can create tangible benefits, giving residents a choice to observe the world around them and feel like they are part of it as well.

One of the other key aspects noted during our Housing LIN conference workshop on the future of senior living, was that we need to spend less time focusing on age and more time on individual needs and lifestyle. From a design point of view, therefore, it was interesting to note the differences between Bomi-Parken and OK Huset Lotte and how they have been planned to reflect the lifestyle of the residents.

Bomi-Parken care home is a two-storey building because the surrounding residential area is much lower rise and the interior is much softer than the contemporary designs found at Lotte. Bomi-Parken also has a much larger garden area because residents, having lived in the surrounding suburbs, were used to having gardens and seeing green open space. Lotte, on the other hand, was located in a town centre and only had a roof terrace and balconies. Also interesting to note was that, at Lotte, there were two key areas with large windows – one to watch a railway track and the other overlooking a very busy road where people would choose to sit and watch the city life because that’s what they were used to doing; whereas in Bomi-Parken it was completely different, with views from windows looking out over the school playground, the zipwire and the square as one might expect in suburbia. When you analyse the social context you are able to design a building fit for purpose, creating a recognisable environment and a normal life for the residents.

Whilst we are starting to see more interest in locating care and senior living accommodation in urban areas in the UK, the focus tends to be on extra care or at the luxurious end of the scale, particularly in the South East. Care homes are still generally located in more rural and quiet locations. There is clearly a need for these rural developments, but people are increasingly demanding choice. Somebody who has lived all their lives in a rural area wouldn’t want to move to the city centre, whereas people who have spent all their lives surrounded by cafés and shops and the buzz of the city wouldn’t want to move away to the quiet country life.

Likewise, ageing impacts every social strata and it is our view that we should be looking into more mid-market models  and maybe look for inspiration in some of the Scandinavian and Dutch approaches? These two developments in Copenhagen demonstrate what can be achieved – whilst our follow-up study trip to the Netherlands afforded us even further opportunity to observe approaches that allow for multigenerational integration and connections with the wider community through communal services. You can read all about that trip in Part II of this blog, coming soon…

We would like to express many thanks to Anna Wilroth from Aeldre Sagen (Dane Age) who helped us organise our trip to Copenhagen.

Sonia Parol | Senior Associate Director

Housing LIN Workshop

Urban Edge ‘senior living for the next generation’ workshop brings together fifty sector-leading professionals for a dynamic discussion

April 5th, 2018 Posted by All, Senior Living

Billed as ‘An IdeasFest’, the 2018 Housing LIN Annual Conference took place at the end of March in the magnificent surrounds of the Kia Oval, home to Surrey County Cricket Club. Urban Edge Architecture was delighted to headline sponsor the event that gathered industry leaders from across the housing, health, social and private care sectors to share knowledge and ideas and take a fresh look at homes for all ages.

In an executive box overlooking the historic cricket ground we were appropriately bowled over by the numbers who attended the Urban Edge afternoon thought-leadership workshop session to examine new urban approaches to senior living. Attendees included CEOs, Management Directors and Development Directors from Abbeyfield, Amicala, Audley, Castleoak, Extra Care, Elderflowers, One Housing, PegasusLife and many others.

Our workshop explored the expectations of the next generation approaching retirement and considered what the future of senior living would look like. As you might expect from a room of fifty or more sector-leading professionals, we heard a number of diverse views and slight variances of approach depending on different experiences in the sector. However, there were a number of common themes that arose from this most dynamic of discussions.

The first key message that came out of the workshop is that older people expect choice. For some time in the UK, there has been a considerable focus from the retirement or care sector at the high end of the market – luxurious care villages, often located in rural locations. Yet the senior demographic is rapidly changing, and these changes impact all parts of the country and across a variety of social strata.

Not everyone wants to live in a rural location where they may feel isolated from their local communities. Nor, it has to be said, does everyone want to live in an urban location if it is not the environment to which they are accustomed. The ability to choose between senior living within our towns and cities as well as our villages and rural locations is therefore essential.

Another significant theme was that one size can no longer fit all. We need to spend less time focusing on age and more time on individual needs and lifestyle. This may seem counterintuitive to a sector that will often place 55+ or 65+ age restrictions on its developments – but as people live longer and healthier lives, senior living developments will have to adapt to the sometimes significant changes that people go through from the ages of 55 to 65 to 85 and, increasingly, later. This is why focusing on the individual needs of people will become crucial – after all, some people can be unhealthy or have mobility problems at the age of 40, whilst others can be very healthy and active at the age of 80.

Carol Barac, a Director at Elderflowers Projects, said that there is currently a real lack of choice for older people who want to remain active, but perhaps want to downsize their homes. Ideally, they want to avoid what they perceive as being institutionalised in a traditional care or retirement setting and want a home that can be adaptable so they can age in place. Emma Webster, Public Policy Manager at PegasusLife, said that people often only move into an age-restricted place if prompted to do so by an event. If we want to inspire people to move into a development, rather than wait until they have a need to move, we have to create more aspirational places.

For us as designers, perhaps one of the most thought provoking strands of the discussion was the idea that we have to design for young people who are getting older. Attendees at our workshop suggested that, at the moment, we design everything for the latest stages of life because these are the most challenging when you have to provide care – but actually the sector is changing its focus to lifestyle and we need to start designing for younger people who will then be able to age in place.

Equally, if we stop solely focusing on age we will be able to design something that can serve different generations, creating developments where young and old can live side by side, both benefiting from the social, cultural and economic opportunities of a multigenerational community. As several of our workshop attendees noted, age-restrictive developments have started to create various issues for the sector, not only because it is limiting the potential customer base, but it is also fracturing elements of society by keeping people apart.

This latter line of thinking was perfectly summarised in an earlier conference session by Professor Jeremy Myerson of the Oxford Institute of Population Ageing entitled ‘The new old: exploring the potential for design and designers to enhance and experience our later lives’. Professor Myerson stated that “design can keep people apart or it can bring them together and we have to design around social inclusion.” He went on to say that if there is a time for innovative ideas, that time is now.

Indeed, a sector poised to embrace innovation was perhaps the most overwhelming impression I took from our day at the Housing LIN conference: it is a sector that recognises the changing needs and expectations of its core demographic and is interested in creating something better. To do this it must innovate – but to be truly innovative we will need to challenge the rules and change the concepts that we have been applying to our schemes for years – and this involves risk.

Our strength lies in the sector’s willingness to share ideas as perfectly exemplified in the Housing LIN’s IdeasFest. It is through these collaborative processes and shouldering the risk together that we can push the sector into innovation and work towards building communities where we can all age well.

As part of our ongoing research into the future of senior living and in direct response to some of the outcomes of our Housing LIN conference workshop, Urban Edge Architecture will be undertaking a pilot survey of all age groups. The survey will seek common intergenerational patterns in housing and living expectations, as well as significant areas of difference. If you would like to receive a summary of our findings, please email enquiries@urbanedgearchitecture.co.uk.

Sonia Parol | Senior Associate Director

Housing LIN

Urban Edge Architecture – Headline sponsors at the Housing LIN Annual Conference

March 20th, 2018 Posted by All, Senior Living

Urban Edge Architecture is pleased to announce that it is headline sponsoring the Housing Learning and Improvement Network (Housing LIN) Annual Conference in London this week where it will also be hosting a thought-leading workshop session to examine new urban approaches to senior living.

Chaired by Inside Housing magazine’s award-winning Editor, Emma Maier, this year’s Housing LIN conference has the theme ‘An Ideas Fest: A Fresh Look at Homes for All Ages’. It follows in the wake of the recent CLG Select Committee’s report on housing for older people which called on the Government to recognise the link between homes and health and social care in the forthcoming social care green paper.

“As architects for the care and retirement sector we are always looking to further our knowledge to inform and improve our future designs. Housing LIN’s ability to bring together industry leaders from across the housing, health and social care sectors to share knowledge and ideas is essential if we are to develop a fresh look at homes for all ages,” says Sonia Parol, Associate Director, Urban Edge Architecture. “We have been working with Housing LIN for the last year and spoke at the East Midlands Region Housing LIN meeting in October and are excited to be supporting the vital discussions and knowledge share that will take place at the annual conference in London.”

During the conference, Sonia and Urban Edge Architecture Director Russell Gay will be hosting a knowledge and innovation workshop session titled ‘Senior Living: How can we meet the aspirations of the new generation?’ in which industry leaders will join a lively discussion on whether senior living should be provided within our towns and cities, as well as villages and rural locations.

“This question poses unique challenges and demands original thinking,” explains Sonia. “We must take into account an individual’s independence, quality of life and care requirements, balanced against their personal finances and that of the public sector. At Urban Edge Architecture, we believe that the social, cultural and intergenerational benefits that come with living in an urban environment should be enjoyed by all ages.

“Is there an opportunity for the aged 65+ group to significantly contribute to the positive experience of life in the city? This is something that should prove a crucial design driver for architects and urbanists over the coming decades.”

Following the Urban Edge Architecture workshop, Helen Hayes MP, member of the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee, will present a keynote address on the need for a national strategy on housing for older people. This will be followed by Dr Bill Thomas, creator of The Green House®, and co-founder of ChangingAging, and Global Chair of Evermore, USA, who will examine pioneering collaborative living lessons from America. Other keynote speakers throughout the day include Geeta Nanda OBE, Chief Executive, Metropolitan Housing Trust and Professor Jeremy Myerson, Helen Hamlyn Professor of Design at the Royal College of Art and a Visiting Fellow in the Oxford Institute of Population Ageing at the University of Oxford.

The Housing LIN Annual Conference takes place on Friday 23 March 2018 at the KIA Oval, London. The Urban Edge Architecture Workshop ‘Senior Living: How can we meet the aspirations of the new generation?’ takes place between 2.10 and 3pm.

If you would like to arrange to speak to Sonia or Russell before, during or following the event, please call 01780 755 665.

You can read more about Urban Edge Architecture’s urban approach to senior living here.

Sonia Parol’s Housing LIN blog posts can be found here:
–  Dont ignore the silver pound
–  Why architects must constantly seek to learn and improve

Bishopstoke Park - Lessons-Learned

Assess, evaluate and apply – Why architects must constantly seek to learn and improve on their designs

January 22nd, 2018 Posted by All, Senior Living

In July last year, Urban Edge Architecture spent 24 hours in one of its retirement village projects in Hampshire as part of a lessons-learned exercise. You would think that such exercises should be common practice in our industry, yet often design teams can be guilty of completing a building and walking away to the next site with little consideration given to how well their project may – or may not – be performing. However, as architects for the care and retirement sector, where developers and operators are one and the same, we need to ensure that we provide the highest quality of design for them to be able to operate for at least 20 or 30 years on site. To do this we need to constantly assess and evaluate our schemes, learn from our mistakes and use those lessons to inform and improve our future designs.

This is why I spent 24 hours at Bishopstoke Park, one of our first retirement village projects. Urban Edge Architecture was appointed by Anchor Trust and English Care Villages (now Inspired Villages) in 2011 to design and deliver the first two phases of this £42M innovative retirement village on the outskirts of Southampton. We worked closely with retirement village pioneer Keith Cockell, as well as concept architect Ed Tyack, to develop a self-contained community which will allow older people to live independently with different levels of care as and when they need it. Bishopstoke Park is a major project comprising 48 care bedrooms, 36 village centre apartments, 19 assisted living apartments and 169 village apartments. Phase I is now complete and Phase II is due to complete in the coming months.

As this was one of the first projects of its kind that both Anchor Trust and Urban Edge Architecture had been involved in, our 24-hour stay formed part of a lessons-learned exercise to establish the elements that did work and those that perhaps hadn’t worked quite as well as we had envisaged and that should be designed out in the future.

It’s all too easy to design places made on broad assumptions but this can often lead to significant performance gaps between design stage and built in-use. The bottom line is that we can only design buildings that work if we really understand what is needed and the elements that will make a difference to the people who will ultimately use the space, whether employees or residents.

During my stay it was very important that I got detailed comments that only the people who ran Bishopstoke Park could give me. I spent several hours with the General Manager, Kevin Young, who was not only supportive of what we were trying to achieve, but whose enthusiasm and belief in Bishopstoke Park as a truly great place to live was a joy to hear.

I spoke with all of the staff, from the receptionist to the nurses, from the care home manager to the people who work in the wellness spa. All had great ideas and provided valuable insight that was very specific to their role or individual specialism that I would not have been able to learn by other means.

Most importantly, I spent a lot of time talking to the residents who were more than willing to share with me their stories and experiences of living at Bishopstoke Park. I came away with lots of detailed comments about everything from taps to window openings to kitchen units. Sometimes the issues were personal and at other times they were things that we could look to address more generally. And whilst there were occasions it seemed residents were more willing to talk about their past and their children than give me comments about the building itself, it afforded me a rare opportunity to really understand their backgrounds, their hobbies and how they like to spend their time – all of which will be invaluable in future design decisions.

One other very important message that came out my conversations with the residents was how difficult it can be to live in a place that is still being developed and the importance of appointing a contractor that understands the requirements of the care sector. Large retirement villages necessitate multi-phase construction and we need to remember that whilst building works may still be under way, the village is already a home to many people who don’t want to feel as if they are living in the middle of a construction site.

In that regard, it was really encouraging to hear such positive comments about Castleoak, the property solutions company for Phase II of Bishopstoke Park. Castleoak have a huge task on their hands, building a large number of units in close proximity to existing apartments and the care home, yet it was overwhelmingly apparent from my conversations with residents that they are friendly, clean, tidy, and – importantly – communicate with residents in a clear and engaging way so they know what is happening and when it’s happening – this in itself is a positive aspect as it brings interest, activity and excitement to the life of the village.

Indeed, my 24-hour stay at Bishopstoke Park proved to be a truly positive experience. Whilst residents were aware of certain issues or mistakes – whether operational or design decisions – they also understood that I wasn’t there to change Bishopstoke Park, but to influence future development. In this they were really happy to participate, content that we are still listening to them, ensuring that they can and will change something for somebody in the future and that they are still able to influence decisions.

We believe that every architect should take the time to go back and learn from each of their schemes – assess, evaluate and then apply those learnings to new schemes. In doing so, we will not only improve the buildings we design in the future, but also improve the lives of the people who will live and work within them.

Sonia Parol | Senior Associate Director

  • Urban Edge spent 24 hours at Bishopstoke Park as part of a lessons-learned exercise
  • Urban Edge spent 24 hours at Bishopstoke Park as part of a lessons-learned exercise
  • Urban Edge spent 24 hours at Bishopstoke Park as part of a lessons-learned exercise
  • Urban Edge spent 24 hours at Bishopstoke Park as part of a lessons-learned exercise
  • Urban Edge spent 24 hours at Bishopstoke Park as part of a lessons-learned exercise
The Green Stuff

The green stuff – Urban Edge proud to offer new landscape consultancy service

January 5th, 2018 Posted by All, Landscape

At Urban Edge we have gone ‘green’ and welcomed a new addition to our scope of services – landscape architecture. This new sector will enhance our already versatile set of skills and allow us to offer a more comprehensive quality package to the client/developer; one that sets us apart from many of our competitors. The combined knowledge and experience of architecture and landscape architecture enables us to offer a wider spectrum of services, advice and guidance. Our expertise in this field predominantly covers the residential and commercial markets, including landscape, arboriculture and ecological services.

This new addition has already met with a lot of interest from our existing clients who appreciate the benefits of landscape design in increasing the value and appeal of their sites – as well as the unavoidable requirement that landscape forms part of every planning submission! The logistical benefits of our architectural and landscape design teams working under one roof aren’t to be overlooked either. The value of coordinated design work in achieving better, more efficient outputs, and in cutting out the headache of project managing two separate sets of consultants cannot be under-estimated.

Senior Living Europe

Making connections – Seeking out new models for senior living in Europe

December 21st, 2017 Posted by All, Senior Living

This January, Urban Edge Architecture is undertaking a study tour of several care homes and senior living accommodation schemes in the Netherlands with students from the University of Lincoln.

Our trip to the Netherlands, follows a visit made to three care homes in Denmark in September last year where I was particularly struck by the example of Bomi-Parken care home, part of the Gyldenrisparken residential complex in Copenhagen. At Bomi-Parken there are no fences or gates and the care home is physically linked with the housing and schools that surround it, as well as being near to a local neighbourhood shopping centre. The elderly can interact with families and children going about their daily activities and greatly helps to combat loneliness and keep minds active.

The example of Bomi-Parken and its physical connections to the surrounding community couldn’t be in starker contrast to many of the senior living and care home facilities we see in the UK, which often isolate older people from their local communities. Yet older people are increasingly demanding the opportunity to engage in the social and economic life of the wider community. They want to live in urban and suburban areas and continue to lead an independent lifestyle, maintain and build new friendships, participate in community activities – and in doing so they also represent a new strand of consumer – the ‘silver pound’ – which is forecast to grow by 81 percent by 2030.

At Urban Edge Architecture we believe that senior living needs to be provided within our towns and cities and we are working on schemes with developers and operators that actively encourage social connection through the provision of shared and social spaces. We want to create developments where young and old can live side by side, both benefiting from the social, cultural and economic opportunities of a multigenerational community. We are therefore always keen to further our knowledge of these types of development and plan to visit the four schemes in the Netherlands to not only get a better understanding of the advantages of connecting care homes and senior living with the wider community, but also to consider the challenges and how these could be overcome.

There are four schemes that we are looking to visit – most famous of which is Wozoco, an apartment complex for elderly people in the centre of Amsterdam. Renowned for its inventive architectural approach – several of its 100 units are cantilevered on the building’s North façade – our interest lies in its urban location and connection to the surrounding amenities. Whilst in Amsterdam, we’ll also be taking a look at Silodam, a mixed development of 157 houses, offices, work and commercial spaces that is fast becoming an exemplar of multigenerational living.

In the riverside town of Deventer we will pay a visit to the Residential and Care Centre Humanitas, a long-term care facility that also doubles as a student dorm. In exchange for 30 hours of volunteer work per month, students are able to stay in the centre’s vacant rooms free of charge. It’s an excellent example of intergenerational living and we’re looking forward to meeting with residents, students and management to discuss the benefits of multigenerational integration. For our students, they will not only get to see first hand how a mixed-use and multigenerational project works, but they will also need to be in fine voice as ‘payment’ for our visit will see them entertaining residents by singing at the dinner table!

If time allows, we also hope to stop off at the Hogeweyk Dementia Village in Weesp. This small village on the edge of Amsterdam has 23 apartments and a care home for people with dementia, but unlike many traditional dementia-care homes, residents at Hogeweyk are encouraged to be active – they manage their own households, shop at the local Hogeweyk supermarket and enjoy the other facilities the village has to offer such as a hairdresser, restaurant bar and theatre.

You’ll have noticed a common theme here: care homes and senior living schemes which are physically connected with the wider community – that’s our interest and it’s a model we feel needs to be further encouraged in the UK.

In the UK, the current focus appears to be on senior living at the high end of the market – luxurious care villages, often located in the South East, which are based on New Zealand and Australian models. Yet the issue of an ageing population affects all parts of the country, from North to South, and across a variety of social strata. It is our view that we should be looking into mid-market models based on the Scandinavian and Dutch approaches that allow for multigenerational integration and connect with the wider community through communal services.

Following our visit, we will publish some of our thoughts and impressions here. We’ll also let you know how the students got on singing for their supper! Stay tuned…

Sonia Parol | Senior Associate Director

Greenside View, Gerrards Cross

Gerrards Cross resi-conversion complete!

August 14th, 2017 Posted by All, Residential

Client: Canon House Properties Limited
Apartments: 6
Parking spaces: 6
Development budget: £750,000

On behalf of our client Canon House Properties Limited we undertook the extensive remodelling of a former kitchen/bathroom showroom on a very prominent site along the A40 in Gerrards Cross.

The development proposals extended to internal reconfiguration of the space to create six new apartments, along with completely re-elevating the external façades and providing new fenestration.

The scheme received planning approval in June 2016 and works started on site in December 2016. The apartments were completed in the Summer of 2017.

Senior living

A new urban approach to senior living

June 6th, 2017 Posted by All, Senior Living

Urban environments are becoming senior living hot spots.

How can urban environments best support an ageing population? This question poses unique challenges and demands original thinking. We must take into account an individual’s independence, quality of life and care requirements, balanced against their personal finances and that of the public sector.

At Urban Edge we believe that senior living, which meets the demands of age 65+ residents, needs to be provided within our towns and cities. We think that the social, cultural and transportational benefits that come with living in an urban environment should be enjoyed by all ages.

We are working on schemes with developers and operators that actively encourage social connection through the provision of shared and social spaces. This complements the wider community’s dining, leisure and retail experience, something that cannot be replicated in typical out-of-town village settlements.

We think that the opportunity for the aged 65+ group to significantly contribute to the positive experience of life in the city is something that should prove a crucial design driver for architects and urbanists over the coming decades. We are encouraging Local Government to support this movement.

There is an increasing number of active, healthy members of society approaching (or beyond) retirement age who are still engaged in leisure and cultural pursuits. With this will to participate in mainstream society, this group of 65+ are in an exciting phase of life. One which could potentially afford new freedoms and opportunities: a cohort fully able to contribute to our society and the economy. At Urban Edge we are keen to encourage that.

Sonia Parol | Associate Director

Glencairn Retail Park, Kilmarnock

Additional 75,000 sq.ft of retail for Kilmarnock

March 17th, 2017 Posted by All, Retail

Client: Savills Investment Management
Total retail accommodation: 100,000 sq.ft
Parking spaces: 600 (approx)
Development budget: £5,000,000

We have recently been commissioned to develop proposals at Glencairn Retail Park, Kilmarnock for an additional 75,000 sq.ft of retail floor space adjacent to the existing retail terrace (phase II) incorporating a number of new retail units, together with pod units and a drive-through unit at the main entrance of the site (phase III).

We have been specifically instructed by the client to maximise the potential lettable area and enhance the parking, landscaping and public realm to deliver a ‘destination’ scheme. Careful consideration has been given to ensuring both existing and proposed developments continue the same visual appearance in terms of façades/entrances and maintain continuity of trade to tenants whilst works are underway.

St Andrew's Shopping Park, Birmingham

Sub-division of former ‘Woolies’ in Birmingham

March 14th, 2017 Posted by All, Retail

Client: BMW (UK) Trustees Limited
Total retail accommodation: 85,000 sq.ft
Parking spaces: 550 (approx)
Development budget: £2,800,000

Following the demise of Woolworths this 85,000 sq.ft unit, located directly opposite Birmingham City Football Club, was vacated in January 2009. Following our instruction we gained planning approval for sub-division into seven smaller units in early May. An internalised undercover service area at the rear was provided to allow the units to be serviced away from the main public highway – a condition critical to the Local Planning Authority.

The building was given a complete facelift with new entrance feature canopies to highlight the unit entrances and new totem towers to give the park an increased street presence. Several national High Street retailers now trade from this new shopping park environment.

St Anns Shopping Centre, Harrow

Reaching potential at St Anns in Harrow

March 14th, 2017 Posted by All, Retail

Client: Orchard Street Investment Management
Total retail accommodation: 225,000 sq.ft
Parking spaces: 900 (approx)
Development budget: Confidential

We were appointed by Orchard Street Investment Management to look at various asset management opportunities at St Anns Shopping Centre. St Anns is located opposite Harrow on the Hill station and is home to over 40 High Street brands including H&M, Primark, M&S, Schuh and Tiger along with a dedicated food court on the first floor, and is within easy reach of bus and train connections from central London. The shopping centre also boasts secure parking for over 900 vehicles.

These opportunities included reconfiguring and maximising the internal space in a large retail unit on behalf of H&M, who opened for business in November 2012. We have also looked at a number of proposals to improve the entrances, signage, toilet facilities and the flooring throughout the mall with many of these initiatives still ongoing.

Colne Lodge, Staines-upon-Thames

Redeveloped offices in Staines-upon-Thames

March 14th, 2017 Posted by All, Residential

Client: Porchester Properties Limited
Apartments: 9
Parking spaces: 10
Development budget: £1,000,000

We were instructed by our client to redevelop this former office space located in the centre of Staines-upon-Thames. Having determined that renewed office use was no longer sustainable we decided that the best course of action was to convert the building to residential use and take advantage of the great location and proximity to local amenities on offer.

We proposed to remodel the building to significantly improve its appearance and integrate the existing Pizza Express unit more successfully. Additionally, we added a third floor to the building in order to give the client an additional two properties which succeeded in making the scheme commercially viable.

We submitted the scheme to the local planning department in early 2012 and successfully gained approval in the Summer. Construction began in early 2014 and the building was completed just after Christmas.

Tritton Retail Park, Lincoln

Sub-division of Comet unit at Tritton Retail Park

March 13th, 2017 Posted by All, Retail

Client: LaSalle Investment Management
Total retail accommodation: 125,000 sq.ft
Parking spaces: 200 (approx)
Development budget: £1,000,000

Acting on behalf of LaSalle Investment Management we are heavily involved in ongoing asset management initiatives at this highly visible retail park located on Tritton Road, approximately two miles from Lincoln city centre. Together with the agents we are also exploring refurbishment options for new entrances and façade treatments as well as a potential reconfiguration of the Currys unit.

We have also recently delivered the sub-division of the former Comet unit into two smaller units for Homesense (12,000 sq.ft) and Oak Furniture Land (8,000 sq.ft). These units were opened in August 2014 and are both trading successfully.

Enfield Retail Park, North London

Asset management at Enfield Retail Park

March 13th, 2017 Posted by All, Retail

Client: Universities Superannuation Scheme Limited
Total retail accommodation: 150,000 sq.ft
Parking spaces: 600 (approx)
Development budget: £5,000,000

Universities Superannuation Scheme acquired this very successful 150,000 sq.ft retail park which lies directly adjacent the A10 in Enfield, North London. We were appointed to pursue various short, mid and long term asset management strategies they have for the park.

The first tranche of works involved the extension and sub-division of an existing retail unit including over cladding and introduction of a new entrance feature.

The second phase of work focused on the remodelling of the remaining retail terrace, upgrading the existing unit façades and rolling out new signage features and cladding principles as introduced in phase I to introduce consistency and identity throughout the park.

Finally, we were instructed to deliver a pod unit, situated to the south of the main retail terrace, comprising accommodation for three retailers. The scheme received planning approval in October 2013 and the units were handed over late 2014.

Croft Retail and Leisure Park, Bromborough

Initiatives at The Croft Retail & Leisure Park

March 13th, 2017 Posted by All, Retail

Client: Universities Superannuation Scheme Limited
Total retail accommodation: 450,000 sq.ft
Parking spaces: 1,200 (approx)
Development budget: £10,000,000 (phased)

The Croft Retail and Leisure Park is conveniently located on the Wirral peninsula, just off the A41 New Chester Road, Bromborough, four miles south of Birkenhead town centre. This 450,000 sq.ft retail and leisure park is a hugely popular destination for local shoppers.

We have been involved in the long term strategic asset management and development of the park for a number of years, delivering a wide range of remodelling projects across the development. Ongoing works currently include:

  • Strip units G/H and J back to the external shell (including all existing fixtures and fittings), recladding of the front elevation and all associated shopfront works
  • Development of proposals for land to the south of the retail park. Current plans include four new retail units totalling approximately 55,000 sq.ft, two new pod units and parking provision for 300 vehicles