Partisan hosts EightyTwenty, a regular, fortnightly breakfast event for business leaders and professionals connected to the built environment.
Over the past year, it has been our privilege to watch some fascinating conversations take place, as our guests have risen to the occasion, with a lively exchange of ideas.
It is our aim that, by enabling these meaningful but informal gatherings, we help to create a climate for positive change.
Here are the highlights of the past year’s discussions.
The Narrative Twist
The intended user should be the focus of development, but building stories can sometimes have unexpected endings.
It’s not always those developments which would benefit users the most that win the right to be built.
However, there is another twist in the tale: failure can lead to a rethink, and a repurposing of older projects to breathe new life into them.
Why Authenticity Matters
The catalyst for regeneration may occur at a micro level. This is where authenticity can make a big difference.
Authenticity is about a shared heritage and natural growth.
Can developers tap into this successfully? If it works, then a new building or development will resonate with residents.
This is why proper placemaking is so vital, and why there are no shortcuts to getting it right.
Human capital is important in designing for the urban living, and there should be a sense of continuity between the past, present and future.
Will sustainability mean better buildings? It depends on how you enact your regeneration strategy.
The Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF) is ambitious, but is it realistic?
The important thing will be to bridge the gap between strategy and construction.
The Place of Identity
Who are we designing buildings and spaces for?
When it comes to developments for an ageing population, the notions of what being elderly actually means are shifting.
Many 60 year olds are now living lives that are much more in tune with being twenty or even thirty years younger.
And what about generation rent? If renting is the new normal, should it not include a broader range of accommodation than one-bedroom apartments?
What sort of mixed demographic is now occupying our urban centres, and how best to serve it?
Revolutionary or Normcore?
Does modern design need to be ground breaking?
It may be a case that the real revolution is now embodied in functional and immediately familiar living spaces.
Is radical simplicity the future for building developments in our cities?
Risk and Reward
Businesses must manage risk, and this is as true in the built environment as elsewhere.
Culture is an important part of business, just as it should be central to placemaking.
But if we see greater risk as the route to bigger rewards, how might this skew thinking around prospective projects?
Is the real risk that social value gets side-lined in the pursuit of perceived glory?
It is not only thinking that can shape how the built environment changes.
Innovations in methods and materials can also drive change.
One example is graphene.
It has the strength and versatility to make it highly applicable across different sectors, including construction.
Will it help better prepare us for the future?
The construction industry, due to its fragmented development, has been slow to embrace change.
Is it therefore up to the challenge when it comes to responding to the demands of technology?
The built environment is directly responsible for over 20% of the UK’s carbon footprint, including transport emissions.
We need to ask new questions about how we design and build, so that we can make the future work, even as the pace of change accelerates.
Does Pace Outstrip Purpose?
When rapid development drives change, purpose can become obscured.
The risk is that, in the race to completion, the concept is flawed. What if you then end up with a glut of empty commercial spaces, or homes that are unaffordable in their chosen location?
Design and development should retain a strong sense of purpose, and build a proper dialogue between developers and users.
How Can Public Spaces Evolve?
Two pressing issues are the decline of the high street and the disappearance of genuine public spaces.
If physical retail really is in terminal decline, what can we help the high street become to give it a fresh purpose in the eyes of local communities?
Meanwhile, public spaces are losing out to privately-owned open spaces. One solution is the pocket parks initiative, which aims to help communities create their own green spaces.
Food Centric Placemaking
Food has a key part to play in placemaking. Research shows communal eating increases social bonding.
Supply chains should therefore be more community-focused and community-led.
Food retail should be part of a supportive food eco-system at this level, helping to create sustainable growth.
Manchester’s High Rise Growth
Is the city’s upward expansion damaging its essential character?
Bigger is not always better, and there is a real risk that in courting more exclusivity, Manchester loses some of its real soul.
The 21st century city should remain accessible and affordable to its workforce. This requires more than simply building higher, more spectacular structures.
Engagement and Empathy
To build a more inclusive, prosperous society, developers and designers need to consider stakeholder engagement carefully.
It should be happening earlier in the stages of project development, to help shape the purpose for construction at its inception.
Also, there needs to be empathy in design thinking, to better understand the motivations and thoughts of prospective end-users.
A Year in the Life
Eighty Twenty is our way of bringing together people who share an interest in Greater Manchester, its regions, its environment and its people.
It’s a relaxed gathering, but it represents shared values of openness, trust and independence.
We’re looking forward to next year, and much more to discuss by way of ideas and inspiration.
If you’re interested in joining us, you can register your interest below.