Ladder of Place Quality - interview with Professor Matthew Carmona


At the beginning of April 2019, I caught up with Professor Matthew Carmona of The bartlett school of planning, ucl at his event the ‘big meet 9’, a conference and gathering of his place alliance network.

If you don’t know the Place Alliance, it is the broadest possible church you could imagine of European urban designers, and I recommend being part of it - as well as organising the ‘Big Meet’ series it has also produced some really good online resources including the Place Value Wiki, which brings together a huge amount of research on the subject of place.

Matthew presented a segment himself on his new model ‘Ladder of Place Quality’, which you can see a summary of above, and a more detailed one below, and is covered in more detail in this two-pager and also as part of a new report he’s written on it.

I’m sometimes a bit sceptical about models that have arisen from academia, but this seemed like a really valuable and relevant tool.

Remarkable City has recently been working with local authority clients to envision 30+ years in the future, and think about how community can be retained, and built into, what will be denser neighbourhoods.

Matthew and I caught up to talk about the Ladder of Place Quality and how it came to be.

Duncan: I’m loving my first Place Alliance Big Meet and I’m fascinated by this Ladder tool, can you tell me more, why did you create it?

Professor Matthew Carmona: To go back a step, the original idea was to bring together the wide range of empirical research on how the quality of place adds value, economically, socially, environmentally and as regards health outcomes in the platform

In doing so the intention was to make it easy for practitioners, politicians, communities and others to access the evidence in one place and in a more digestible manner than simply searching the internet.

The ladder developed almost as a bi-product of this process as a means to bring together and clearly articulate where the balance of the evidence lay and how strongly it correlated to particular qualities in the built environment.

Duncan: What challenges did you face in distilling tens of thousands of research studies into 271 and then into creating a model as simple as the ladder?

Professor Matthew Carmona: We had a set of criteria that we applied to research projects that in essence focussed on how robust the evidence base was. We only included evidence that had been rigorously researched, and typically, peer-reviewed in an international journal. It also had to be directly relevant to our focus on the external built environment.

Duncan: you mentioned audiences earlier, but could you go into more detail on those,and who it would be most applicable to?

Professor Matthew Carmona: I would love the work to be used by anyone interested in raising the standard of the built environment, enabling them to make a case that is underpinned by evidence as opposed to one simply underpinned by instinct or experience. That might include planners, local politicians, urban designers, development professionals, architects and communities. Anyone interested in better quality urban design.

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Duncan RayCities, Business