Falling in love with places:

Learning to love your neighbourhood

When we think of the places we love, it’s easy to think of the underrated city that caught you off guard on a business trip or that serene, nostalgic town your family escaped to during your childhood. But what about where you are right now?

As the world is set to remain a lot smaller for the foreseeable future, perhaps it’s time we try to find joy closer to home. Let’s make our nearby cities and towns that much more special and memorable.

Appreciating what’s on your doorstep

As travel becomes more commonplace again, our relationship with it will change. Or at least evolve. For many, the novelty of jumping on a train to travel cross-country has worn off. Why travel to the Big Smoke when all we need is within a five-mile radius?

Back in a 2018/19 survey, 76% of Britons were satisfied with their local area as a place to live and 62% felt they belonged to their local neighbourhood. But, over the past few months, many of us have gained an even greater appreciation for our communities.

This year, we’ve become more attached to our local escapes such as parks, beaches, woodlands, or cycle routes. And we’ve found new local vendors to support and root for amidst economic uncertainty. In many ways, the lockdown has made us truly engage with the places where we live. And that’s been a powerful revelation for a lot of us.

Design Director Guy Warren came to realise this about St Leonards-on-Sea: “It’s like a microcosm of society, the rough and the smooth. Not just the sugar-coated versions available elsewhere.” 

Sue Manley, Strategy Director said something similar about Chorlton: “Now the streets are empty of traffic most days, walking along a familiar path you notice the other sounds – birds singing, tree leaves rustling, footsteps.” 

For many of us, this might be the first time we’ve actually taken in our surroundings and learnt to appreciate the wonders and experiences just around the corner.

Investing in local areas

With this in mind, isn’t it time we encourage people to stop looking for excitement in distant places? Instead, we should be investing locally, so people can love being where they are and explore without needing to travel.

Let’s give people environments they want to be in, closer to home. Falling in love with a place again is about establishing a new identity and lease of life. Regenerating a place to better serve its purpose, reignite a sense of adventure and exploration, and bring the excitement back.

Sure, Barcelona’s art, architecture, and cosmopolitan feel still appeal, but there are also plenty of bustling, cultural locations right under your nose. For people who have lived in the same place all their lives, or travelled to the same city day in and day out for work, but never truly noticed the spaces around them, how can we bring everything into perfect view?

It comes down to planning

How can we evolve a place to invite people to explore, veer off the beaten path, and fall in love with it again? People want simplicity and ease.

It’s the driving principle behind the ‘20-minute neighbourhood’ and the foundation of Paris’s ‘15-minute city’. We can create communities where a person can meet all their needs in just 20 minutes, be it by bike, bus, or foot. It creates an environment that becomes somewhere we love to live in; why go elsewhere when everything is already here?

This summer, our Creative Director Sophie Campbell loved “exploring and connecting” with where she lives, both “in the present” and also “learning about its heritage”. How can we foster a sense of connection for visitors and residents with a place’s history and heritage? Something that becomes unavoidable when taking in the sights by foot.

Much of our work over the years has tackled these issues. In Eastbourne, we not only made the town centre with its counterintuitive topography more pedestrian-friendly but also added logic and movement through cultural district the Devonshire Quarter.

Our work with Bruntwood on Manchester’s Circle Square project will help people navigate the new work, leisure, retail, and public space, with a priority on encouraging visitors to visit the central public park.

And finally, in Swansea, we created a cycling network that displays routes, cycle-friendly streets, key landmarks, places, and how they connect to make the space better for anyone experiencing it by bike.

It’s time we turn our attention and resources to making our local spaces somewhere to love and appreciate. Lockdown went a long way in helping us enjoy the small things about our local areas; let’s carry this on well into the future and create local spaces that fulfil our every need.

At Placemarque, we’re passionate about places. We’re experts in bringing simplicity, excitement, and a sense of adventure back to local areas. If you would like to discuss your wayfinding needs or have any questions about our services, call us today on 0161 241 3174.