Whose place is it anyway?

Let’s take a moment to talk about the BUILT ENVIRONMENT.

But I’m only going to touch the surface here.

This is about that little phrase and nothing more.

This is about whether we can ever hope to change the conversation if we don’t change the way we talk.

Because what do those two words even mean beyond our professional circles?

And do other people even use those words?

I’d wager they don’t.

Because outside of my work with architects, I’ve never strung those two words together.

For me, it would be like calling my home a dwelling. Or like opening the fenestration, not the windows.

So let me step back a moment and side with the rest of my fellow (non-architect) humans.

You’re leaving us out of the conversation.

Yet this is the background of our lives you’re talking about, and the spaces through which we move.

We might talk about our city, our town, our village, our street… But never our BUILT ENVIRONMENT. (I’m using capitals to show up these words for what they are – slightly odd, slightly jargony, slightly last century.)

For you, that phrase trips off the tongue without a further thought. But it’ll never ripple out into the world, because the meaning stops long before it gets that far.

Is it time, then, for a rethink?

Ever since I’ve worked with architects, I’ve returned again and again to this question, and I know I’m not the only one.

But I’ve never come up with an answer.

And now something else has got me thinking.

Yes, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty – or AONBs – have got a brand-new name.

The old one has always struck me as slightly odd. Are they something to admire from afar? Or can I visit? And what’s the relevance for the likes of me?

But if you hadn’t heard, that name’s been ditched and now they’re ‘national landscapes’ instead. And I reckon that’s a big step forward.

At last I can begin to grasp a little more of what these might mean to me:

👍 a place to go
👍 a place to admire the view
👍 a place to feel welcomed (or perhaps not…)
👍 a place to feel proud of

So is it time to shake up our own conversation? Of course the BUILT ENVIRONMENT has a wider remit. It isn’t just the very best bits of our towns and cities. But perhaps that makes it even more important.

Because we all have a stake in this, whether we’re in it professionally or not.

I still don’t have the answer. (Urbanscape? Builtscape? Cityscape? No, I’m still not there…)

So I’d love to kickstart the conversation and get everyone’s hands on deck.

Yes, we’re only talking about one small phrase, but these things matter.

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