There is no doubt that Covid has brought the issue of community strength and cohesion to the forefront of public debate. It has viscerally revealed the importance of neighbourhoods from all perspectives. Most people want to be involved and feel connected in urban placeshaping. Now more than ever city dwellers have a desire to come together and exchange thoughts and ideas about how our society, and the places we build together, can be better. We have all evidenced the significance of public realm and green spaces in our cities as generous, accessible and inclusive environments for all; places that bring people closer to nature, enable social interaction, foster cultural life and have a direct impact on our sense of wellbeing and community.

Spurred on by this and with the added imperative to mitigate the climate emergency, in her talk, Christina Norton, architect and founding director of Soundings, suggests that we need a radical re-think of what city priorities should be and challenge the established norms of good taste public realm design. With a city where public open space is often in deficit; and the streets, estates and suburbia often forgotten public assets, she proposes that these become our area of focus - a spatial mission but also a clear social and environmental challenge.  

Norton will explore Soundings’ instincts to build communities, sustainable places and a strong sense of the ‘public’ through ideas for retrofitting urban streets and squares, bringing the wild into the city, and facing the opportunities and challenges this brings by using imaginative ways people can upgrade their experiences and interactions. She will reference recent Soundings’ projects Mayfair Green Route, the Culture Mile Look & Feel Strategy and Westway Community Street.

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About Christina:

Christina Norton is an architect and founding director of Soundings (incorporating Fluid). She was responsible for the Culture Mile Look & Feel Strategy for the Public Realm for the City of London Corporation, the Royal Docks Cultural Placemaking Strategy for the GLA/Royal Docks Enterprise Zone and is currently working on other London schemes such as the Mayfair Green Routes project for the Mayfair Neighbourhood Forum. As an architect she has developed a socially driven approach to strategy and placemaking through cultural-led projects, and immersive place-based research founded on the principle that local people and knowledge are critical to understanding neighbourhoods.
With 20 years’ involvement in co-creative processes, many projects have set benchmarks for engaging communities, through working on some of London’s most challenging regeneration schemes including Kings Cross Central for Argent; the London 2012 Olympic and post-Olympic masterplans and High Street 2012 – a 6Km vision linking the City of London with the Olympic Park cutting a slice through the historic East End. Most recently Soundings’ design work has responded to the COVID pandemic, climate emergency and issues of inclusivity brought to the fore by the Black Lives Matter movement.
Christina graduated from the Architectural Association in 1983 where she was awarded the Edith Caldicott scholarship. She was a founder member of the radical 1980’s group NATØ (Narrative Architecture Today) and subsequently taught architecture at the AA and London Metropolitan University between 1985-2007. Her work has been published and exhibited internationally including at the V&A’s ‘Postmodernism, Style and Subversion 1970-1990’ exhibition. Most recently she contributed to a 2021 Finish publication, an Ehituskunst book on Jan Verwijnen in which she recounts the influence this leading urban theorist had on her (and partner Steven McAdam)’s approach to cultural and strategic planning.

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