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Kirkstall Forge

How design is enabling strong communities

28.01.2020 | Blog

The term ‘community’ holds vast importance. It’s about how we engage with others in the environment we work and live in, impacting our lifestyle and surroundings. For a community to truly thrive though, those within it must have access to spaces, facilities and amenities that provoke interaction and collaboration – something which must be achieved in the blueprint.

But why is design so important to enabling strong communities both in where we work and live?

Building neighbourhoods, enabling communities

Community spirit’ may cast your mind back to neighbourhoods of years gone by, yet the concept of it still rings true today. We need a strong community to create a healthy, happy and prosperous place to live.

Interaction with neighbours is an important part of personal wellbeing, according to research published last year. However other research suggests there are lower levels of social interaction in new housing developments than in other areas. Does this mean we need to rethink and reposition the idea of the community in modern society?

As a country, we’re in the midst of a loneliness crisis – according to reports, nine million people in the UK have experienced loneliness, a staggeringly high figure. To eradicate this, community-driven facilities and spaces need to be engrained in blueprints to encourage all residents to come together and engage with one another. Town squares, cafes and communal areas are easy ways to achieve a strong community but can only be attained through well thought-out design.

It’s about connecting residents to not only one another, but also to the surrounding area. Nature trails and greenspace allow people to interact in different ways, taking the community away from just the homes and to the whole outdoors.

How we design our neighbourhoods is key to whether a community will thrive. Offer residents a chance to use the amenities and spaces at their disposal and building a communal ethos becomes a far greater task.

A commercial community

But in modern-day living, the concept of community doesn’t start and end with residential – it’s evolved to become an integral part of our workplace.

Millennial and Gen Z workers want a different working environment unlike their predecessors, they no longer desire separate desks or cubicles where each employee feels disparate to their co-workers. They want to work in a space which has been designed with community values forefront of mind.

Take Apple Park as an example. Apple’s corporate HQ features restaurants and cafes, a wellness centre and there are more than 1,000 bikes available for sustainable transport to help create a mini community. It’s these facilities that the workers of today want.

Offices need to be designed to promote engagement, interaction and collaboration – the core pillars of building a community. Open-plan, expansive spaces are a must to allow colleagues to freely communicate with one another, without feeling as if they are disrupting or excluding anyone from joining. As WeWork put it, a meeting should be turned into ‘connecting’ to make them feel more welcoming and inclusive to drive a community feel within our workspaces.

Outside of the working floorplate, employees want the right facilities and amenities too. Onsite cafes and eateries allow the workforce to interact in a more ‘non-working’ environment, whilst sports initiatives such as yoga, running and cycling clubs can help create a community ethos. Yet to have these ideas embedded within the workplace, the design of the space is key and imperative to bring strong communities to our workplace.

Residential and commercial coexisting as one community

At Kirkstall Forge, we’re creating a community of our own. One that is for both those who want to live here and work here.

Our masterplan is our vision. Kirkstall Forge will be a mixed-used development offering amenities, facilities and infrastructure to residents and workers alike to create an all-encompassing community. The homes will be strikingly designed for those who demand more, with the idea of creating a new neighbourhood through public spaces and amenities.

On the commercial side, our first office building, Number One, offers businesses community-inspired spaces to operate from, with open-plan spaces and facilities for the workforce to engage with. 2, Kirkstall Forge will follow suit, meeting the needs and demands of the modern-day workforce through design.

At the heart of the development will be ‘The Stitch’, located between Number One and Two, Kirkstall Forge acting as a hub for all the community to enjoy. This is designed to be where the commercial and residentials elements join, creating a public space that will host events and promote community interaction.

From the office floor plates to the train station and public spaces, each aspect of Kirkstall Forge promotes a strong community ethos – yet it can only be achieved through our innovative, forward-thinking design.