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Arup's planning workshop at 'Innovation Cities' Here East, London

Above: Kathryn Firth and Daniel Portilla of Arup (standing at rear) presiding over the master-planning workshop at Future Cities Forum's 'Innovation Cities' at Here East - which involved participants from Populo Living, the University of East London, the London College of Fashion, De Lancey, The Alan Turing Institute and ARC Group, among others.

Future Cities Forum was delighted that Arup organised the workshop at 'Innovation Cities' (Here East) last month. Both Kathryn Firth, Director in charge of master-planning and urban space and Daniel Portilla, architect and urban designer, set up the tasks by talking about some of their projects including the Leeds Innovation District, Cyprus International University at Nicosia, and The Wellcome Genome campus at Hinxton in Cambridgeshire.

The workshop had two aims: to find out which mix of tenants works best in the most successful and sustainable innovation hubs, and secondly to isolate the elements for the best ongoing curation for these districts.

Kathryn asked the workshop group to think about the synergies between the 'actors and players' at innovation hubs, where they were coming from, what makes places click, and their connections with the wider community. She suggested that innovation hubs were not the traditional university dominated places anymore, and if one was planning a new innovation district, how prescriptive would one have to be in attracting tenants? Having an anchor tenant or a theme for the district was regarded by most the workshop participants as crucial.

Kathryn commented:

'Innovation districts are reshaping and regenerating parts of major UK cities, creating and attracting new high-quality jobs in accessible locations. In today's modern economy, the cities that will be successful are those that can harness and commercialise the knowledge, creativity and ideas from their most innovative and diverse people and institutions. Through Arup's experience in working with universities, hospitals, government functions, cultural institutions, start-up companies and knowledge-intensive firms we have witnessed how innovation occurs through collaboration.'

Above: Cyprus International University, Nicosia (courtesy Arup)

Arup talked at the workshop about their important projects at Cyprus International University, Nicosia and the Wellcome Genome Campus in Cambridgeshire.

Cyprus International University (CIU) is growing – both in size and in aspiration. Located near the country’s capital, Nicosia, the University has ambitious plans to increase its students from 17,000 to 24,000 by 2022. Arup was invited to develop a masterplan to guide and deliver its growth plans, considering its future academic and social needs.

Arup has worked with CIU since 2017, first developing a vision, then advising on its implementation. Throughout the process, the consultancy engaged with the wider University community to shape the vision for the future physical development of the campus and translated this into a framework for implementation. Arup is currently working to deliver the first changes on the ground.

The masterplan, which drew upon the expertise of Arup's Urban Design, Landscape and City Economics teams, is formed around 3 key principles:

  • building on the strengths of the University and establishing a testbed for new ways of learning beyond the classroom;

  • recognising its location and landscape setting as a Mediterranean campus; and

  • enhancing the synergies and relationships between academia and the wider community.

The Wellcome Trust is the largest and most influential medical charity in the world. Its mission to improve global health is at the heart of its work at the Wellcome Genome Campus in Cambridgeshire, which has grown significantly over the past 25 years. Now, it hosts the world’s largest concentration of genomics and biodata expertise and is home to two of the foremost institutions: the Wellcome Sanger Institute and the European Bioinformatics Institute.

The campus aspires to build on its scientific foundations to become the international centre for scientific, business, cultural and educational activities originating from genomes and biodata. With limited space on the existing campus site, Wellcome commissioned Arup in 2017 to develop a vision and masterplan for a major campus expansion.

The masterplan is centred around three key principles:

  • Community – creating new homes and facilities, improving transport infrastructure and opening the campus to the public to transform the site from an employment campus into a science community.

  • Convergence – delivering new collaboration areas, movement routes and mixed-use public spaces to encourage interdisciplinary collaboration as the primary source of innovation.

  • Health and wellbeing – designing with a focus not only on human health but also environmental, ecological, community, land, and more broadly, planetary health.

In December 2020, a key milestone was reached when the campus expansion plans were granted outline planning permission by South Cambridgeshire District Council, a critical step in the evolution of the campus.

Below: CGI of Wellcome Genome Campus (Courtesy Arup)

Contributors very much enjoyed the workshop activities and reflected on their own experience to come up with ideas:

Dr Mustansar Ghazanfar, Assistant Professor at the University of East London spoke for one team:

'The name of our hub is 'Smart Care AI' and it is strongly linked to hospitals, a training hub and real estate. This would be developing the whole idea of the smart hospital and there would training for the local communities as well as a real estate element with input from architects. We would also have spinning out of ideas from entrepreneurship hub.'

Waltham Forest Council's Director of Inward Investment & Higher Education, Jonathan Martin, said:

We are currently building a university quarter and expanding knowledge transfer departments. We have a big creative design ethos in the borough. We must ensure that it is liveable. How will we deal with impact of students and businesses working together? How can we build an innovation hub with Whipps Cross Hospital, which is part of Barts and a university partner?'

Linda Roberts, Director of Business & Innovation at the London College of Fashion, spoke for a team that included the Alan Turing Institute, housing company Populo Living, and the Mayor of Newham. She reported:

'We focused on community engagement aspects of an innovation district. This included how we work with local commuinties to co-create and how we go out into the community. How we make young people aware of career opportunities in the creative sector was seen as important and also building relationships between businesses and colleges and universities, which is an area often overlooked and underplayed.'

Lisa Jones, Place-making and Consultation Lead at Hadley Property Group spoke for her table:

'We looked at what would tie everyone in with food and beverage at the centre of it all. We looked at the challenge both physically and digitally. Parks and gardens encourage connections and then the digital helps for connections for career building.. It is all about the opportunity for transparency, making people aware of what is next to them and making people welcome.'

Future Cities Forum would like to thank Arup again for all the preparation and the carrying out of this fascinating workshop.



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