Collaborative Placemaking

JTP (John Thompson and Partners)

The challenge

When they came to me, John Thompson and Partners, architects specialising in urban planning, were struggling. It was post financial crash, and like everyone, they were under pressure to secure new projects. Two or three years earlier I had written all of the signage for their new building. Now I was asked to cast my eyes over a short brochure that had been put together internally. The brief: “just do your magic”.

So often the ‘magic’ (if such a thing exists), is not a surface thing, quick and easy, but hidden deep in the structure. The piece I had been asked to waft a wand over wasn’t doing JTP justice, and “magic” here meant an overhaul or nothing. The argument needed planning more carefully. Like one of their communities.

What we did

Long, intense interviews with a pair of senior partners later and the scale of the job was clear. We collaborated, edited, refined together. By the time it was done it was more of a book than a brochure. The designers, Hat-Trick, were understandably nervous. Would people read it?

I never doubted they would. Because when you’re commissioning a whole new development or neighbourhood or town, so much is at stake, you need so much reassurance that you’re making the right decision. It wasn’t a soundbite or pamphlet decision. The depth of this piece gave JTP authority and credibility.


What happened next

It did get read. Internally as well as externally. A decade later and JTP are nearly double the size, having won a string of awards. They are undoubtedly the leader in their field.

Their brilliance was somehow given form, an energy channel to run down that made it easier for positive changes to keep accumulating. It’s a happy and highly creative place to work, and they care deeply about the schemes they create, which thrive because of the way that people in them are engaged. They were the BD Best Architect Employer of the Year, 2019.

The line about creating new places and breathing life into old ones was never meant to be a strapline. But it resonated and was eventually organically adopted as one – it’s now to be found in all sorts of places.

All this was written in 2010.  The words are still in use today.

This is not writing, it's consultancy. Eric Holding Partner, JTP