Author Archives: soundings

Thamesmead Waterfront

We are delighted to be part of Prior and Partner’s energetic and creative team and together to have won the £8bn Thamesmead Waterfront international competition. Our long tradition of working together on trailblazing projects – at Kings Cross, the Olympic and post-Olympic masterplans and in North Essex, had those garden communities gone ahead, continues with Thamesmead. What makes this win even more extraordinary is that our team enjoyed the unanimous support of the interview panel, and scored higher than all other competitors in all categories. A resounding win with the level of competition faced, is an extraordinary achievement.

Also extraordinary is the team’s total commitment to effective co-design and engagement. In steering and leading the codesign process Soundings had to marshal a ‘Creative Engagement Team’ consisting of JA Projects, the Place Bureau, Turner Projects, Sage Culture and Work Wild. We also built strong links with Carl Turner of Turner Works, and with Marc Keohler Architects who will work together with Alison Brooks to offer digitally sourced, bespoke housing offers – what he refers to as ‘housing +’ within a ‘living neighbourhood’. This collaborative and co-creative approach appears to have been well recognised. Feedback from the jury noted that “This is a highly credible team that scored better than the other teams on all measures. Its excellent knowledge of Thamesmead and the creative approach to community engagement were both exciting and reassuring ….. its approach to the inter-disciplinary nature of masterplanning was demonstrated through an inclusive and flexible framework that would allow others to contribute; its offer was underpinned by strong technical knowledge but balanced with an open and innovative approach …. it offered the “right mix of poetry and prose”’.

As reported in the AJ (AJ On-Line – 29 April, 2021), this massive project has the potential to be a game changer in the way masterplans are developed and delivered. The shared vision is of microplanning driving, situating and testing macroplanning (see ‘Micro to Macro’ images below showing how videographies of everyday life will be a key means of understanding place and aspirations, building narratives and informing scenario planning to lead to a sensitised masterplan built around ‘platform’ projects). As part of this, buildings and structures will emerge directly from indigenous events, cultures and institutions through ‘seeding’ design, meanwhile structures and platform projects; the latter being exemplary and pioneering co-designed buildings and places, which will help to particularise and anchor the wider masterplan. So we can expect a kayak club to morph into a treasured sporting tradition, local ‘global’ food to be celebrated and enjoyed and local radio station RTM FM and TACO (Thamesmead Arts and Cultural Organisation) to move into a more significant, public building. Micro to Macro will be played out in the housing, the landscapes, the cultural offer and the growth of the local economy. The future will be rooted in givens to build a particular, highly nuanced place. It may be among the first to use digital processes to build communities.

As well as the socialisation of design, the team will explore how digital processes and modular but bespoke housing assemblies can be pushed further, to finally unleash potentials that have been building for the past two decades. We can’t wait to get stuck in.

Soundings/Fluid. A merger of the two companies to enable a pooling of creative placemaking talent, co-design expertise and people focused ambition has been on the cards for a while. Thamesmead Waterfront offers the perfect opportunity to utilise these skills to best effect.

Peabody’s John Lewis said ‘We now have an opportunity for genuine place-making with cultural curation, leisure, connectivity, sustainability and wellbeing at the forefront of our thinking. Putting people first, we want to create a wonderful new mixed-use town centre for Thamesmead, with an approach that complements the wider regeneration of the town.’

The shortlist

  • [WINNER] Prior + Partners with Arup, and West 8; The Place Bureau; Alison Brooks Architects; Turner Works; Marc Koehler Architects; JA Projects; Schulze+Grassov; Soundings; Sage Culture; WorkWild; and London Wildlife Trust
  • Allies and Morrison with Jas Bhalla Architects; SLA; Ramboll; Montagu Evans; and Frances Holliss
  • Studio Egret West and Cobe with Dark Matter Labs; Studio Weave; Freehaus Design; Yinka Ilori Studio; AKTII; Hilson Moran; and Biomatrix Water
  • Urban Orchestra, led by Tibbalds Planning and Urban Design, Mikhail Riches, Haptic and Expedition with Create Culture; Gardiner & Theobald; Gibson Thornley; GS Solutions; Innovation First; Kjellander Sjöberg; LOLA; Madeleine Kessler Architects; Mary Duggan Architects; Nick Elias Studio; Nordic – Office of Architecture; William Matthews Architects and ZCD Architects
  • White Arkitekter with Publica; Tredje Natur; Central Saint Martins; Public Works; Bohn & Viljoen; Buro Happold; GL Hearn; and Aurora

Public Art Forum: Public Space and Culture After the Virus

A conversation between architects, urbanists and cultural place makers

Held on 2 July 2020 on Zoom, a panel of distinguished speakers, including Fluid/Soundings founding director Christina Norton, considered the future of the urban realm and the role of culture in supporting new behaviours and ways of considering social space.

You can see Christina’s interview above and the full discussion here.

The massive societal changes wrought by 2020 are being keenly felt in cities throughout the world. Coronavirus has kept us apart; Black Lives Matter has brought us onto the streets. Economies are tumbling alongside contested civic statuary. What will be the role of culture in public space as we collectively move forward? What might we do differently and what is integral to maintaining cultural place making agendas?

CAS Consultancy has worked over the past ten years to develop cultural placemaking strategies that embed social and community value in public realm developments. Like many in the field, we are questioning and seeking answers about the role of culture in the public realm both today and in the days to come.

Chair Shumi Bose, Curator and Writer, Coordinator of Contextual Studies in Architecture at CSM and Curator of Exhibitions, RIBA
Cany Ash, Partner, Ash Sakula Architects
Harbinder Birdi, Senior Partner Hawkins\Brown
Anna Minton, writer and lecturer, University of East London
Fabienne Nicholas, Head of Consultancy, Contemporary Art Society
Christina Norton, Founding Director, Fluid/Soundings
Charles Quick, In Certain Places
Jérôme Sans, Artistic Director, Rives de Saône-River Movie (Lyon) and Future contemporary art foundation, Emerige, Ile Seguin (Paris)

Keeping Consultation Inclusive

A message from Fluid Co-Founder, Christina Norton on behalf of sister company, Soundings

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. In the experience of Soundings, most people want to be involved. They want to feel connected.

For those of you who know us, you will recognise that at Soundings, we see community engagement as a process that has social value in its own right. We support and encourage inspired and enjoyable interactions with people from all walks of life, leading to valuable contributions, insights and outcomes. One of these outcomes is the formation of empowered communities.

Despite the enormous social challenges we have faced, coronavirus has shown us the power of the human spirit to manage adversity, adapt and find alternative ways of doing things. We have been inspired by the ways the communities we have the privilege of working with have continued to maintain supportive and communicative networks, against the odds. We have been moved by the determination people have shown to ensure that everyone within their communities continues to be given a voice.

Over the past two months of social isolation, what we have witnessed, both with those with whom we are currently working, and the countless local organisations and community groups we have come to know over the years, is that now more than ever people have a desire to come together and exchange thoughts and ideas about how our society, and the places we build together, can be better.

By now you will be well aware of the many ways we are able to keep virtually connected. Due to our need for social distancing, we have seen more emphasis than ever on using digital tools and platforms. Whilst we have all been enjoying the opportunity to test and employ new ways of working with people, here at Soundings, we have also recognised the critical need to ensure that digital tools are used conscientiously and that they are used to complement and support rather than replace human interaction.

What we have discovered, in fact, is that a creative interplay between digital and physical means of communication appears to be the most powerful way of ensuring we continue to facilitate valuable and meaningful exchanges, accessible to all, and full of promise, trust, relationships and systems of belief. Within this we recognise that our communities are rich and diverse, with people who need and want to communicate in different ways.

In discussion with community groups and individuals involved in consultation since lock down it has emerged that they value multiple means of sharing their thoughts, from a simple phone call and written letters to online workshops. The real appreciation, however, has been through the understanding that although their means of participation may have been different, everyone has been included and contributions have been valued equally. These most recent discussions with people and groups with whom we work and hold invaluable relationships, has inspired us to share a simple message:

Despite the challenges we believe we can and must continue to work to shared social values and to provide engagement and consultation that never swerves from a deep focus on people; their needs, desires and thoughts. The challenges make this more, not less important.

More than ever, we are working with a group of trusted digital specialists and industry leaders to ensure we continue to evolve platforms of all kinds for creative exchanges and participation helping us all to build better places together.

In our day to day work we will continue to:

  • Listen and care about what we hear and be timely and considerate in what we do.
  • Celebrate place and people through creative physical and digital engagement.
  • Understand places by reaching out to communities through creative exchanges and social media.
  • Collect and share opinions through print and digital surveys.
  • Share experiences and opportunities to learn together.
  • Utilise VR with real value coming from the conversations that follow.
  • Exchange ideas through live conversations and phone calls.
  • Describe narratives of place and people through animations, illustrations and scenario setting.
  • Facilitate interactive workshops to share ideas & build consensus online, through dial-ins or via safe meetings.
  • Use our knowledge and experience to develop content and strategies that work in all formats.
  • Assure transparency as well as quality of two-way communication, both physical and digital, all captured in valuable Statements of Community Involvement.
  • Take time to share views and celebrate the best of our communities and their public spaces.
  • Ensure that people are valued in the process and the process is trusted

More so than before, Covid has made us realise we have a responsibility to ensure consultation remains inclusive and harnesses the opportunity to champion social value in our communities.

Christina Norton, Founding Director
Soundings – Better Places Through Active Participation

20 years of life-changing projects. The next 20…

We have had the privilege of leading consultation, engagement and urban strategies across a wide range of built environment projects, and our feeling is stronger than ever that human interaction, relationships, culture and belonging are at the heart of thriving communities.

Our journey began with a mission to meaningfully and creatively involve and empower people and communities because we believed that would lead to better places and outcomes for all, including developers and investors. We believe that is true today more now than ever. And we add the planet to this.

As we look to the future we are delighted to announce that Fluid’s sister company Soundings is expanding its core offer specialising in field leading consultation, engagement and co-design, to include social sustainability, stand-alone surveys, place research and strategic advice.

We will continue to work to our values and strengths, delivering robust and quality processes. Moving forward new alliances with digital and technology specialists and other collaborators will ensure we continue to evolve, drive participation and build places together with communities.

Please get in touch with Iain at to learn more.

Let’s keep the conversations flowing

For more than 15 years Soundings + Fluid have been at the forefront of best-practice participatory engagement across London and the UK. Despite these uncertain and challenging times, our guiding values remain steadfast in ensuring that we can continue to champion engagement practices that are innovative, inclusive and robust.

In these unprecedented times, we have taken all the necessary precautions to ensure that any planned or future engagement activities adopt a responsible, sensitive and considered response. At the same time, we feel that in these challenging times, it is as important as ever to create opportunities for people to be connected with their communities and continue to be included in local decision making.

We must be alive to the expectations and public perceptions of the stakeholders and the community. Soundings + Fluid have a deep and unique understanding of how to best engage with people in difficult circumstances, having worked extensively with vulnerable communities and under-represented groups.

One of the key challenges that many of our clients and partners will be confronted with is ensuring that any consultation with stakeholders and communities is well-placed and well-timed, that it remains valuable and meaningful, while being sensitive to the quickly evolving situation.

Soundings + Fluid can help you by:

  • Navigating the risks and opportunities associated with stakeholder and community engagement in these challenging times.
  • Working with you to adapt and deliver your engagement objectives while keeping project momentum moving forward.
  • Developing an impartial and objective engagement and communications strategy that can be readily adapted and immediately responsive to changing social and economic conditions.
  • Advising on the most appropriate analogue and digital engagement tools and approaches that add value, are creative and are consistent with Government policy on social distancing.

We are here to help you deliver engagement and consultation in a safe and socially responsible way and have prepared a toolkit of different engagement approaches that might be useful and relevant for your projects. You can download for free here.

We hope that you are all staying safe and healthy during these times. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us if you would like to discuss this more.

Good Growth Fund supports Westway Community Street

The Mayor and London Economic Action Partnership (LEAP) have pledged £1,346,000 to support the Westway Trust’s ‘Community Street’.

The ‘Community Street’ is a ten-year vision providing physical improvements and renewal as well as better economic opportunities for people in North Kensington. It aims to bring together what is currently a series of disjointed spaces, to create a more cohesive place to better support the community. This project builds on the urban strategy and delivery plan co-designed with the local community by Fluid.

Fluid was appointed by the Westway Trust in 2018 to develop an urban design strategy for the 23 acres of land they manage on behalf of the local community under the Westway flyover in West London. Developed with the communities along the Westway, the strategy sets out a vision for the Westway estate over the next 10 years to deliver physical improvement, renewal and better economic and cultural opportunities for local people. The work is supported through the Mayor of London’s Good Growth Fund and addresses the Good Growth themes of Empowering People, Making Better Places and Growing Prosperity.

Golders Green Town Centre Strategy – Adopted

Last night at Barnet Council’s Housing & Growth Committee Fluid’s Golders Green Town Centre Strategy was adopted. The Growth Strategy which was also approved includes commitments to deliver against this strategy.

Christina Norton – Project Director says: ‘We are excited that after nearly two years in development and an extensive consultation process the community will start to see the benefits they have long wished for and Golders Green has a good future’.

Culture Mile Look & Feel Strategy was a finalist at the Landscape Institute Awards – 2019

Christina attended the Landscape Institute’s Annual Awards at Troxy Theatre, as guest of Arup. Our Culture Mile Look & Feel Strategy for the City of London was a finalist in the Local Landscape Planning category. Congratulations to Arup for winning two awards and to WYG group for winning for their Masterplan for Sustaining Caerphilly’s Landscape.
SirDavidAttenborough met with a standing ovation as he graces the LIAwards2019 stage to accept the LI Medal for lifetime achievement. A powerful acceptance speech acknowledging the importance of landscape in addressing and combating the climatecrisis.
Thanks to the Landscape Institute for putting Climate Change at the heart of the event and serving us all a wonderful vegetarian lunch.

Away Days

Directors recently took part in a number of forward planning away day sessions over a long week-end hosted at Steve and Christina’s place on the island of Evia in Greece. Many great ideas emerged for adding to our core offer, and we will be exploring and building further on these in the months ahead. So stay tuned!

Naturally, it wasn’t all hard work!

Homes for Londoners

A good day in the midst of the massive Royal Docks where we are scripting the cultural place-making strategy. Steve joined a panel discussion on innovation and skills in the morning chaired by Jules Pipe and contributed to a roundtable discussion on community engagement. A lot of ground was covered.

Steve’s notes

– UK £1.8 T debt, £- 1.33 Euro’s down to 1.1 Euros in 5 years (15%)
– EU Nationals in construction workforce: UK 7-10%, London 29-33%
– EU Settlement scheme a bane for this sector
– Further plunge in value of £ (and increased debt) a possibility
– Reduced QoL – will we may lose much of our workforce
– Elderly traditional builders – average age of a brick layer – 56!
– Uncertain times

Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local; Government
– Govt must fully embrace Modern Methods of Construction to get to 30,000 target (UK homes per year – London target is over a third of this), this includes AI, AR, VR, Robotics, off-site manufacture, etc – a radical shift
– Volume housebuilders – do we see them embrace this … no. Theirs is an entirely different programme and process, that is very difficult to overhaul
– Do we need a ‘paradigm shift’…yes
– Education primary, junior, pre, grad and post grad
– New apprenticeships and balanced gender construction force
– Shift in mortgage fixations (a brake on innovation)
– Overcome ‘Prefab’ perceptions old and more recent (Runcorn and Hi Tech failures)

What to do …..?
– Royal Docks area (where Fluid is currently working) to be defined as a radical research base, urban lab, rapid prototype resource, home and place for new thinking for all that is digital in terms of urban living, development, experience, delivery – a high quality open-platform for research
– A place to embrace AI, Automation, Augmented Reality, Autonomous transport – Generation A
– A place to evolve means of avoiding or postponing our extinction – we have 10 years in which to do so according to experts. Do we want to doubt them? There is a point of no return
– According to the Centre for London we need to overhaul the planning system too, economic planning and to embrace off-site and remote working

Disruptors and innovators
– Where are they? Do we believe the current volume housebuilders will deliver, that property development and commercial space procurement or service delivery can be serviced through current mechanisms – I for one do not. Norms of investment are shifting fast. The professional base supporting this is emerging through Tech and other sectors but we need more and we need it now.

e bold and, as we always have been, and buck the trend
– Recognise housing are homes and that numbers are communities (or a waste)
– innovations are at least as much social as they are technological. Our future communities and developments have to visibly deliver on all fronts

What to do ….
– Education and university now – technically and in terms of human sciences
– Hi Tech Apprenticeships
– Trailblazer programmes of Govt and GLA funded innovation
– Breaking vol HB Land Banking power
– Carbon Neutral as a minimum standard (products and lifestyles)
– Breaking Terminator fear of AI
– Remembering that ‘work’ has redefined itself for thousands of years

Golders Green Town Centre Strategy Consultation

Barnet Council appointed Fluid to develop a Town Centre Strategy for Golders Green. The purpose of the strategy is to provide a practical handbook for the council, community and partners to develop a strategic and comprehensive plan to guide improvements for Golders Green Town Centre.
In developing the strategy, we have undertaken a range of consultation and engagement activities with the local community. These events have been used to better understand the area and collate the opinions, thoughts and ideas of the community and other key stakeholders. The findings of this process have informed the current version of the Golders Green Town Centre Strategy.

The local community and now have an opportunity to review the Golders Green Strategy and identify their priorities from the list of ‘proposed improvements’ across the town centre. Feedback
will be collated to produce a ‘Community Project Priorities List’, which will be integrated into the final strategy document. Please see the link below for more info:

You can download the strategy booklet at:

The consultation starts today for a period of six weeks
There will be three street consultation events where people can also give their feedback.

Wednesday 4th of September. Outside TFL Station – 4 to 7pm
Sunday 8th of September. Outside Golders Green Library – 10 to 1pm
Tuesday 10th of September. Outside Golders Green Sainsbury’s Superstore – 11 to 2pm

Bishopsgate Goodsyard submitted for planning

Soundings director Steve McAdam said he is pleased to have played a critical role in ensuring that the revised scheme is a better match for local desires and expectations through focused consultation and engagement, and through direct conversations with the mayor and cabinet of the two boroughs involved, Tower Hamlets and Hackney. This has been a long haul, starting in 2014. Finally, the community consultation has triumphed, and we offer our congratulations to the JV (Hammerson and Ballymore) for taking full stock of the communities views.

We hope other developers will follow their lead. At a time when trust of developers and local authorities is at an all time low – we need fresh, transparent and direct approaches to the planning and implementation of strategic projects.

Click here to read the full article

Centre for London talk

Centre for London talk

Steve spent the morning yesterday at the Centre for London seminar of ‘Developing trust: public participation in London’s planning system’ where he provided a short presentation on measures needed to supplement and reset standard ‘consultation’ processes. He argued that ‘consultation’ like ‘regeneration’ and ‘affordable’ had lost their meaning and were becoming ever more closely associated with gentrification and neo-liberalist doctrines. He also suggested that ‘consultation’ is not a process that is necessarily well received ‘on the ground’ where expectations were increasingly that the exercise would seek to win approval for pre-defined ideas, rather than to understand complex urban conditions and social issues. In this case, he said, why should we be surprised when we hear of ‘consultation fatigue’. If it is just a paper thin PR exercise – why bother with it.

To restore faith he said we have to go wider and deeper and build multiple channels of value-added engagement in partnership with local people; to capture, analyse and illustrate findings at all stages to seek public verification and endorsement, to utilise clear and engaging forms of communication that does not fudge the facts, to build digital exchanges and infographics as integral elements of engagement while being clear that digital engagement alone is unequal to the task of building real relationships or understanding complex urban issues, though well equipped to collect and disseminate information. In connection with this approach he referred to current work at the Royal Docks (Joining the Docks) where Fluid are working with CAS on the cultural place making strategy while supporting outreach and consultation for 5th Studio’s Public Realm work and the economic piece by Hatch Regeneris. He also noted Fluid’s appointment by the GLA and LB Newham to spearhead the public consultation and engagement on the wider Canning Town, Royal Docks and Beckton Opportunity Area Planning Framework, which would give access to detailed datasets and, across all strands allow a ‘360º technicolour’ understanding of places and people to be achieved. He showed a number of ways in which neighbourhoods and communities could be engaged while ‘immersing design teams in local conditions and breaking down complex design issues into bight sized chunks that non-designers could fully understand and contribute to’. He showcased a number of Fluid and Soundings projects, publications, infographics, interactive websites and meanwhile projects by way of example.

The information collected through engagement and consultation, he said, belongs as much to the community as to developers, local authorities and consultants and for this reason recommended that interactive maps, urban apps and platforms like Google Docs are used as these allow the information to continue to grow through direct input from communities.

It is notable, Steve said, that communities are wanting to discuss community benefits from ‘the off’ and that the better projects were doing this through training, skilling and apprenticeship packages, and that the next chapter, support for social projects, was likely to be pursued soon. He ended up by pointing out the opportunities offered by meanwhile projects, which can now mean 10-15 years, and the potential of strategic means of seeding and testing projects with community input while offering training, skilling and local jobs.

To see the pecha kucha slides click here

To see the notes for the talk click here

Part I & Part II Vacancies


Summer placements (June 2019 start)

Fluid is a London based architectural and urban design practice specialising in participatory processes and place-making.
We are looking for talented and highly motivated Part I and Part II architectural assistants with experience of working in an architectural practice.
The successful candidate will have an interest in urbanism and architecture and will work as part of a collaborative team on the delivery of large-scale housing-led masterplans, urban design structures and estate regeneration.

Required attributes:

– Graphic presentation skills using a range of software (Photoshop, Illustrator & Indesign)
– Experience using ArchiCAD
– 3D skills in Sketchup and Rhino
– Excellent communication skills in both written and spoken English
– Excellent design, physical model making and freehand drawing skills
– Organised and proactive with a keen attention to detail

– At least 1 year’s full-time work experience post Part II
– Exceptional design ability evidenced through academic or other portfolio
– Technical expertise developed in practice and education
– A high proficiency using ArchiCAD and ideally BIM
– Experience in housing design and delivery, especially in RIBA stages C to F
– Experience producing large scale Masterplan & urban strategies
– Clear thinking, diligent and good communication skills in both written and spoken English

Key skills:
– Excellent graphic presentation skills using Adobe Creative Suite (Photoshop, Illustrator & Indesign)
– 3D Sketchup, ArchiCADs, Cinema 4D and Rhino
– Microsoft Word and Excel

To apply:
Please forward your cover letter, CV and portfolio to
Strictly no phone calls. Strictly no agencies. We will contact only successful candidates with relevant experience.
Fluid is an equal opportunities employer.

Westway Co-Design Urban Strategy

Westway Co-Design Urban Strategy

We are excited to announce that we have been appointed by the Westway Trust to work with the Westway communities to agree a vision for the future. We are committed to a collaborative process to explore issues and ideas to deliver improvements in the short, medium and long term. There are no pre-fixed ideas or outcomes. Projects might be social, economic, environmental and cultural and deliver community benefits. The only requirement is to work collectively and be inclusive and be aspirational whilst realistic about what can be delivered.

What we have done so far

An intensive period of engagement and listening through November and December 2018 and ongoing to hear the views of local stakeholders and the locals – talking to the community at drop-ins, community meetings and pop-up events on-street to find out more about who lives and works in the area, what people like and dislike about the Westway estate, and how things could be improved in the future.

We would like to thank those who have participated so far and given their time and look forward to continued involvement.

What we will be doing next

We will be reporting back to the community in 2019 to:
• Check our findings
• Share our urban analysis of the area
• Confirm the issues and opportunities that should be considered further and
• Begin to form a vision of the kind of place people would like to see

For more information

• The ‘Westway’, or the A40 Motorway was built between 1964 and 1970. From its construction stemmed the destruction of a tightly-knit community in North Kensington, as well as the creation of a 23-acres of derelict land underneath it.
• After long years of struggle from local community, the Westway Trust was set up in 1971 as the custodian of the 23 acres-estate of land under the Westway Flyover, to promote positive uses of the space.

• Today the area is a diverse and vibrant place, with numerous grassroot organisations, a worldwide reputation of the arts, music and literature, Portobello Market and the Carnival.

• Last year the Westway Trust held a three-week engagement with local residents, businesses and community groups about the land under the Westway, exploring ways of improving it.

• The project is supported by the Mayor of London’s Good Growth Fund.