Printworks Park, Canada Water, London. Photo courtesy British Land.

Open to all: British Land and Canada Water

Emma Cariaga and Ginny Warr of British Land explore what inclusive design means for older people and for business growth. They look at Canada Water, where British Land is creating London’s first new town centre in over 100 years, and at activities across the company’s wider portfolio.

Inclusive and dementia-friendly design

Earlier this year, ADI’s Deputy CEO and Director of Policy, Communications and Publications, Chris Lynch, was introduced to the team at British Land working on the Canada Water development. Both ADI and British Land were guest speakers and panel judges at the TEDI-London Design Summer School, which focused specifically on designing for dementia.

Following the launch of this year’s World Alzheimer Report on dementia-related design, we asked Emma Cariaga, Joint Head of Canada Water, and Ginny Warr, Head of Procurement at British Land and Network Chair of enaBLe (British Land’s Disability Awareness staff network), to tell us more about the British Land approach to inclusive design and to dementia – with a focus on their Canada Water masterplan, a 53-acre site in southeast London.

Building inclusivity in

Emma Cariaga

Emma: Inclusive design is where everyone feels comfortable. There is commercial value to this. The broader the group of people in a space, particularly those with time and money to spend, the more successful that place is going to be – for the businesses providing food, drink and retail, for employers trying to attract the best talent, and for the people themselves.

A successful place appeals to people of all ages, young and old. Yet, there’s a shortage of interesting, diverse places for that broad group. Very few developers have designed for older people, even though this is an increasingly core demographic. Developers who see this opportunity and seize on it will do better.

Ginny: Inclusivity should be built in, so there are no barriers to entry. If you try to retrofit on top, it’s never quite good enough – that’s when people with different requirements get funnelled down a different entry experience, via a side door and through a separate barrier gate, which immediately makes them feel different and disadvantaged. Instead, why not look at the whole reception area and make all the gates accessible if you have the space?

Building inclusivity in is what British Land is moving towards. We understand that people have different requirements and we’re trying to accommodate as many of those pan-requirements as possible in how we build and manage our places.

Listening and understanding

Emma: To make Canada Water a place where people come together across the generations to shop, work, live and play, we’ve spent four years listening to the local community, young and old. We involved people early on, so they’ve helped us conceive the masterplan and the fundamentals that underpin it. It’s refreshing for a developer to be talking with people without necessarily having all the answers.

The concept of shelter is important to the older community. They want places to dwell, sitting with friends or just being, sheltered from wind and rain. They want a new town centre, but there are also existing aspects they don’t want to lose, footpaths and places with special memories for them, or local heritage.

We’re holding onto as many of these things as possible. With the luxury of 53 acres, we have a lot of scope to respond to what people want. The resulting environment will be utterly inclusive and welcoming to people of all ages, particularly older people.

Ginny: As part of our efforts to build inclusivity in across our wider portfolio, we’re running several projects. Working closely with the Business Disability Forum, our development team is reviewing early architectural designs for one of our major office refurbishments, looking at how it’s designed and managed for inclusivity. We’ll use what we learn to update our design briefs, so we embed recommendations into all future refurbishments and new builds. The marketing team is also reviewing all signage at our places and websites from a pan-disability point of view.

Dementia friendly communities

Emma: We’ve got 3,000 homes to deliver at Canada Water and, as part of this, we want to create an inclusive, intergenerational community. The idea is that different ages and abilities will live side by side – from student homes to dementia friendly senior living – around a central garden and allotments, where they can all come together for communal activities. Concepts for this came from a summer school run this year by TEDI-London, a higher education provider based at Canada Water. Nearly 150 students from 21 countries completed dementia friendly training and worked with industry, NGOs, local governments and academics on solutions to make Canada Water dementia friendly. We’re also looking to introduce a mobility centre, encouraging sustainable travel and dementia friendly mobility.

Ginny Warr

Ginny: Many of the teams at our retail centres have completed dementia friendly training, so they can give extra support to customers. Southwark Dementia Action Alliance trained the team at our Surrey Quays shopping centre in Canada Water. The centre has also hosted a ‘dementia experience hub’, giving people insights into what it can be like to have dementia, in partnership with Time and Talents, a local charity that has a unit in the centre.

We’ve run Purple Tuesday at our retail centres for the last three years, to focus attention on improving the customer experience for disabled people. This year, we launched the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower programme, ramping up training at our head office and across our portfolio. Sometimes it’s about giving people a little more time or assistance, which ties into our values around listening and understanding.

Co-creating for the future

Ginny: Inclusion works best when people come together. That’s why we’re bringing together skills and expertise across our business, engaging our customers and communities, and thinking about inclusion in the whole. For our customers and our staff, we are open to all.

Emma: There is a spirit of co-creation and piloting at Canada Water, of exploration and evolution. It will be a test bed for truly inclusive design. And where better to do this than Canada Water, a whole new bit of city.

Register for ADI 2020 where British Land will host a symposium dedicated to dementia-related design


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