Engaging debate with The Building Society

Situated in the heart of Fitzrovia in Central London, The Building Society was established by engineers Elliot Wood to act as a physical space in which to bring together those working in the built environment; to educate, inspire and action ideas not just for business but for social and environmental reform. Rockwell were delighted, therefore, when they reached out to interview Jonathan Manns, our Board Director and Head of Planning and Development, seeking his thoughts on housing, workspace, hospitality and the high street.

Jon took an optimistic tone, setting out the benefits of both an opportunity for reflection and the scope for this to benefit the built environment. He began by stressing the extent to which the experience of Covid-19 has been circumstantial and has made us think again about the way in which we design and use our cities. He flagged how it had shone a spotlight on the ‘the importance of flexibility in the space we design’ and the benefits of local amenity, suggesting that it had made us better-appreciate quality and form as well as reminding us of the need to ensure ‘good quality developments that offer opportunities for different types of environment and degrees of relief’. 

He did not support the proposition that the future of London was now in doubt, stressing the London’s fundamental qualities and the demand which exists for these types of experience. He went on to flag the unexpected benefits which local retail has experienced and the extent to which more polycentric ways of working may create new opportunities for suburban and local centres. He also picked-up on thinking in Rockwell’s Nomad City report, which sets out how the hotel industry is adapting to changes in guest expectation and behaviour, alongside the benefits which greater sociability and a more semi-public focus can have. Illustrating this, he used the example of how ground floors increasingly offer publicly accessible bars, gyms and co-working space which could help to create ‘a density of activity in the high street’ which will only be to their benefit.

Jon was interviewed on behalf of The Building Society by Oliver Wood, Director of Housing at Ayre Chamberlain Gaunt. To watch or share, please visit The Building Society website. Likewise, if you’re working on a project or idea and would like to engage with Rockwell, simply get in touch via [email protected]