Festive greetings + our 2017 publication!


Festive greetings from the team at HERE+NOW! 

We hope you've had a brilliant year, and wish you all the best for 2018.

We've had a brilliant year working with some really inspiring people on a diverse range of landscape architecture, urban design, and research projects that put people at the heart of design.

Interested in finding out a bit more about some of our work in 2017? We've just released a publication summarising our work in this, our third year of business, which we'd love to share with you. 


The SeaField: Public Life Hack!

Over the last month we delivered a 'public life hack' programme as part of our first ever Co-design Summer School. This series of temporary landscape interventions and community engagement events enlivened the Seafield promenade near Portobello, Edinburgh.  Twelve participants took part in the month-long summer school - facilitated and delivered by the HERE+NOW team.  Together their interventions revealed the potential of Seafield as a place for both public life, and as a walking and cycling route.  Interventions were monitored and their impact on public life documented.  

The Sea Field Project is an ongoing self-initiated project delivered on a voluntary basis by HERE+NOW.  The project aims to re-imagine the opportunity and potential of Edinburgh’s waterfront for people and for nature.  Inspiration came from the observation that the Seafield urban area faces onto the Firth of Forth and North Sea beyond, yet seems to turn its back on this beautiful landscape. While it provides a well used walking and cycling route between Portobello and Leith, people tend not to spend time here, and the wide promenade space is currently better known for the backs of car showrooms and the bus depot rather than an exciting vibrant place to spend time. We feel this stunning sea frontage and landscape has potential to become a city-wide destination, with improved dunescape and planting, and more opportunity for public life as a vibrant place to meet and spend time, walk or cycle.

As part of the summer school, the 12 participants were split into 3 teams. Each team used a co-design approach and process to develop their ideas and built interventions.  This included a mix of community engagement, ideas testing with initial prototypes, user feedback, and monitoring and evaluation techniques to asses the impact on pedestrians and cyclists movement. This culminated in a final built intervention on 28 July as part of this design development.  The three groups presented their findings and process to a panel of stakeholders, including representatives from Sustrans ScotlandCity of Edinburgh CouncilSRUC and Art Walk Porty.  Many thanks to these partners for their support.  

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Please get in touch if you'd like to know more about this project, visit the Seafield project webpage, or download the summer school presentations.

Leith Creative Project Progress

HERE+NOW have been busy building at the Edinburgh Tool Library!  As part of Leith Creative's 'People and Places – Make Leith Better' project, a collaboration between Leith Late, Citizen Curator, Lateral North and Biomorphis, we built a giant size Place Standard Tool which will be mobile and interactive to gather people’s perceptions of Leith. 

The wheel will tour around Leith, literally rolling along the streets to pop-up locations along the way.  The tour will begin on June 15th as part of the Leith Late 2017 festival opening night at the Newkirkgate at the foot of Leith Walk.  You can then find it touring along Leith Walk and around Out of The Blue as part of the ‘Leith Listings’ exhibition in collaboration with Biomorphis, this event and the rest of the tour will be part of Architecture Fringe 2017.  An interactive exhibition at St Margaret’s House between the 12th and 23rd of June will be open for more opportunities to contribute to the mobile Place Standard Tool. 

HERE+NOW hope you can join us for our curated conversation at the exhibition on the 12th July at the public Gallery 1, where we invite an open and lively discussion about what we love and what we can improve in Leith.

The Sea Field. Public life hack!

Join us to deliver some creative landscape interventions and engaging events as part of our first ever co-design summer school programme in July 2017!

The Sea Field Project is an ongoing self-initiated project delivered on a voluntary basis by HERE+NOW.  As part of this ongoing project we are planning a 'public life hack' programme for the month of July! A series of temporary landscape interventions and community engagement events at the Seafield promenade near Portobello, Edinburgh that reveal the potential of Seafield as a place, and document their impact on public life.  

Why Sea Field?  The project aims to re-imagine the opportunity and potential of Edinburgh’s waterfront for people and for nature. The Seafield urban area faces onto the Firth of Forth and North Sea beyond, yet seems to turn its back on this beautiful landscape. While it provides a well used walking and cycling route between Portobello and Leith, people tend not to spend time here, and the wide promenade space is currently better known for the backs of car showrooms and the bus depot rather than an exciting vibrant place in which to spend time. We feel this stunning sea frontage and landscape has potential to become a city-wide destination, with improved dunescape and planting, and more opportunity for public life as a vibrant place to meet and spend time.  Some of the outputs for this will feed into the ongoing project, including as part of Porty Art Walk 2017.

Interested in working as part of a team to take a lead on some of these interventions? Applications are now open for this 2 day per week free summer school!  9 individuals will be selected to work in small teams with training and guidance from HERE+NOW to deliver a total of 3 physical landscape interventions or engagement events in July 2017. Please see the programme for dates you would need to be able to commit to. In turn we can offer experience in co-design, facilitating community events, piloting techniques, action-based research.  Volunteers may be students, recent graduates or interested professionals, and should have an interest in public space or urban design, landscape architecture, and community engagement.

To apply:  take a look at the programme and key dates, and email us a covering letter and CV / Portfolio by 2 June.

Granton:hub garden

Since the beginning of 2017, HERE+NOW CIC has been working with Granton:Hub to develop ideas and a design for its garden space, and a flexible strategy for its implementation.  Granton:hub is a start-up charity with an interest in local culture, history and environment. With help from local organisations such as Granton Community Growers, HERE+NOW, Edinburgh Living Landscape in association with the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and a number of other partnering organisations, the plan is to transform the unused brownfield land at the Madelvic site over the spring / summer 2017 for mutual benefit of the Granton community and visitors to Granton:Hub. 

Having recently secured a 5-year lease with the landowners, EDI developers and The City of Edinburgh Council, the historic Madelvic factory site is to become a place for biodiversity and culture. 

Madelvic Factory was the UK's first purpose-built car factory in 1898, conceived by Sir William Peck to develop and manufacturer electric carriages. In its time it produced a two-seater electric car; although Sir William wasn't successful, the approach to environmental sustainability is at the heart of the projects and partners' interests at Granton:Hub. 

This year of activity in garden design and build will see the creation of new pathways, fencing and several gate access points into the garden. There will be a wildflower nursery developing coastal planting mixes and a community growing area, sitting areas with decking made from reclaimed pallets. Wild nature gardening opportunities and techniques will be demonstrated among the existing buddleia and thorn scrub vegetation, and habitats will be nurtured in the existing wet areas. The Scrapstore and a re-purposed Bus will be relocated from Meanwhile Fountainbridge, providing opportunities for outdoor creative work and exhibition areas. A Community Café is also being developed within Madelvic House, fusing the artists, creatives, gardeners, local historians, researchers, and families who call this local Hub their home. 

On Friday 31st March, we officially kicked off the programme of building and gardening works in the outdoor space, by leveling an area, capping it with Type 1 and a geotextile membrane, and surfacing it with fine bark mulch. A path was built in the same way to connect with the wildflower nursery area and the front entrance gate.  The Living Landscapes project sowed a huge range of wildflowers into root trainers ready to become wildflower plugs for sale or planting locally. The project is taking root, and we're excited to be part of the transformation! 

The Liveable City

What makes a ‘liveable city’?  How are we trying to achieve this in Edinburgh?

There are many different ways to define what makes a liveable city.   We each have our own conception of what a place being ‘liveable’ means, based on our own perspective, experience, professional background and subjective opinions. What qualities do you think a liveable city has?

As landscape architects our focus is usually on the external spaces in between buildings - from the public street spaces as soon as you step outside your front door to the local parks, public squares, community gardens or other spaces in between buildings.   It is important to ensure that their design is fit for purpose. One that works for all the end users that will experience these spaces and use them once built.  As a result, at HERE+NOW we feel that to create a liveable city it is important to take a user-centred approach to design. Helping to realise designs or outputs that reflect the needs and aspirations of the full range and diversity of people that will use these spaces.  

By not just designing FOR people, but designing WITH them, the outputs of projects that take this user centred approach create more liveable places, that the people who will use them actually want to spend time, and that are most sensitive to their context and the people and place qualities that are already there.

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Whilst each project is different, at HERE+NOW we use a variety of different methods to engage with local people or the end users of these spaces.  This might be in the form of community engagement events, workshops and walkabouts (getting people outside helps people think differently, see the space that we’re talking about in practice, helps form relationships through informal conversations, or can include more structured workshops that help gather information to input into the design), or prototyping and piloting (testing ideas as they evolve in practice, using models or mock-ups with moveable parts to allow users to play around with and communicate their aspirations or input into an evolving design process, or making temporary interventions in spaces that tests what could become a longer term more permanent outcome or design output).

We use the outputs of this engagement with local people or the end users of a place to feed into a delivered design outcome, recommendation or response that has the backing, genuine input and incorporates the knowledge and local expertise of the end user - the people that this design affects.  Core to our ambition to help create or design liveable places, is therefore finding ways to invite input from local people, and then sharing this local knowledge and aspiration. Either by integrating it as part of the fully realised design, or via events, exhibitions or publications which share and celebrate local places.


What makes a ‘liveable city’?

So how do we define what makes a ‘liveable’ city or place?  One way of defining it (borrowed from the Livable City organisation in San Francisco) is one with qualities such as affordability, creating a diverse and resilient local economy, robust neighbourhoods and communities, accessible and sustainable ways to get around, and vibrant public spaces.

Of this list, it is the last three qualities that we have most input into as landscape architects and urban designers in our work as HERE+NOW.   You can argue that these three qualities are about designing and creating places that are good for people (robust neighbourhoods and communities), movement (accessible and sustainable ways to get around), and place (vibrant public spaces).  To achieve these three qualities, you need to combine the good design of the physical infrastructure of the built environment - or good ‘place design’ - together with ways to engage, empower and enable the people and communities that live there to thrive.

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When both these aspects are done well, creating ‘liveable cities’ in this way, can lead to benefits for both people and environment.  For example people’s health and well-being can be improved as a result of walkable, cycleable neighbourhoods that encourage physical exercise,  green and pleasant places can help improve well-being and reduce stress, and places to meet and socialise with neighbours or bumping into others in the street.  Liveable cities can also lead to environmental benefits, in terms of biodiversity and ecosystem services - creating habitats, stormwater management, increased biodiversity and climate change resilience via an increase in green space within the urban fabric as part of this ‘good place design’.

What is ‘good’ place design?

As landscape architects and urban designers, I'll focus on 'good' place design in terms of public spaces and ‘outdoor’ urban environments.  

These ‘spaces between’ are crucial places in making a liveable city.  Every time you leave your front door these are the places you walk through to get to a destination - whether that be to go to work, the park on the weekend, to go to the shops or visit a friend. These public spaces often form our first impressions of cities, are often where you bump into friends or neighbours, and set the scene for everyday life.  If these are designed well, they enable a lot of other social activities to happen that wouldn’t otherwise be possible.  By making these outdoor urban environments ‘liveable’, i.e. with accessible to all, walkable, bikeable, and a vibrant place that is interesting to meet others, we can take huge steps towards creating a liveable city.

As HERE+NOW, we have developed 12 design principles for these types of public spaces in the built environment - whether they be streets, parks or urban squares. These 12 design principles are what we would consider best practice for ‘good’ place design. They are based on us summarising and synthesising the contemporary academic literature to date, boiling down the common agreed qualities to 12 core principles that the research agrees help create pleasant, attractive, and healthy public spaces.

These 12 core principles mean designing places are:

  • Sensory rich  (planting and material selection to give a range of sensory experiences and throughout the year)
  • Flexible spaces  (suitable for different activities)
  • Walkable  (pedestrian priority, wide paths, accessible surfaces)
  • Places for play  (close to where people live)
  • Variety of spaces  (a mix of public/private spaces, spaces suited to different users preferences)
  • Distinctive  (building on local character and identity, creating different distinct places)
  • Events and activities  (places people can come together, a framework from which activities can happen)
  • Easily navigated  (using landmarks for wayfinding, legible environment)
  • Green and restorative  (green space and planting)
  • Excellent facilities  (frequent seating, toilets in public space, accessible facilities)
  • Safe and secure  (natural surveillance, well-lit)
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How can we help form and engage communities around a place?

In addition to ‘good’ place design i.e. designing the built environment well, to create a liveable city the other most important factor from our experience is people.  How can we, as landscape architects help to facilitate, form and engage communities around a place?

At HERE+NOW we believe that people make places.   This social interaction and sense of community is really important in creating a vibrant liveable city.  By bringing people together around a place that is important to them, and by listening to and genuinely involving them as part of a design process, you get the best results in terms of robust, relevant place design.  We do this by taking a co-design approach to design a place together with local people (the local experts), and by helping to facilitate feelings of ownership and opportunity to get involved and active in local places along the way.  

Where a built design is not the outcome of community engagement, this process can also lead to outputs such as a ‘community brief’ summarising the needs and aspirations of the local community (residents, local businesses and other stakeholders) that allows funding to be sought to turn aspirations into reality or which feeds into urban planning for the area, a pilot intervention that helps test some of the ideas raised and sets the scene for longer term action, or the engagement process can help develop a series of productive discussions and relationships between different local stakeholders that can lead to longer term collaboration or action in the neighbourhood.

By taking an approach that deliberately integrates people and place and as part of an ongoing process, you can start to lay the groundwork for a more liveable city. Helping create opportunities to meet neighbours or make other social connections, increasing feelings of ownership that can lead to more active citizens, and helping form a framework around which people can form groups or increase their participation from.


How, as HERE+NOW, are we trying to achieve this in Edinburgh?

How can this mix of good built environment design, and community engagement be put into practice?   We’d like to highlight a couple of examples of projects we’ve worked on in Edinburgh that show, quite practically how we try to achieve these principles of creating a liveable city.  Often this is by bringing together a community around a place as part of a design process, or in terms of research with users of a particular places within the city to help with the planning of design interventions for the future.

Public Life Street Assessments

One example of this is a project we have been working on for Edinburgh City Council - Public Life Street Assessments.

We were commissioned by City of Edinburgh Council to research and analyse the issues and opportunities that currently exist in the street environment of 8 town centres across Edinburgh. These town centres are important as local hubs for residents, featuring local shops and amenities, as a place to bump into people you know, and each with their own character and identity.  Our Street Assessments aim to look at how these high streets are doing currently, what issues there are in terms of how they are experienced by users and local residents as a place, and also observe how they currently function in terms of movement on foot in particular, but also by bike. From there we make design recommendations to aim to improve the quality and liveability of these places - shown by an increase in public life.

To do this we use a variety of methods.  User interviews give us a good understanding from a user perspective of how it is to experience these places, and any current issues as well as opportunities for improvement.  We also use a whole host of other methods including pedestrian counts, tracing studies, behavioural mapping, demographic mapping of the ages of people present in the street, and direct observation through an immersive series of full days in each town centre.   

We then go through a rigorous analysis progress to find patterns in the data, and help highlight particular issues or where there might be opportunities to improve the design of the street environment.  This allows us to start to define how each town centres functions as both a place, but also in terms of movement for pedestrians.  They focus on direct observation as well as user experience, and combine this with our design expertise. The resulting suggestions for improvement and design recommendations come from this research baseline of information, but are also guided by other policies and guidance such as the Edinburgh Street Design Guidance.

Street assessment helps us to understand the current liveability of public street spaces, and has allowed us to assess these for a number of Edinburgh town centres.  They each have their strengths and weaknesses, but it’s a good starting point to understand how we can start to improve these aspects of liveability - making more vibrant, accessible, pleasant public places, where people can meet each other, spend time, as well as get around easily and enjoy the city. 


Hold Me Dear exhibition in Rodney Street tunnel

Another example is a community photography exhibition and series of workshop days we held in Canonmills, Edinburgh in late 2015.  This project relates to the ways that you can engage people and communities, acting as a catalyst that helps local people realise their aspirations for place - driving feelings of ownership over local places, enhancing the social connection between residents and different other local stakeholders, and building an improved and more liveable sense of place.

Our Hold Me Dear exhibition involved the transformation of an old railway tunnel using a community photography exhibition all about sense of place, that was developed from and with local people.  The exhibition displayed local people’s photographs of places in Edinburgh and other cities that they felt a personal connection with.   However, the strength of the project wasn’t just in the output, but also in the engagement that took place in the 6 months prior to this.  This helped to bring local stakeholders together and start to translate ideas and aspirations into realised outcomes.  

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The process started with an initial engagement in the Canonmills neighbourhood more than 6 months ahead of the final exhibition.  At that time a location for an intervention or improvement wasn’t set at all. We were testing a fluid process of community engagement whereby we started off just listening to local people about the issues and opportunities they felt existed for the neighbourhood.  We did this via spot interviews in the street with a large number of passing residents and visitors, and discussions with other key stakeholders such as businesses and local organisations.  This identified the tunnel as a key location where there were both a lot of issues at present -  people felt it was intimidating to walk through, often deserted, and scary.  But there was a lot of potential. Local people and organisations all saw potential in creating this as a destination for the neighbourhood, and making more of the tunnel in a way that made it a more positive space.  

To explore this further, we organised a Pep Talk event. We built on what we’d learnt from the initial interviews and discussions and held an event along the themes that had emerged and in the place people had shown most interest in transforming - the tunnel. This was pitched not as an ‘engagement event’, but as an interesting evening filled with inspiring speakers, live mural painting, and music in the tunnel. This drew a broader range of people and formed a starting point for further conversations about the tunnel and its potential.  The speakers for the evening were chosen based on their relevance to the initial ideas and aspirations local people and organisations had told us about for the tunnel.

The discussions and potential collaborations that were established from that event were summarised into a ‘community brief’. An agreed brief for the kind of intervention or change to the tunnel that the community and local organisations and businesses would support.  It included more potential for the tunnel to become a creative destination with more artwork, and the possibility for the community events. Making the tunnel a place you’d like to go, rather than be scared to walk through.

The next step was to pilot and prototype what an intervention like this might look like. We started planning an exhibition in the tunnel, delivering a series of workshop building days with local people and inviting photographs about local treasured places from residents. These formed the resulting photos in the exhibition and offered a chance to show local pride and involve a broader range of people in the space and project.

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The exhibition was installed for one month, and helped to show how the space could be transformed as a place for local people’s artwork to be displayed and for events.  Since then the exhibition has started a discussion about how the tunnel - or the adjacent Scotland St tunnel - could be better used as a creative local venue. There have been a number of subsequent events in the tunnel which have built on the relationships we developed with landowners in getting the project off the ground. We also monitored and evaluated the project to help capture some of the positive outputs that resulted from the project.

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We're hiring!


We're excited about a busy year ahead and will be looking for a new team member to join us to work on some exciting upcoming projects.

We are looking for a Landscape Architect (ideally Chartered) and who is passionate about community engagement. This would be for a 4 month freelance contract to end of May, for either 3 or 4 days per week. Immediate start preferable, with potential for this contract to be extended past May.

Interested? Get in touch with a portfolio and CV and a bit about yourself: hello@thehereandnow.org.uk  Deadline for applications: 12noon Monday 30 January.


Necessary skills and experience:

  • Landscape Architect with experience of project management, and ideally in delivering projects from conception through to construction.
  • Passionate about co-design, community engagement, and developing innovative ways of listening to the end user as part of a design process.
  • Friendly and enthusiastic, excited about the idea of being part of a small start-up trying to improve places by designing for people and environment

Desired (not essential):

  • Chartered Landscape Architect
  • Experience delivering co-design workshops and community engagement events.
  • Managing and delivery of LA projects within the Scottish context and planning systems

Got a minute?

Find out a bit more about HERE+NOW and the work we do in the 1 minute film below, or find out more about our work in our award-winning annual co-design publication!


St Margaret's house garden is coming to life!

It has been three busy and exciting months since our garden activity planning workshop in conjunction to #SpaceTo Sit at St Margaret’s House, where we had the chance to discuss ideas and share thought on the Woodland embankment right next to the studios. More than 15 people came along and helped to form briefs for the garden and install seats for everyone to use.

What have the local artists and community been up to together with HERE+NOW since July?  A portion of path is now open along the embankment for berry picking, foraging, dog walking, or just a quick stroll. Be careful about slippery parts along the route! The path climbs up to the top of the embankment for a stunning view towards St Margaret’s House and Restalrig. There’s plenty of brambles to be picked from the garden, apples and herbs ready to be eaten!

Seats can now be found along the path too, thanks to SpaceTo Sit. Two of the seats designed in June in Fountainbridge by a group of enthusiastic volunteers have now found their forever home between all the green on the embankment and offer a bit of rest after a steep climb on the path.

After an overwhelming response by the community and with the help of volunteers we were pleased to install St Margaret’s very first Herb Garden! Thyme, rosemary, sage, oregano and marjoram are only a few of the species growing on top on the embankment, ready to be picked to make a nice cup of tea or for cooking. All herbs are currently planted in two grow bags, which we hope to expand in the future to plant more vegetables and wildflowers. What species would you like to see grow in St Margaret’s?

Want to keep up with St Margaret’s Garden and all the events happening on the embankment? Join our ‘St Margaret’s Well Garden Community Group’ on Facebook. With 35 members to date, it is a great place to have a conversation about the garden and keep on touch with everyone involved.

Some very exciting times ahead for St Margaret’s Garden, so watch this space! 

#BloomingBricks at Porty Art Walk

As part of Porty Art Walk 2016 we were happy to invite participants to create their own #BloomingBricks - little bundles of seeds, soil and recycled paper bringing the nooks and crannies of Portobello (and beyond) to life with wildflowers across the city!  

Already part of the Porty Art Walk in 2015 with Stop+Sea, HERE+NOW were thrilled to be invited again to contribute to the Porty Art Walk curated programme of art works and installations across Portobello on Saturday 3 Sept 2016. 

With our stall on the Promenade and only a stone’s throw from Portobello’s historical kilns, the last two surviving pottery kilns in Scotland, we wanted to create a visual reference between our project and an interesting chapter of Portobello’s local history which provides an interesting and important local landmark.

With buckets of soil and clay, plenty of wildflower seeds, a briquette press and lots of energy, we were up and running at 12noon, ready to involve as many participants of all ages as possible. We were pleased by the enthusiasm and interest showed throughout the afternoon by everyone involved and were able to make over 70 Blooming Bricks to be scattered around Portobello, but also going as far as Fife and Glasgow.

We were overwhelmed by all the support and positive feedback received during the day and would like to thank all participants for taking part to Blooming Bricks. We would also like to thank Porty Art Walk for making this project possible, and Grow Wild Scotland and Kabloom for the seeds. 

We think Blooming Bricks was a great success and hope to see plenty of wildflowers popping up all over Portobello during the next Spring.

Did you take part to event and made your own brick? We would love to see their new homes and little seedlings popping up! Take a look at #BloomingBricks for updates and share your images, we would love to hear from you!


It's been an exciting and paint-covered week for the HERE+NOW team. We've just moved into a new lovely, bright, bigger studio space downstairs in the same building at 86-92 Causewayside, Edinburgh!  We've been constructing desks, painting walls and bringing the space to life with plants.

We hope to use this new spacious studio for more workshops, events and activities in the coming months as well as our annual celebration and open studio later in this year. We had our first co-design workshop in the space yesterday and are looking forward to many more! So stay tuned and the team hope to welcome you to our new studio soon.

In the meantime we are on the hunt for a studio buddy who would like to share part of the space with us. If you or someone you know if looking for desk space do get in touch!

design + build project opportunity!!

We're getting excited for this year's community DESIGN + BUILD project! Last year we loved working with the community at Cannonmills on the City Link Festival HOLD ME DEAR exhibition in the Rodney Street Tunnel, so we thought every year we'd self initiate a project which is all about action and impact. 

Approached by the Meanwhile Fountainbridge community to help create a project which celebrates their various creative and greenspace projects, we are inviting our network, local community and design / built environment students to get involved in a community design + build project... We would like as many teams of as possible to design a seat using reclaimed materials to bring the under-used public urban space at Fountainbridge to life. 

A DESIGN BRIEF has been developed in collaboration with the local community : could you design a seat for this space, and bring along the materials to build it during a one day hack event on the 18. June 2016?

There are awards in the following categories [Beautifully Crafted] [Cleverly Up-cycled] and [Best Team Effort], but most of all it's a great opportunity to experience a design and build event and put your design skills to use to benefit the creative community at Meanwhile Fountainbridge! 

If you're interested in putting a team together, designing and building a seat for this project, or would like to get involved in any other way please contact
hello@thehereandnow.org.uk  /  #SpaceToSit  /  Space To Sit Facebook page to be kept to date on the latest. 

Recognising the vibrant and passionate community within Fountainbridge is so important. The residents of this area embody a considerable wealth of creativity and the individuals who have liberated this site are inspiring. Equally, HERE + NOW’s approach has put the community at the centre of this project in a very meaningful way. From initially hearing about this project, and having attended their community briefing, HERE + NOW’s approach to people and place is consistently forward-thinking.
— Judith Liddle, Edinburgh Printmakers

Pecha Kucha : Edinburgh v.33

At HERE+NOW we were delighted to be asked to present at the Pecha Kucha Edinburgh VOL 33 on Friday 22 April 2016. The venue was the lovely Epworth Hall on Nicolson Square, and the speakers were selected to share ideas and inspiration in celebration of the 2016 year of Innovation in Architecture & Design.

We shared a selection of our tools and techniques, and used the Scottish Design Award nominated City Link Festival : Hold Me Dear exhibition as a case study for how we use these tools in practice.  We wanted to share how we've developed and iterated on the range of innovative tools and techniques which we use to help put people at the heart of design in the built environment.

The event was supported by New Media Scotland and the Festival of Architecture, and curated by Studio DuB.  Below are a few photos from the evening.

"We are excited be able to work with communities in such ways, and to make offer placemaking strategies, design solutions, and proposals for self-initiated projects which ENGAGE people, DESIGN places for their needs, and which are CURATED to share and inspire!"


We have now started the first part of the engagement work on the Inner Forth Landscape Initiative's (IFLI) "Telling the Inner Forth Story" project.

We focus on the children who live within the Inner Forth area and last week we had our first walkabout with a mix of P6 and P7 children from Fallin Primary School. We had an amazing afternoon with them exploring the Fallin Bing together. The children were very enthusiastic and shared with us many great stories. The children know many ‘secret’ spots around the Bing where they like to go with friends, and they drew and wrote their stories on postcards so we can 'send' and share their stories of the Fallin Bing across the Forth through our next workshops.

We are at the moment in contact with both primary schools and secondary schools to have more walkabouts in this great area of the Forth. The weather is just getting better every day, so we are looking forward to exploring much more of Inner Forth Landscape together with local children soon.


The Place Standard is an innovative tool created by the NHS to support the delivery of high quality places. Whilst contributing to the SSCI Charrette Mainstreaming Programme, the HERE+NOW team were excited to have a chance to apply this first-hand at both the Blairgowrie and Lennoxtown design charrettes.

The Place Standard offers an easy-to-understand graphic wheel to spark conversations within local communities and allow a completely anonymous, but comprehensive expression of individual opinions within local groups.

The 14 different ‘slices’ that form the Place Standard wheel go from more tangible and practical topics such as green spaces, traffic, parking and the built environment to more abstract, but equally important themes, such as sense of identity/belonging, perceived sense of control and relationship with local authorities.

The topics are rated from 1 to 7 with a point on the graph, with 1 as the lowest score and 7 as the highest. This results in a range of eclectic community ‘footprints’. These are a valuable way to learn about each unique place. We used the Place Standard in this way at both the Blairgowrie and Lennoxtown design charrettes, where we had the chance to apply the Place Standard on groups of all sizes.        

With only the need of a printer and pens, the Place Standard assessment process is straight-forward and quick and can be tailored in length according to the receptiveness of the audience.  It gives a voice to every participant, who can as a result express personal opinions and views on a neutral and open ground.

What makes the Place Standard a fantastic tool for place-making is not only its immediacy in delivering an overview of communities, but also its complete openness to the public. The test is freely accessible and completely open-source, and can be found here together with more details on its scope and uses. Everyone can easily apply it, whether it is at group workshops or to simply have a peek out of curiosity. It is something we at HERE+NOW are excited to use in the future as part of our co-design in landscape architecture approach.


Uula Saastamoinen has been working with the HERE+NOW team for the last 4 weeks to learn more about the co-design processes we use in all our design, place-making and landscape architecture projects before he goes on to study a Masters in Landscape Architecture. Uula has been learning about a different aspect of the work we do each week. This is his fourth and final week of a series of blogs about his experiences and learnings during his time with us.  We'd like to thank Uula for having been a brilliant addition to the HERE+NOW team the last 4 weeks!


"In my last week, I continued to work on the summer workshops programme - a self-initiated project HERE+NOW are starting to develop for summer 2016.  I prepared a list of activities, most of which have successfully been used elsewhere, and could easily be adapted to this specific site. I was also evaluating potential partnership opportunities with different local organisations, and how they might be able to help, either financially or in other equally important ways.

The timing of the workshops is also quite crucial as there could be opportunities to organise events at the same time with other nearby events. There is a lot of potential to use what is already in place to create something new, which makes imagining different activities easy and fun. I’m also sure that the locals will have more amazing ideas. I’m very excited to see what will come of it!

    As it is the last day of my internship, I would also like to thank HERE+NOW for the fantastic opportunity to see this side of landscape architecture. I feel even more inspired than I did before starting my internship, and I’m hoping that the importance of co-design becomes more widely recognised because it has potential to change people’s lives. It’s great to see people who really love what they do."

-    Uula

 Uula (bottom left) and the HERE+NOW team at the Street Assessment design workshop earlier this week. 

Uula (bottom left) and the HERE+NOW team at the Street Assessment design workshop earlier this week. 


The whole HERE+NOW research team had a really productive design workshop this morning as part of a series of Public Life Street Assessment projects we are currently working on for client the City of Edinburgh Council.   We have been looking at a total of 5 different local town centres across Edinburgh (Leith Walk, Bruntsfield/Morningside, Portobello, Stockbridge and Nicolson/Clerk St) to research and analyse these key public realm spaces and their potential for increased public life.   

Following the 'on-the-street' research and data collection using direct observational methodologies inspired by Jan Gehl (amongst many others), the team analyse this qualitative and quantitative data in detail, learning from a mix of pedestrian counts, behavioural mapping, street auditing, test walks and user interviews with locals to help identify the existing movement and place function of the town centre. We then go on to use this analysis to help start to form suggested design responses and ideas for actions aimed at helping to improve public life in the public realm - from shorter term 'quick wins', through to pilot studies and longer term design responses - all grounded in solid and in-depth research of the public realm and how its users experience the street environment.  

It's a brilliant process to go through - mixing quantitative and qualitative research methodologies based on user experience, followed up with rigorous data analysis and then the transformation of this research into a plan for action and suggested solutions using our design team comprised of landscape architects, urban designers and planners.  We are really passionate about this work and thrilled to be involved in projects such as this which combine research with engagement and design to start to create potential solutions to help improve both public life and the quality of the pedestrian environment in these town centre street spaces.   Find out more here


Uula Saastamoinen is working with the HERE+NOW team for a 4 week period to learn more about the co-design processes we use in all our design, place-making and landscape architecture projects before he goes on to study a Masters in Landscape Architecture. Uula is learning about a different aspect of the work we do each week. This is his third of a series of blogs about his experiences and learnings.


Hi again!

This week I was looking at different ideas for a summer workshop which would take place in an existing community, bringing different community groups together while celebrating the legacy of the site. This would also provide an opportunity for students to add something to their portfolio as they could take part in the design and implementation process.

There are quite a few variables to consider when planning a workshop: who are the parties involved in the site, what kind of things the locals want to see, are there any groups wanting to get involved, where to get funding, can the workshop be timed with other events, how long should it last, and so on. I was looking at different ways to use a site, and how to make use of everything that is already there, while finding ways to bring all the community groups together and contribute to the workshop.

This week I was mainly concentrating on finding information about similar projects around the world and potential sources of funding. I also started sketching some simple creative ideas which I thought were not hard to implement, and which might work well. I’m continuing the project next week, and hoping to gather more information about sources of funding and parties wanting to get involved in the workshop.

- Uula

 Plywood seating for movie nights

Plywood seating for movie nights

 Workshops and art exhibition venue

Workshops and art exhibition venue

 Cube Hack

Cube Hack


Telling the Inner Forth Story

We are delighted to be working in collaboration with Bright 3D on the Inner Forth Landscape Initiative's (IFLI) "Telling the Inner Forth Story" project. I'm just back from a tour of the sites proposed for beacons across this project area, and full of wonder and inspiration at this fascinating landscape. 

The IFLI project spans 4 local authority areas, Fife, Clackmannanshire, Stirling and Falkirk. Within these, and centred around the Firth of Forth, lies a regional tract of land which is of huge significance for its social, historical, industrial, and environmental heritage. 

Our project task is two-fold: to engage the people who live within the Inner Forth area in a project which shares the rich and multi-layered stories associated with the place's multifaceted heritage, and to design a sequence of Beacons and Markers which will be sited throughout the area as physical interventions sharing these stories. 

A perfect piece of landscape architecture with co-design at its heart: we can't wait to begin our strategy for engaging with school children to get them to share their locally treasured places around the Inner Forth area as a way to unlock the potential through the generations: watch this space on our HOLD ME DEAR website.... 

"The Firth of Forth lies at the physical and cultural heart of our scheme. Not only has the Forth carved out the natural features of the landscape, it has also shaped the social and economic development of the area. Resource use has heavily influenced the landscape, from land reclamation and peatland drainage to development of docks and coal mining. One of the most unique features of the area is the juxtaposition of history, nature and industry, which gives the area an often overlooked interest."  IFLI, 2013.

HERE+NOW IFLI Telling the Inner Forth Story site visit


Uula Saastamoinen is working with the HERE+NOW team for a 4 week period to learn more about the co-design processes we use in all our design, place-making and landscape architecture projects before he goes on to study a Masters in Landscape Architecture. Uula is learning about a different aspect of the work we do each week. This is his second of a series of blogs about his experiences and learnings.


Hi again!

This week I took part in a public life street assessment project for several town centres in Edinburgh. The purpose of street assessment is to collect data about the 'public life' of particular streets and spaces for analysis to enable the making of better informed decisions for their future improvement.

I visited Nicolson St/Clerk St, Stockbridge and Portobello on three consecutive days, and made observations about obstacles and other things which might affect the flow of pedestrians and how desirable these places are. I documented my findings with a camera, and I also interviewed local people to get their view on different pros and cons of the area. All these tasks are part of a larger system of mapping people’s movement at different times of the day and different days of the week, and are designed to provide solutions which take into account the locals’ aspirations and knowledge, meaning they also end up being cost-effective - targeting solutions that maximise impact for users.

One of the key things I noticed was the series of issues caused by narrow streets and very limited space for sidewalks, especially in places like Stockbridge where there are many young families. Bus stops provide shelter, but can also act as obstacles during busy hours. While the initial expression of the area is important, local people’s input is very priceless in knowing where to get started. The result is a huge pile of data, which is then used to suggest small and big changes to these town centres. It was an exciting week for me, and I am glad I had an opportunity to take part in the process!


  • Uula


street assessment


We're excited to have Uula Saastamoinen working with the HERE+NOW team for the next 4 weeks. Uula is originally from Finland but studied for his MA Hon Geography in Edinburgh where he became interested in place-making.  Uula is joining us to learn more about the co-design processes we use in all our design, place-making and landscape architecture projects before he goes on to study a Masters in Landscape Architecture. Uula will be learning about different aspects of the work we do each week for the next 4 weeks and will be writing a series of blogs about his experiences and learnings.  Welcome Uula! 



Hi everyone! I am working with HERE+NOW for a few weeks to learn more about co-design in landscape architecture, which is of great interest to me.

As it is my first week, I have been researching different practices for co-design and place-making from around the world. I've learned that when the locals are at the centre of the process, the solutions are often very cost-effective, as they can be targeted appropriately.

Some of the innovative tactics I've found for engaging with the locals in the initial planning process include:

  • Park Hack; cubes which were installed to a park in Shoreditch, allowing the locals to go inside and write and draw to the walls what kind of changes they would want to see in the park. Data was collected over three weeks, and the process is very democratic as everyone can engage with the cubes on their own time. This was also the most cost-effective way, given the limited budget. 
  • Memory-sharing, either by using an online platform where people can share images and stories of their favourite place, organising actual gatherings where people can share stories, or a combination of both (e.g. an exhibition of photos taken by the people).

One of the things that I also regularly noticed in my research was that one of the challenges to overcome in co-design can be a lack of trust between the locals and planners, and the fact people are not used to being part of the planning process. Ways to get people excited before the actual co-design charrettes might include things like leafletting, or using social media in co-operation with local community groups. Reaching different age groups (who all use spaces in different ways) is also crucial.

All in all, I was delighted to see so many creative strategies being used globally, and I can’t wait to learn more about co-design during my time with HERE+NOW.

- Uula


Image credit: Project for Public Spaces