We all have our favourite places. Places where we go to that make us feel happy, help us relax and unwind from our often hectic everyday lives. These places may be close to home or further afield. Chances are that a common thread running through our favourite places is that they are outdoors.

So, what makes us love a particular spot on the map? What draws us back again and again? Memories of times spent there certainly play a part but there’s more to it than that.

At OOBE, our role is to make these favourite places and reconnect people with nature. Places that are enjoyable to spend time in and that make us feel good. We do this through our a placemaking approach founded on the National Design Guide’s principles of Character, Community and Climate.

Character. Best described as a place’s identity and its context. In the design process we believe that each site is unique. It has something specific that makes it special and it is our job to identify what these are and produce design solutions that are also unique.  This can be linked to the cultural heritage of the place or the existing landscape, such as Littlehaven, Slough Ice Arena and Oasis Academy.  In this way we look beyond the site boundaries to root schemes in their immediate physical and cultural contexts, enhance the surroundings, and establish green, pedestrian and cyclist links.

Community. This includes safety, easy of movement, vibrancy, and diversity.  A place can only be truly successful if it meets end user’s needs and helps community interaction which leads to stronger communities. The importance of which has certainly become more important in these recent turbulent times. This is why engaging with local communities, clients, and relevant stakeholders at the start of a project is so important. It helps to develop a full understanding of existing and potential uses of a site.  In this way we produce vibrant places with a multitude of uses and users in mind. We provide well connected, flexible, and welcoming spaces that offer a variety of experiences.  Safety, ease of movement and maintenance are also key to ensure the long-term success of schemes like Tameside One, Redcar and Cleveland Leisure and Community Heart and Oldham Leisure Centre.

Climate. Is the design an efficient use of resources and resilient?  Producing natural-based and long-lasting design solutions with minimal environmental impact is at the heart of our placemaking approach. We design flexible places which can adapt with the needs of the community and respond to pressing environmental concerns such as flooding, urban heating, carbon emissions and biodiversity loss. This can be seen in project including The Biosphere, Maiden Castle Sports Park and the Barbara Hepworth Building.

I think we can all agree that the last few months have shown all of us how much we need and value our outdoor places. It is something that most of us take for granted and was a massive miss when necessary restrictions were imposed. At a fundamental level we have a calling to be in the outside world and crave a close connection to nature and the health and wellbeing benefits being in outdoor spaces brings.

This is why at OOBE we always push what is possible on our projects. We will continue to deliver places that people love spending time in – from pupils planting veggies in the school allotment; co-workers sitting and chatting on terraced seating on their lunchbreak; students discussing their latest project on a campus lawn; keeping fit on the local trim-trail; sipping on a drink on your apartment block’s roof top terrace; enjoying a picnic in the glade of a new woodland to having a family kickabout in the park at the weekend. The pleasure we gain from being in a well design outdoor space plays such a key part in our lives. Here’s to making more favourite places.