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December 17, 2014

Design matters

It hard to believe that all areas of public realm have at some point passed through a design process. Clearly, design in itself is no guarantee of quality as our cities, towns and villages are littered with unloved and uncared for spaces. Yet we all know instinctively that well designed public realm is a crucial factor in our individual and collective health and wellbeing. Even more so when the design process has been community led. A new Carnegie Prize for Design and Wellbeing has just been awarded to Auchencairn.



Carnegie Trust

A new report by the Carnegie UK Trust has highlighted the importance of well-designed public spaces, such as parks, town squares, local streets and community gardens to people’s health and wellbeing.

The findings come as the Trust announced the overall winner of its first ever Carnegie Prize for Design and Wellbeing, Auchencairn Link Park, a community led project based in Dumfries and Galloway. The prize has been awarded in partnership with the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) and the Royal Society of Ulster Architects (RSUA) and celebrates projects where local communities have played a leading role in improving public spaces in town centres through high quality design and architecture.

Auchencairn Link Park is a community led project to transform wasteland at the centre of the Dumfries and Galloway village of Auchencairn into a thriving community garden and learning spaces has today been announced the overall winner.

Martyn Evans, Chief Executive of the Carnegie UK Trust, explains more: “There is a clear link between the quality of our local environment and our wellbeing. Our intention with the Carnegie Prize for Design and Wellbeing was to shine a spotlight on the important role that well-designed, community-led, public spaces can play in supporting good mental and physical health, providing places for people to come together and facilitating local enterprise and regeneration. Our 5 inspirational prize winners and the overall winner do just that.”

“However well-designed community led public spaces should be the rule not the exception. That is why today we set out 5 actions that policymakers can take to ensure that more communities have access to good quality public spaces.”

“Community-led design is both a means and an end to improved wellbeing and is a particularly valuable tool in helping tackle deeply rooted health inequalities. More support for projects like those highlighted through the Carnegie Prize should be a key component of a preventative approach to health improvement.”

“Communities need better access to funding and support to turn their design ideas and aspirations into reality. Local and national governments need to support and encourage community creativity and participation. Community led public space projects should be central to town centre regeneration efforts and the link between good quality public space and improved social and economic outcomes should be clearly reflected in local strategies and plans.”

The Prize which was launched in March 2014 was open to community led townscape improvement projects across Scotland and Northern Ireland. The 5 winners (four from Scotland and one from Northern Ireland) who received a prize of £2,500 each were unveiled at the RIAS convention in May. The Auchencairn project will also receive an additional £1,000 in recognition of their outstanding achievement.

Iain Connelly, President of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS), said: ”I was delighted to be involved in the judging for the Carnegie prize for Design and Wellbeing. There is no doubt in my mind that good design most certainly does make a difference – and potentially, a significant difference – to the lives and wellbeing of communities and individuals across Scotland. Good design doesn’t have to be expensive, so it shouldn’t be seen as an extra. Rather, it should be present in everything we do, for every project, however big, however small.”

Margaret Burns, Chair of NHS Health Scotland said: “We welcome the findings of the report which show the important role well-designed, community led, public spaces can play in supporting good mental and physical health and tackling inequalities. Empowering communities to help shape how public services are planned and delivered, is beneficial for everyone’s wellbeing.”

Phoebe Marshall, Auchencairn Community Garden (overall winner) said: “We are delighted with the recognition of our work with the community. Throughout, this project has been about people, and whilst community workshops and work parties are not always the simplest way to create a garden, it is an approach which creates great experiences, knowledge, new friendships and a beautiful space that will be used by the whole village for a range of activities.”

”The project has really brought the community together and we are immensely proud of the energy and enthusiasm local people have given to transform Auchencairn Link park from a disused field into the lovely garden that it is today”.