Mapping complex urban systems for sustainability and health: Kisumu regional development plan

Background: In partnership with the Wellcome Trust-funded CUSSH programme, Kisumu County, and Maseno University aimed to address historically uneven regional development and vulnerability to climate change, while seeking systemic and transformative improvements to the region’s sustainability and health.

Role: Spatial Analysis and Mapping Lead

  • Guided project team through remote spatial analysis sessions with digital collaboration tools during pandemic travel restrictions.
  • Spatially mapped accessible and multi-layered analysis to represent the region’s various natural and human opportunities and constraints.

Impact: The insights generated through Rob’s spatial analysis and mapping served as a crucial resource for the development of Kisumu’s regional plan. This helped to inform strategies for addressing uneven regional development, and vulnerability to climate change and enhanced the region’s sustainability and health.

Spotlighting best practices for city leaders: C40 Inclusive Climate Action study

Background: The C40 Cities Inclusive Climate Action programme provided a best-practice knowledge resource for city Mayors. The case study aimed to showcase actions that jointly tackle climate change and social inequities. The project’s primary research included a series of interviews with city representatives from a variety of places and socio-economic contexts.

Role: Social Research & Communications Lead

  • Rob synthesised interviews and highlighted key learnings as visually-rich stories within a guidebook designed for city leaders.
  • Following the guidebook design, communications materials of the resource were produced to be distributed via digital channels to maximise its reach and shareability.

Impact: The Inclusive Climate Action in Practice guidebook increased the impact and broadened the reach of traditionally inaccessible urban development resources. Positive client feedback described the guidebook as subsequently becoming C40’s “gold standard” for all other guidance resources for city majors.

An equitable future for (and by) 10 million Angelenos: LA Countywide Sustainability Plan

Background: The LA Countywide Sustainability Plan aimed to identify a comprehensive set of the most pressing issues in the region and to set out a bold action plan to tackle them. One of the strategic outreach and involvement challenges required by the LA County Chief Sustainability Office (CSO) was to equitably appeal to the county’s 10 million diverse residents through the plan.

Role: Brand identity design; project visioning workshop facilitation; communications and messaging strategy; website design; and stakeholder engagement.

Design research question: “It’s not just what you say; it’s how you say it”. How might a communications and messaging strategy help to enable the countywide sustainability plan to resonate with a broader spectrum of people and their values?

Response: During the first stage, we sought to understand the project’s cultural identity through contextual research during visits to the county. These observations formed the basis of workshop materials for an exploratory brand visioning workshop during which we facilitated project stakeholders and partners to explore values that resonated with them and the County at large. The synthesised workshop outputs informed the design of a suite of communication and messaging materials for a variety of in-person and virtual channels, which included an interactive project information website, workshop materials for consultation sessions, and a brand and writing training guide.

Impact: With an ‘equity-meets-design’ approach and both inclusive and accessible in-person and virtual methods, the project bridged the complexities of LA’s broad and diverse audiences. Ultimately, the Plan enhanced the voices and influence of Angeleños and received the NLA Sustainable Communities award.

For more: see the article featured on or visit the project information site.

Reimagining streets and places: driverless vehicles sprint

Background: A global series of problem-solving workshops (Design Sprints), where experts from the technology, transportation, planning, design, and policy fields came together to explore urban opportunities to reimagine public spaces and places in an era of autonomous vehicles. The key challenge of the event was to enable tangible contributions from over 250 participants from across 9 cities around the world within a limited timeframe.

Research question: If many hands make light work, what do many hearts and heads make? Equitable and effective problem-solving of complex challenges means including the diverse backgrounds, expertise, and local knowledge of all participants.

Services: Co-design workshops to reimagine public spaces and places with the advent of autonomous vehicles.

Role: Sprint Format Designer & Session Facilitator

  • Rob designed a Design Sprint workshop format, process and set of supporting materials to be carried out by local teams in multiple cities around the world concurrently.
  • During the London Sprint workshop, Rob facilitated participants through a process that began by understanding the challenges and opportunities of the topic of autonomous vehicles, generating multiple ambitious ideas, and finished by prototyping and iterating complete solutions.
  • Following the sprint workshops, the key findings and emerging ideas were summarised as a report and circulated back to the participants, as well as as a public release.

Impact: The Design Sprint process applied to this large-scale urban context and challenge was praised by various participants and described by one as, “a more practical way to build meaningful relationships while solving shared problems”. The specific findings of the design sprint topic strategically positioned Buro Happold as an industry thought leader in how to plan for new forms of urban environments that could incorporate autonomous vehicles in the future. Rob has since refined the co-design process to guide other similar collaborative processes. These include Health-first Urban Resilience Design Sprint (New York Resilience Summit, 2017); Scotland’s Arctic Future (Scottish Government Design Sprint, 2018); Redesigning the Curb (Harvard University Design School, 2018); Designing for Student Wellbeing (Edinburgh Design Sprint, 2019).

For more: see the article featured on or download PDF a copy of the conclusions report.

Exploring public aspirations for a future UK town: Bedford Placemaking Study

Services: Public Insight Survey Campaign & Persona Building

The Challenge: Buro Happold were commissioned to explore the opportunity for a new town outside of London that would be unlocked by East-West railway plans. The project considered the economic case, related to the level of jobs and housing growth it could potentially accommodate, along with investigating how the site could appeal to high-value employment sectors.

The Solution: As part of the study, Buro Happold delivered a public insight survey by convening a team of researchers to collect and analyse qualitative data on people’s ‘current experiences and future preferences for places and their homes’. The survey’s research question and place-based focus areas were defined based on the quantitative research from the wider baseline work, as well as drawing on a synthesis of trend analysis. These included push and pull factors for people leaving and moving to London along with placemaking measures for the social sustainability of new housing developments. The survey targeted key demographics in the South East of England and was distributed via targeted social media ads and with broader professional and academic networks. Some of the key insights revealed during data analysis showed that over half of respondents currently living in London would prefer to live in smaller places if they could still access high-quality jobs; the proportion of people willing to move for a dream was over 15% higher in the South-East; a third of people surveyed would walk or cycle to work most days if they lived within distance; 1 in 10 people would be willing to transfer both living and working locations at the same time through their current if an alternative campus-like location was available.

The Value: While Buro Happold had not previously delivered this type of study in-house, the findings uncovered substantial insights that also led to the development of a set of demographic personas – both of which strengthened the project’s overall case. Ultimately, the research study enabled the broader project to deliver a stronger case and richer understanding for the client to attract both national and international investors, build national and local government support, and establish public brand awareness through early engagement of existing local communities.


Supporting the future leaders of the built environment: Happold Foundation branding

Overview: A brand identity and website design for The Happold Foundation.

Background: A non-profit organisation that uses engineering skills and experience to make a positive impact on people’s lives by building and supporting a global network of young people, educators and researchers in the built environment sector.

Response: The brand identity and website were designed to express the foundation’s bold, curious and pragmatic approach to promoting how engineering can improve the built environment for all.

Exploring workspace experiences: Sicilian office retrofit

Collaboration with a team of designers and architects for an office space in Sicily. Options explored two distinct experiences of the space. Both feature a core element that creates a distinct identity and provides flexible storage. Option one maximised privacy and autonomous working with an increased number of separate rooms. Option two prioritised collaborative working through generous shared spaces.

Greenprints for a healthy city: London regeneration exhibition

The exhibition at The Building Centre in London showcased Renewal’s plans for a new neighborhood, emphasizing the integration of sport, recreation, and well-being in urban environments. It highlighted the importance of sport as a “common field of play” within communities and its potential to enhance residents’ quality of life.

The exhibition was meticulously curated to combine visual references of sport court markings to promote physical activity and architectural blueprints (or ‘greenprints’) to emphasize sustainable design practices. It demonstrated how the proposed neighborhood would incorporate green spaces, eco-friendly infrastructure, and sustainable materials.

Through interactive displays, multimedia presentations, and the NLA’s Central London Model, visitors gained a comprehensive understanding of the new neighborhood and could visualize it in the context of the city’s existing urban fabric.

The exhibition aimed to inspire architects, urban planners, and the public to envision dynamic, healthy, and community-centric cities. It showcased the transformative potential of thoughtful urban planning and its ability to create vibrant, sustainable, and people-centric spaces.

Evolving places as the foundation of sustainable communities: Ankara placemaking exhibition

Evolving Places Exhibition and lecture by David West at METU (Middle East Technical University), Ankara, Turkey.

Studio Egret West, renowned for its award-winning architectural practice, recently celebrated its first project in Turkey by organizing a captivating exhibition. This exhibition served as a platform to delve into significant urban concepts and ideas through a compelling visual narrative, supported by twelve intriguing case study projects.

The exhibition showcased Studio Egret West’s expertise in urban design and their ability to translate abstract ideas into tangible and inspiring architectural solutions. Through a series of case studies, the exhibition gave visitors an insight into the studio’s design philosophy and approach.

Each case study project explored a distinct urban challenge, shedding light on the complexities and possibilities inherent in contemporary urban development. The exhibition fostered dialogue between the projects, encouraging visitors to engage critically with the presented ideas and contribute to the ongoing discourse on urbanism.

Studio Egret West’s commitment to innovation and sustainability was evident throughout the exhibition. The projects on display demonstrated the studio’s ability to integrate environmentally conscious design principles seamlessly. From mixed-use developments to regeneration schemes, each case study illustrated the studio’s dedication to creating vibrant, inclusive, and sustainable urban environments.

The visual narrative of the exhibition was carefully curated to provide an immersive experience for visitors. Interactive displays, models, and multimedia presentations brought the projects to life, enabling attendees to engage with the designs on both an intellectual and emotional level. The exhibition fostered a sense of curiosity, inviting visitors to explore the intricacies of each project and appreciate the thoughtfulness behind Studio Egret West’s designs.

By organizing this exhibition, Studio Egret West not only celebrated their first project in Turkey but also emphasized their commitment to advancing urban design and contributing to the built environment. The exhibition served as an inspiration for architects, urban planners, and enthusiasts, encouraging them to rethink the possibilities and potential of urban spaces.

Read about the project at Studio Egret West.