From There… To Here

The social history of Wester Hailes

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Last week we posted a short article about the placemaking exercise carried out by Gehl Architects which examined how the vacant land at Harvesters Way could be re-developed to maximise benefit for the local community. We’ve scanned in below a few pages from the draft report which give more details of the transformation of the site and the whole central area of Wester Hailes which Gehl envisaged.

The approach that Gehl adopt is to turn the design process upside down by making the well-being of people the cornerstone of all their planning. They first look at the potential for what the life of a community – it’s activities and attractions – could be developed into; then, secondly, how the spaces in an area would best be organised to support this public life and then, and only then, do they begin to consider the design of the buildings themselves.

Gehl’s guiding principle and main purpose is to create sustainable environments and promote a holistic lifestyle. Their view is that “a city should open up, invite and include people, having different activities and possibilities and thereby ensure multiplicity and diversity“.

When Gehl looked at Wester Hailes what they saw were lots of opportunities rather than problems…

…And they put forward various ideas as to how this potential could be turned into reality…

…They saw the Healthy Living Centre as being the first piece of that jigsaw, beginning the process of spreading benefit throughout the community and initiating the building of key pedestrian linkages…

…And the train station was identified as a key component in building an integrated transport hub

Gehl’s report concluded by highlighting the fact that it has been over 20 years since a comprehensive planning brief for the centre of Wester Hailes was compiled. However, as a result of the placemaking exercise, they felt that a vision for the future of the estate had begun to take shape and that the time was ripe for the development of a new masterplan to take this forward.