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Last night, we discussed how our cities can be improved with excellent social infrastructure, in an engaging panel debate with RIBA Journal.

The latest debate in our Cities series saw us tackle everything from public services to funding, with an expert panel led by Peter Head, Founder & CEO of The Ecological Sequestration Trust.

Investec’s Andrew Neill opened the debate by highlighting that social infrastructure is seen differently around the world, with some countries prioritising it more than others – this was later picked up by Peter, who gave China and Norway as examples of nations who place rigorous expectations on public sector projects.

Colin Ross, Cornerstone director, then took to the floor, noting that social infrastructure can ‘make a market’ and emphasised the importance of these spaces in our daily lives, in terms of work and leisure.

Chloe Obi, Head of BIM at Bouygues UK, and landscape architect Will Sandy both approached the debate from a more project-led perspective. With the panel discussing how community stakeholders need to be part of the process, Chloe talked about the models her team takes into schools, hospitals, and other projects, where they can be explored and adjusted based on a community’s feedback. Will, who works on a variety of design projects in communities, reiterated how getting local people, including creatives, involved early in the design process is key.

Other issues were touched upon, including the economics at the heart of social infrastructure – sometimes, public bodies don’t have the capital to achieve their aims, while often the variety of funding streams and models in place can be detrimental to getting effective social infrastructure in place.

The debate then opened up to the audience, who made a variety of interesting points, including the importance of getting architects involved as early as possible and that social infrastructure projects need to be based on the needs of a community.

Thank you to our excellent panellists, Peter, Andrew, Colin, Chloe, and Will; we’re pleased everyone enjoyed the debate. If you’d like to know more about our upcoming panel debates, visit our Events page.