Major place-making ideas competition opens

A place-making ideas competition for the National Infrastructure Commission's (NIC) work on the Oxford-to-Cambridge corridor announced earlier this month has now opened for entries.

The East West Railway is part of the infrastructure planned for the corridor
The East West Railway is part of the infrastructure planned for the corridor

The competition, run by Malcolm Reading Consultants, seeks to find multidisciplinary teams to create visionary conceptual proposals for sustainable place-making built around new infrastructure in the region, which has four of the UK’s fastest-growing urban centres — Cambridge, Milton Keynes, Northampton and Oxford.

The 3,900 square mile corridor has a population of some 3.3 million people and a concentration of businesses in the scientific research and development, life sciences, pharmaceuticals, high-tech manufacturing, performance technology and motorsport sectors, with an estimated 419,000 people employed in the knowledge economy. However, the lack of suitable and affordable housing and poor infrastructure mean the knowledge economy businesses are finding it increasingly hard to attract and retain the talent they need for economic growth.

New infrastructure in the region includes the East West Railway and an Oxford-to-Cambridge expressway. The NIC is looking for visionary ideas for development to deliver the homes and communities the growth area needs.

Landscape designers are among the experts invited to apply in the two-stage contest, alongside urban designers, architects, planning, policy and community specialists, development economists and others. 

Teams are asked to submit an emerging concept focused on a chosen form of development — ranging from the intensification of existing urban areas to new autonomous settlements — as well as details on the composition of their collaborative teams, if relevant.

The emerging concepts will be judged anonymously by a panel drawn from a range of specialisms and including NIC chair Lord Andrew Adonis and two NIC commissioners — former chief economic adviser to the Greater London Authority Bridget Rosewell and dRMM Architects founding director Professor Sadie Morgan — with further members to be announced later in the process. The top four teams will be given an honorarium of £10,000 to develop their initial submission.

Lord Adonis said: "The economic potential of the four cities of Oxford, Cambridge, Northampton and Milton Keynes is huge, offering real benefits to the success and prosperity of the country as a whole. But the area needs to adapt and change if it has any chance of achieving this, of attracting the brightest and best, and of competing on the world stage.

"Today I’m calling on leaders in architecture, economics, policy-making and planning, as well as local residents, to help shape that future and put forward ideas that will make this growth corridor an attractive place to live and work for generations to come."

Morgan said the task is not just about good design but creating a vibrant and attractive community that will stand the test of time and support the future development and prosperity.

Full details of the competition, team and submission requirements, as well as a detailed brief, are available on the competition website. The deadline is 3 August. 

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