Croydon Placemaking
Croydon Urban Room
London, United Kingdom
Selected for exhibition
Public plays
Social infrastructure
Rethinking processes and governance
Image: Urban Room pilot, 2019. Photography by Ruth Ward.
The Croydon ‘Urban Room’ is a shopfront for public participation, fostering meaningful connection between people & place; past, present & future.

Urban Planning is often top-down, political and inaccessible to many. At Croydon Council we are disrupting this norm and seeking to make planning populist through a physical & online space for ideas exchange, participation, collaboration and innovation that is a vibrant part of the everyday life of the Town Centre – The Croydon Urban Room.

The project is pioneering a new form of civic participation; that celebrates and fosters meaningful connection between people and place; past, present and future in a familiar space for exchange. It seeks to de-institutionalise bureaucratic processes, democratising access and understanding of planning through learning and open dialogue. We see this as the fundamental step in inspiring civic agency to ensure that neighbourhoods of Croydon evolve to nurture its diverse communities.

Its key objectives are to:
INFORM: make visible and improve access to city-making processes
EDUCATE: foster reciprocal exchange of local expertise and knowledge
COLLABORATE: connect community, industry and government; fostering innovation & future vitality
INSPIRE: empower individual civic agency and public participation

It does this through an iterative learning, exhibition and events programme featuring:
PLANNING ON THE HIGH STREET (INFORM); A public project space and shopfront located on the high street; a de-institutionalised setting for council officers to do their work, and for planning processes to be an open ‘performance’ in practice. It acts as a cultural and social platform where the neighbourhoods can observe, enquire and participate in civic projects live ‘in action’. To further outreach, an atelier version of the Urban Room also travels to public spaces along high streets, libraries and markets across the borough.

RECIPROCAL LEARNING PROGRAMME (EDUCATE); A multi-partnered training programme is open to the public, community groups, industry and council, for shared learning and reciprocal exchange.

LIVE ARCHIVE (COLLABORATE); An iterative archive and exhibition space for communities, industry and government to research and explore the past, present and future of Croydon, and find common ground and opportunities for innovation and collaboration.

CREATIVE MEMBERSHIP (INSPIRE); neighbourhood membership initiatives including the Croydon Young Thinkers programme to provide formalised forums for civic influence and feedback; testing alternative models of community-led city-making & governance.


The project highlights the pioneering role local government can play in dissolving the opaqueness of planning, to proactively empower civic agency on a neighbourhood scale. It also provides a framework for reimagining how stakeholders collaborate more effectively to address collective challenges such as climate change and the future of high streets, in the context of limited funding - pooling resources & knowledge.
BUILDING TRUST: its siting on a high-street shop front reframes the planning process as ‘work in progress’ where ideas & feedback are exchanged and tested ‘live in action’ & individuals can measure and analyse their impact
TACKLING DIVERSITY: lack of diversity in planning practice and processes is addressed through a partnered, reciprocal training programme with schools, universities, industry & diverse local communities
ENSURING RESILIENCE: the test space sparks new collaborations and public/private partnerships across existing industry, government and community silos

Selected for exhibition – Jury statement

"Croyden Urban Room is a remarkable example of both deep and engaging public participation design. Croyden Urban Room manages to de-institutionalise bureaucratic processes, democratising access and understanding of planning through learning and open dialogue. The clear design and the ability to engage with people where they are, inspires in times where the ideals of participation struggle to be realised. It shows how continuous discussions and actions can contribute to real, valuable placemaking - as opposed to random development projects appearing from nowhere. Enabling genuine and constructive participation is challenging, and Croyden Placemaking reminds us of the value of well designed and well executed public dialogue tools."

Urban Room pilot, 2019. Photography by Ruth Ward.

Urban Room pilot, 2019. Photography by Ruth Ward.

Urban Room pilot, 2019. Photography by Matthew Brown

Urban Room pilot, 2019. Photography by Matthew Brown

Urban Room pilot, 2019. Photography by Ruth Ward.

Croydon Placemaking

Croydon Placemaking is an award winning, multidisciplinary team of built environment practitioners working from strategic policy & masterplans through to detailed design & delivery. The team sits within the Croydon Council’s Strategic Planning & Regeneration directorate and works across urban planning & design, architecture & landscape design, research, public engagement, public realm, public art & culture, heritage & conservation. The team’s work has been highlighted in the Farrell Review as an exemplar for best practice in ‘proactive planning’, emphasising the unique role it plays in providing a range of design & placemaking services to internal & external clients. The team has gained recognition for innovative approaches to planning, design & regeneration with several awards, including for the Croydon Urban Room. The project has been highly commended in the UK Planning Awards 2020 for stakeholder engagement in planning + highly commended in the New London Architecture Awards 2020.

Civil servant
United Kingdom