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What Makes Great Places

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by Jake Barton, Creative Strategy Intern

Welcome to What Makes Great Places—in this series, Streetsense’s top European partners will weigh in on the range of factors that shape and define great experiences and great places. Meet the man behind the mission, Jake Barton, Creative Strategy Intern, and stay tuned for more in the coming weeks.

Hello all!


My name is Jake Barton. I always thought I wanted to design buildings but now I want to create places


I am a university student based in the UK reading Art History and Film Studies and I am fortunate enough to be interning with Streetsense this summer. 


From school I went straight to university in 2019 to study Architecture until normality was rudely disrupted in the early months of 2020 with the world turning on its head in response to the outbreak of COVID-19. Unpredictably, however, the pandemic was of great personal benefit to me, providing me with the gasp of fresh air I needed from the rush of university life to realize that Architecture and I simply weren’t meant to be. Despite no longer studying the science of building design, I do enjoy the art of it and my current studies within Art History have provided me with many opportunities to further explore my passion for place. 


I have long been interested in the intrinsic connections between people, place, and culture; it is this curiosity for the way different places can resonate emotionally with people that has brought me to Streetsense, where I hope to learn more about what it takes to create places and brands people love. With this in mind, I’ll be speaking with some of Streetsense’s top European partners through a series of interviews that will investigate what makes great places. I’ll be joined by a selection of guest speakers who will weigh in on the range of factors that shape and define great experiences, whether it’s a bar that would look brilliant on your Instagram, an ambient soundtrack, an olfactory rollercoaster that etched a day in your memory, or one of those ‘spaces in between’ where you simply lingered to try and soak it all in.


My initial exploration of the relationship between place and people came whilst studying English Literature at school. Gothic novels are particularly exemplars of the dramatical importance of place and how it can be used to influence the movement, behavior, and interaction of the characters. Writers wield place as an engine for gothic horror beyond the point of simple aesthetic presentation. The setting is used to convey the tone and motifs of the texts in an immersive fashion, often prompting an emotional response from the reader. The Shining, Stephen King’s canonical contribution to Gothicism, is a masterful example of a plot driven completely by the power of place. The sentient Overlook Hotel is King’s agent of evil, his proponent of pure terror, as it seeks to consume its guests. 


In just the same way, real places are not just passive frameworks for people to exist within. Instead, they are active participants in experience with the ability to directly mold emotional reactions – furthermore, great places have the power to evoke emotions that stay with you. London’s Barbican Centre, for example, is an incredible multi-sensory experience that truly envelops those who venture in. Hear the eclectic variety of events hosted by the performing arts center which provide a stunning antithesis to the sight of the peaceful coexistence between the brutalist concrete architecture and the abundant plant life which climbs its features. This synergy is on full display in the Conservatory where you can smell the wonderful biodiversity of the Barbican in this hidden tropical oasis. Reach out and touch the strangely soothing coarseness of the textured concrete and even taste the offerings of the Barbican Kitchen or any of the many places which invite you to relax and replenish at the centre. 


This series hopes to rationalize our encounters with these places, and so it seems to me that the obvious place to begin is with memory: our very own in-house database of these emotional experiences. I am going to delve into the subject of great places with other Streetsensers based in the UK and Europe, to recall and retell different spaces we have discovered and experiences we have had on this side of the pond, in search of why these particular memories stay with us, and how they inform our approaches to projects around the world.


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