By Helle Søholt, Founding Partner, Architect maa, M. Arch., CEO at GEHL Architects & BLOXHUB Member
Earlier this month I had the pleasure of joining Torben Klitgaard, Director of BLOXHUB – the Nordic ‘s hub for sustainable urbanisation – at the Øresund Real Estate Conference in Malmø. Attracting many of the region’s urban development professionals we set about promoting BLOXHUB, with Torben pitching to a host of potential network members, and myself validating his remarks as an already established and proud member! More than just a shameless half hour of self-promotion, we wanted to showcase the growing importance of networked organisations, collaboration and partnerships within (and beyond) our field.
This is a quote from Henry Ford (not someone who you may instantly associate with Gehl’s people first approach) that simply articulates three levels of collaboration. It’s true in urban development that not a lot gets done if you’re doing it alone, and quite rightly so! Shaping the urban environment has, and always will be, a collective endeavour. Conceptualising, planning and designing urban places requires a range of collaborative arrangements to acquire the knowledge, competencies and resources needed to deliver. The number and complexity of these arrangements depend on the scale and reach of the project at hand, from a single plot design to a regional mobility strategy, collaboration is key. Beyond matching requirements with competences, however, developing the urban environment to fulfil the needs, aspirations and future challenges of its users requires empathy for a place and people that can only be gained through ‘on-site’ knowledge and local collaboration.
It is with this reality that organisations such as BLOXHUB hold so much value in providing a shared platform, space and occasions for companies and professionals to meet across interests and industries. As CEO of Gehl, having BLOXHUB on our doorstep (a swift 5 minute bicycle ride away!) with access to an ecosystem of over 260 members, from architects, designers, urban developers, engineers, researchers, industry networks, public institutions, tech and data companies, construction and manufacturing representatives, and a host of fellow consultants, is not only a nice to have, but a central part of our business strategy.
Partnerships as an Ecosystem
Gehl prides itself as being more than a consultancy. Thanks to the founding knowledge and approach of Jan Gehl, we lead a movement of people around the world who believe in Making Cities for People and are passionate that public space and public life is the foundation for equitable and sustainable societies.
Over the years, this movement has created avenues of collaboration that reach beyond the urban strategy and design services we provide to clients. From books to masterclasses, to study tours our collaborations have helped build Gehl as a holistic practice, infusing our services, staff and activities with new knowledge and perspectives that wouldn’t have otherwise been exposed.