Southampton Station Quarter

Southampton City Council

About the Project

We were commissioned to deliver a creative engagement process for the development of the station quarter next to Southampton’s main train station. The existing public realm was underused despite there being a generous area of open space; therefore we wanted to engage people who move, work, live and own businesses in and around the space in conversations about how the space works at present and how it could be improved. The aim was to develop a brief for public realm improvements.

To encourage people into a conversation we set ourselves up with a hot chestnut cart and swapped a warming bag of chestnuts for people’s thoughts. We spoke to over 250 people and used the findings to develop 5 key priorities for the project which the designers, Urban Movement, used to establish the success of schemes. We identified 20 people, a mixture of residents and businesses, who became the champions group for the project and held regular open meetings for people to see design progress and influence how things proceeded.

Local businesses were keen to create an animated space so we helped them set up a ‘Friends of’ group; they paid for and programmed their first event in July 2012.


November 2011 – we spent three days on the street holding initial insight gathering sessions and one-to-one conversations with key stakeholders.
December 2011 – insight was shared with city council, design team and ward councillors

January 2012 – May 2012 – designs were developed and shared at regular intervals with the champions group.

July 2012 – final concept designs were shared at a public exhibition

Our Tools & Approach

We first mapped out local stakeholders and interested groups. The area outside of a station can be a space people do not feel much ownership over so we wanted to look for potential users of the space who currently were not using it. We identified businesses, residents groups and interest groups, such as cycling, and made contact with them to raise awareness of the project and invite them to participate.

To expand the audience beyond existing groups we devised an on street presence using a mobile chestnut cart to build curiosity and attract attention from passers by – we wanted something warming and nostalgic to encourage people to talk to us.

We used collection cards to ask people to identify key routes and desire lines through the site, as well as determine what people currently use the area for and what they could imagine using it for.

We conducted one-to-one interviews with a range of stakeholders, which included people we met through our on street engagement, to gather a more detailed understanding of the area. Many of these stakeholders became members of the champions group.

We collated the insight we gathered and identified 5 key themes which we could share with the design team in order for them to prepare some initial designs.

A co-design process was delivered with 20 individuals who formed a champions group meeting regularly to influence design progression.

Final concept designs were shared at a public exhibition which ran in conjunction with the first event of a ‘Friends of’ group established by local businesses to put on events in the public space to animate it.