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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.

We used a mobile chestnut cart to get gather a broad range of insight and also identified a working group that collaborated in more detail with the Council and the design team to develop a brief for public realm improvements.


November – we spent three days on the street holding initial insight gathering sessions and one-to-one conversations with key stakeholders.

December – insight was shared with city council, design team and ward councillors

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

July – final concept designs were shared at a public exhibition

Our Tools & Approach

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.

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.

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 at the end of the project.