We are often asked to make architectural contributions to what clients refer to as 'centres'. Reflecting on what we do, everything can be regarded at some point as being a centre. At its most obvious a public square like George Square in Glasgow is such a centre, whilst in complete contrast we can think that each of us individually acts as a centre as we move through space. The trick in making any collective centre is to reconcile these individual needs, in a collective form. A number of aspects emerge.
A first and obvious one, is do people want to be part of the centre? You can't make a centre without people, otherwise it becomes a hollow shell. The process of shaping the qualities of the 'centre' are crucial at the outset to giving the centre the best chance of success.
To create a centre put it in the centre. This may seem obvious but often it is missed. It needs to be on people's routes, where they move, where they go. Not much point putting George Square on the outskirts of the city!
Remember that in making the centre you have to think about what is left out and will it be required in the future? Key is the ability of any centre to flex. Centres have a life of their own. If it becomes popular - how is that success managed. If the centre is not a success can it contract and adapt.
And having come to life how do you maintain the centre. The urban world is littered with failed centre's - shopping, retail, business and civic. Centre's do not necessarily last forever, they need re-energised.
In that respect we can't help but think the best setting for centres is at the centre of the communities they serve. In that respect we have the model to represent that collective ambition in the cities towns and villages of our landscapes. If the notional centre is seen as part of one of these urban settings there is more chance it will benefit from the close proximity and the passing populations there for other reasons. Piggy-backing on these existing environments gives any new centre a bit of a push up the survival ladder.