Urban Splash

The District

A couple of years ago we were privileged to work with Urban Splash, a developer we have long admired, on a conceptual piece to promote their scheme – ‘Inholm’ as a part of the Northstowe ‘new town’ development just outside Cambridge. We had a fantastic team of people including Orla McGrath (then US) and Miles Falkingham (Consultant to US), and explored a number of narratives including the fascinating history of the site dating back to Roman times, juxtaposing this with the modernity of the off site build programme, and ‘Urban Splash People’ where we leveraged with the positive views of a long line of happy purchasers. Where we finally landed was relatively speaking, edgy. We were using the negative perceptions of volume house builders to frame Urban Splash’s approach; design led, sustainable, appropriate. Bold statements such as DEVELOPERS ARE B**TARDS were presented in big…er…bold type, with a more discreet ‘not all’ type nestled above this inflammatory statement to make the real point, discovered on closer inspection. For a number of reasons the work never saw the light of day. And actually whilst it wasn’t entirely due to the edginess of the work, it was more high level corporate merger business, but as I reflect, and see how the project has been revisited, I wonder. And furthermore I wonder if the impact of our thinking would have been greater than their current marketing of the scheme, which is more functional, pedestrian even. Not to malign it, but it is different and it is hard to argue it would get people to sit up and listen / take action in the same way. But will it do a job and ultimately convert sales? I expect so in a buoyant market such as Cambridge. So when is one bold and when is one not. And indeed why?

I like to think that our original ideas reflect Urban Splash’s mission, to push against convention, in house building and indeed marketing. Impact to bottom line, difficult to quantify, but this brings up a wholly different debate about the importance of metrics vs instinct in design. I would gladly stand up and say Urban Splash’s ‘maverick’ approach has directly impacted their success, over their long history – would this have been able to be quantified marketing initiative by initiative, probably not. I feel the same about our work for Cooke, Curtis and Co. We, the collective we, client and agency, followed our instincts, and our hearts, and they are now the best selling estate agent in Cambridge and repeated winners of best UK estate agent. Proof to me that fortune favours the brave. The floor is yours…