All too often, the people who use environments day-to-day are left out of the design process. For older people, this can feel particularly alienating. In Topic 1, we have been bringing together researchers, early career designers and older participants to envision places, from homes to public spaces, which are inclusive, enabling and inspirational.

Workshop in Orkney

Workshop with local people in Kirkwall & St Ola Community Centre & Town Hall

Led by a team whose expertise spans teaching, research and practice in the fields of architecture and landscape architecture, 84 students have participated, largely from postgraduate programmes at Edinburgh College of Art (ECA), together with 72 older people across the UK, including stroke survivors and people with dementia.

Over four years of studio work, we have focused on three urban environments – Castlefield in Manchester, Hackney Wick & the Olympic Park in London, and various sites across Copenhagen – and one rural location, the northern Scottish islands of Orkney.

In addition to our published outputs, designs have been exhibited at the annual ECA Degree Show (2014-2017), and included in a touring exhibition which has travelled as part of the Festival of Architecture 2016 and Scotland’s Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design, as well as to the House of Lords in London and Scotland House in Brussels.

Students from the project were involved in our public engagement programme, Habitats for Happy Ageing, and have won awards for their work on MMP, including the Architecture and Design Scotland Sust. Award for Sustainable Design, and Somner Macdonald Architects’ Small Moves Big Impact prize.

[vimeo width=”625″ height=”360″][/vimeo]

Iain Scott, students and participants talk about Topic 1


The A-Z of Co-Design: A brief introduction to participatory design

Front cover of a publicationPublished in July 2016 as a folding wallchart, this practical, bite-sized guide to participatory design combines insights from our own co-design activities with those of experts from a range of other fields. Endorsed and distributed by the Centre for Accessible Environments (CAE), it has been developed into a desk calendar for 2018 (in English, French and Spanish) and forms the basis of a professional training programme delivered jointly with CAE.

Find out more about the A-Z, download the wallchart and watch the animated version

Mobility. Mood. Place.
Intergenerational co-design for age-friendly places

Published in May 2017, this is a beautifully illustrated, 32-page guide to the 13 key things we have uncovered through the co-design process about older people’s needs and preferences for age-friendly environments. The publication features a range of annotated designs for the cities of London, Manchester and Copenhagen and the Scottish islands of Orkney produced by students at Edinburgh College of Art in collaboration with local older people.

View and download a digital version of our intergenerational co-design publication


Scott, I., McLachlan, F. & Brookfield, K. Mar 2018 Inclusive design and pedagogy: An outline of three innovations. Built Environment. 44, 1, p. 9-22,

Read this paper online

Scott, I. 2017. ‘Mobility, Mood and Place – Co-Designing Age-Friendly Cities: A Report on Collaborations between Older People and Students of Architecture’, Arts 6(3), 12 doi:10.3390/arts6030012

Read this paper online

Brookfield, K., Ward Thompson, C. and Scott, I. 2017. ‘The uncommon impact of common environmental details on walking in older adults’, International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 14(2), 190 doi: 10.3390/ijerph14020190

Read this paper online

Brookfield, K. and Mead, G. 2016. ‘Physical environments and community reintegration post stroke: qualitative insights from stroke clubs’, Disability & Societydoi: 10.1080/09687599.2016.1223606

Read this paper online

Brookfield, K., Fitzsimons, C., Scott, I., Mead, G., Starr, J., Thin, N., Tinker, A. and Ward Thompson, C. 2015. ‘The home as enabler of more active lifestyles among older people’, Building Research & Information doi: 10.1080/09613218.2015.1045702

Read this paper online

Further reading

Techniques for involving communities in decisions on the design and development of environments…
Brookfield, K., Bloodworth, A. and Mohan, J. 2013. Engaging residents’ groups in planning using focus groups in Proceedings of the ICE – Engineering Sustainability 166(2): 61–74

Projective techniques for co-creating environments…
Scott, I. 2011. Analysis of a project to design the ideal classroom undertaken by a group of children on the autism spectrum and students of architecture in Good Autism Practice 12(1): 13-25

Photo of a student with her model

Paula Madden with a model produced by her, Emily Nason and Chloe Hand. Image courtesy of Gareth Easton.



Back to all topics