Sofia Dawe, Produce UK

Sofia Dawe, Produce UK

Experience Makers talk with Sofia Dawe, Head of Placemaking – Produce UK

What role does experience making have to play in the property industry?

In the era of Experience Economy (which has so deeply impacted other industries such as retail and hospitality), new developments are increasingly focusing on creating a place experience that feels genuine, relevant and positive as a means to increase desirability, public support and positive commercial opportunities. In this context, the active creation to public realm experiences becomes a key component in the development of place identity.

Social media plays an important role in this, with the public able to provide  feedback in real-time in the shape of likes and shares. Where consumption is strongly associated with the creation of identity, users search for genuine experiences that reflect their desired / aspirational identity. In the age of social currency, the public is also more and more aware of the value of their presence and feedback.

The same goes for the workplace property sector – it is no longer enough to offer a desirable location, excellent design and state-of-the-art facilities. It is crucial to deliver a high quality work space experience by means of offering a platform for social exchange, entertainment and wellbeing which will support employers in recruiting and retaining talent, as well as boosting productivity. Occupier satisfaction and desirability of the site as a business location are directly connected with the delivery of a good place experience.

What’s the favourite experience you have been part of making?

One of my absolute favourites has to be an event we did at King’s Cross as part of the celebrations of 40 years of Punk. Fire-spitting Mad Max car parade, futuristic warriors on stilts and a literal punk rave on Granary Square – what’s not to love?

What I love about this event is that it was created to celebrate a part of the history of King’s Cross that is not necessarily the most glamorous. We worked with the original warehouse party organisers from the 80’s and 90’s, and many of the ravers that frequented the area back in the day came to the event. It was great to see the ravers enjoying the fountains next to the local families, students and workers.

This is a great example of how a regeneration project can, and should, honour its heritage in oder to create authentic and relevant experiences. It also shows how positive and rewarding it is to truly embrace diversity.

What’s the best experience you have experienced and why?

Seeing the London 1666 burning on the Thames as part of the London’s Burning Festival was a truly one-of-a-kind experience. An spectacular example of how public art and experience-making can bring people together to celebrate – as well as amplify – the unique story of a place.

What’s the future of experience making?

As part of this big shift in how we think about public spaces, democratisation and co-creation will play an even bigger role in the future of experience-making. Increasingly incorporating ways for the public to use the public realm creatively rather than transactionally, where users become active co-creators of public space rather than passive consumers. Technology will be key in enabling wider public participation and feedback.

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