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April 2019

Community Planning Pioneer John Thompson receives Urban Design Group (UDG) Lifetime Achievement Award

John Thompson, has been presented with the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award at the UDG National Urban Design Awards 2019.

The award follows John receiving an American Institute of Architects AIA Presidential Citation in February this year, affirming his contribution to the architectural profession and his unique standing in the fields of urban design and collaborative planning and placemaking.

John has had a 50-year career as a renowned architect and urbanist, devoted to improving the quality of everyday life in neighbourhoods. From the very beginning of his career in the early 1970’s as a partner at Hunt Thompson Associates, John pursued a pioneering approach; first community architecture and then community planning, working directly with local people to create places that encourage social interaction and help nurture a strong sense of community, often in areas experiencing significant social and economic challenges.

In 1994 John became founder chair of John Thompson and Partners, now known as JTP.  In 1998 JTP’s multi-award-winning regeneration of the former Caterham Barracks marked the first time that a large-scale Community Planning Weekend (aka Charrette) process had been promoted in the UK by a private developer.

Involving local people in the planning process has since been written into English planning policy (through Localism and the NPPF) and is now a required part of every significant planning application, thanks in large part to John’s influence.

In 2006 John was instrumental in establishing the Academy of Urbanism (AoU), a not-for-profit organisation which now has over six hundred members, including the thriving Young Urbanists group. The AoU brings together the current and next generation of urban leaders, thinkers and practitioners to recognise, encourage and celebrate great places across the UK, Europe and beyond.

Throughout the years John has used his remarkable drive, influence and natural charisma to make a significant contribution to the lives of people across the UK and Europe. David Harrison, one of JTP’s founding partners and known as “Harry the Pencil”, collected the Lifetime Achievement Award on John’s behalf, and said:

“At JTP, with residential developers as clients, John persuaded many to adopt urban design principles and mixed use and even in some cases tenure blind projects, therefore adding vitality, diversity and much needed life to the urban environment.

John was unusual for his time in that although trained as an architect he had a passion for creating good places and saw placemaking as the core discipline in his work and visionary initiatives.

But what I think is the most remarkable thing about John was his ability to convincingly communicate these ideas not only to the hundreds of collaborators, including myself and some others present in this room this evening, but also to the literally thousands of so called “ordinary people” who attended JTP Community Planning Weekends at venues all around this country and overseas.”

The Caterham Barracks collaborative planning process features as one of the case studies in “20/20 Visions” along with this quote from John that encapsulates his philosophy:

“The essence of community planning is simple – all around us we are surrounded by people who have within themselves, whether they recognise it or not, a great wealth of common intelligence and knowledge. If we can tap that knowledge and intelligence we can enrich all the processes that we are involved in, we can bring about much better solutions and we can even involve the people in sustaining these solutions in the future.”