Why Place and Space?

When it comes to tackling loneliness, the places and spaces where we live, work, play and interact can have a significant role.

Yet all too often they are overlooked when forming policies and plans. Instead, we focus on social and cultural interventions - asking people to be friendlier,setting up befriending schemes in schools and care homes, or encouraging neighbours to organise street parties. We started the Lab to explore how our physical environment shapes the way we connect.

 
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Some parks and public spaces can feel scary or threatening, so we don’t use them to meet up with friends. Cafes, bars and restaurants can be too expensive.

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Open plan workspaces can mean we don’t see the same colleague from week to week - or we feel intimidated to have a conversation at desks. This makes it harder to make friends at work.

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Student halls have security features that make it impossible to interact with students on otherfloors.

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Modern apartments no longer have doors with windows in, or windows into communal spaces. So you have no idea if your neighbour is at home.

“We need masterplans that are designed to encourage and facilitate daily contact.If 68% of people feel that community spirit has declined in their lifetime we will notbe able to address health and wellbeing without improving people’s sense of place and community. Designers need to think about the rituals of daily life. Whether it's the commute, the school run, or popping out to buy milk, contact happens whenthese patterns overlap. If it's people who create a sense of community, then it's thepublic realm where that happens.”

SELINA MASON
DIRECTOR OF MASTERPLANNING, LENDLEASE

 

"In order to tackle loneliness we need to have meaningful interactions. It's notenough for strangers to nod as they pass in the street, those interactions need to have substance. For interaction to be meaningful and truly deepen connections, it's vital to look at spaces and places. People won't connect in public spaces if they don't feel safe or welcome there. Lighting, safety, places to linger, seating, and heating are all vital components to ensure we have physical environments that facilitate meaningful interaction."

DR ANDREA WHIGFIELD
DIRECTOR OF CENTRE FOR LONELINESS STUDIES,
UNIVERSITY OF SHEFFIELD

 

"It’s hard to believe that in such a global, diverse, economically productive and digitally connected city, so many of us feel lonely. In the London Borough of Southwark, we’re developing a strategy to prevent and tackle loneliness, building upon the best evidence and truly listening to our local communities’ priorities. Wewant to use the power of regeneration to benefit everyone. We want to promote urban design to connect communities, celebrate our differences, promotewellbeing and build cohesion. And we want to pilot and scale new solutions to loneliness that are inclusive, disruptive and comprehensive. This is what the Loneliness Lab is all about, and why we’re so thrilled to be a collaborator."

PROFESSOR KEVIN FENTON
STRATEGIC DIRECTOR OF PLACE AND WELLBEING,
SOUTHWARK COUNCIL

 

"There has been a huge shift in the last two years when it comes to raising awareness of, and taking action, to address loneliness, from the Government through to civil society. Whilst this action has been really positive, more still needs to be done to explore how we can re-think systems with loneliness in mind. The work of the Loneliness Lab is an important part of that puzzle, by highlighting the role of the built environment in tackling loneliness and bringing diverse sectors together to take action."

OLIVIA FIELD
LONELINESS LEAD, BRITISH RED CROSS