People are the heart of design

In recognition of International Women in Engineering Day, we welcomed a line up of three fantastic women working in transport and focused on the importance of putting people at the heart of transport infrastructure design, at an event hosted by SNC Lavalin’s Atkins.

The evening was opened by our facilitator, Steve Brooks, National Director Wales and UK Policy and Public Affairs Director for Sustrans. The charity works to make it easier for people to walk and cycle and we are delighted that Sustrans will be joining Women in Transport as corporate members this Summer.

Our speakers were:

  • Dr. Caroline Paradise, Head of Research and Design, SNC Lanvalin Atkins (Atkins)

  • Kirsten Galea, Senior Associate, Weston+Williamson Partners (WW+P)

  • Simone West, Inclusive Design Advisor, Transport for London (TfL)

Caroline Paradise

Caroline Paradise

Caroline is an architect with more than 10 years’ experience working in applied research in practice within the built environment. She has driven Atkins’ design approach, putting people at the heart of every design solution, with in-depth user engagement and advanced technology.

Caroline posed the question: Can stations be places of well-being and relaxation?

She went on to provide a snapshot of the genesis of evidence based, human-centred design in the healthcare industry, considered the step change in design standards within the workplace and educational environments, giving us an insight to how we might translate this approach effectively for the transport sector.

She explored how natural light, sound and other psychological factors interact with people’s experience of places and spaces. In transient environments, like stations, there is no one size fits all. People travel for different reasons and experience journeys differently. 50 per cent of UK employees work flexibly which impacts our travel behaviour, patterns and interactions with transport infrastructure. It’s becoming the norm to consider how transport nodes can become places in their own right, providing spaces for social interaction, integrated with the surrounding local area.

Kirsten Galea

Kirsten Galea

Our journeys are often multiple stage and, increasingly people are opting to walk between different transport modes. Greater emphasis is being placed on walking to combat climate change and promote well-being. Recent research shows spending 120 minutes a week in nature is associated with good health and well-being.

Given the importance of walking, navigation between modes is an essential component in station and transport infrastructure design. Kirsten showcased the wayfinding project in which she worked with diverse stakeholders in Greater Manchester. The project features 28 totems (similar to the Legible London scheme) at prominent locations between Piccadilly and Victoria stations to help pedestrians navigate their way around the city centre on foot, while highlighting directions to important shopping and cultural destinations.

Kirsten, who has more than 10 years’ experience working as an architect, talked about other practical examples from WW+P’s portfolio. She illustrated how natural light, connectivity, seating and integration were used to transform Paddington Station as part of the masterplan design and how Paddington Crossrail station will integrate with the local context and is designed with the user experience in mind.

Simone West

Simone West

Transport is the link between everywhere we need and want to go. The accessibility of a destination becomes irrelevant if we can’t get there, so we need to consider how we deliver end-to-end inclusive journeys. To do this, it is critical to understand what inclusive design means and why it matters to customers, clients and design teams.

Simone offered a definition and explored how it differs from accessible design:

“Creates environments that everyone can use to access, and benefit from, the full range of opportunities available and they can do so confidently, independently and with choice and dignity, Inclusive avoids separation or segregation and is made up of places and spaces, that acknowledge diversity and difference, meeting the needs of everyone in society.”

Simone emphasised the importance of the social definition of disability and challenged us to enable everyone to move freely and ably around places through design. She said there is a clear business case to design inclusively first; a much more cost effective exercise than attempting to rectify missing elements later.

Simone has been in construction for over 30 years, specialising in inclusive design for approximately 20 years, working on projects such as the London 2012 Games, Crossrail 2 and HS2. Simone recounted a moving story of a mother and primary carer for her adult, wheelchair bound son. They were overwhelmed by the opportunity to experience the Olympic Games because the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park was designed inclusively. Until then, a day out had been impossible for them - something many of us take for granted.

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The talks were followed by a Q&A session and then networking at Adrian’s Bar hosted by Atkins.

Our thanks to Caroline, Kirsten and Simone for three thought-provoking presentations. Inclusive design can be transformative; as transport professionals, we have the power, capacity and responsibility to create places that include everyone and enable people to live fully.

Thanks to Atkins for generously hosting this event and particularly to Joe Flores, Rand Watkins, Sharon Bruton, Marios Kounavos, Emily Percival, Maria Tsvetkova and Foteini Ragia from Atkins for their support in organising, hosting and the very warm welcome.

Highlights from the evening can be found on Twitter @transportwm

Members of Women in Transport benefit from networking with like-minded professionals, professional development workshops and technical talks, mentoring and access to the All Party Parliamentary Group for Women in Transport.

Follow us @transportwm or on Linkedin Women in Transport for events, news and updates.