Stanhope's Paul Lewis on archaeology and development
We recently talked to Stanhope’s Head of Development Management, Paul Lewis, and asked him what he thinks about the changing relationship between archaeology and development. In this interview Paul gives a unique insight on what archaeology means for his organisation and the importance of corporate social responsibility and community engagement.
Q. What has been your experience with archaeology on development projects and what challenges or opportunities has archaeology presented?
A. Stanhope has been developing in central London for 30 years. Notable schemes began with Broadgate which had extensive archaeology and indeed burial grounds but many subsequent projects have also required close collaboration between ourselves, MOLA and our design and construction teams.
Archaeology is far from the constraint that it might initially be perceived to be, it affords the opportunity for discovery, innovation and design creativity. It can also be a great vehicle for community engagement. On most occasions of course, it requires detailed liaison with the planning and logistics of construction work to avoid potential delay.
Q. How do you incorporate archaeologists within your project teams?
A. When first appraising a site, we appoint an archaeologist to advise us, together with providing a desk based assessment to look at any potential impacts for the proposed scheme. This can then be coordinated with planning and the work of the core design team. Particularly for our central London sites, this is imperative, in order that we can carry out an assessment on the full impact in respect of design and construction detail so that we can build it into our development programme.
Q. Has your view about archaeology changed over time and if so, how and what has brought about that change?
A. The experiences we have had working with archaeologists at MOLA has allowed us to embrace archaeology and extract the positive aspects of it, particularly from the discoveries. It is not perceived as a problem or a hindrance and previous experiences and knowledge can be presented to our design teams, partners and future investors on forthcoming schemes to alleviate any concerns that they may have. Building up a long-term relationship with MOLA, discussing our development pipeline in advance and taking a collaborative approach on particular sites has helped us to bring about this change of attitude.
Q. What do you think the engagement opportunities with archaeological work are?
A. We have found that people are always interested in history and therefore archaeology presents a storytelling opportunity and also communicates how preservation can be secured in a positive way for a city that is constantly growing and needs to optimise development land. When developing in dense urban areas where people live and work and there are real communities, archaeology can help communicate the story of a place and break down barriers, particularly when initially there might be some scepticism. Having established this early contact, it is important to maintain the engagement with stakeholders throughout to keep them informed of progress.
Whether it be on speculative developments of our own, or working in partnership with others, or on behalf of a corporate occupier, we have tried to channel this interest with regard to conducting informative lectures on particular ‘finds’ or by creating exhibitions which may subsequently be opened to the public.
Q. What is the role of placemaking in urban regeneration?
A. Placemaking is vital, especially when reworking parts of the City. It is the difference between an insular development which turns its back on its environment and one that fits into its surroundings and makes a positive contribution to the area that people can enjoy. Archaeology can help shape ‘the place’.
Q. What were the key drivers that led you to become Supporting Partners of the Time Truck and what do you see as being the key benefits?
A. Having worked with MOLA for over 30 years, we wanted to support them in this initiative together with our peers in the property and construction industry. We think it is a great facility for us to utilise on sites in order to explain how we are dealing with development constraints generally, but also to stress the opportunities that can be provided and this can often form a bridge between us and the surrounding residents/ community.
Q. Your projects in London have supported more archaeological research and new studies than any UK University, how does this make you feel?
A. Our long and successful relationship with MOLA and the research and site work that we have been involved with during development of over 50 projects in the City of London alone is a source of great pride to us. The history that unfolds as a result is always fascinating for all the people that share it and the cumulative knowledge that all this work has generated is very rewarding for all those involved.
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