Designed for Wellbeing – Paddington Central

by Marten Sims on

2017 Paddington Central Young Readers photo

How have recent design improvements to the external environment at Paddington Central had an impact on the wellbeing of workers, residents and visitors? Happy City set about finding out.

Since British Land bought Paddington Central in 2013, they have transformed it into a thriving community space, in line with their London campus strategy to design great environments inside and out. Improvements include increasing greenery, providing additional social areas, improving wayfinding and adding more playful elements.

Happy City performed an observational analysis to review the impact of these improvements on the wellbeing performance of the campus. Our findings suggest that many aspects of user happiness, health and productivity at Paddington Central have improved over the past two years and are certainly worth celebrating.

It’s clear that improvement ‘clusters’ can cascade wellbeing outcomes, as people are exposed to multiple offerings simultaneously. For example, along Kingdom Street the greenery, fragrant flora, edible plants, redesigned road layout, outdoor games room, library and additional seating are:

– Creating opportunities for people to encounter nature during their daily lives, which many studies show boosts wellbeing and productivity1.

– Promoting social relationships, one of the most powerful drivers of human health and wellbeing2.

– Enabling, encouraging and rewarding active mobility, which is critical to health, happiness and productivity3

Of particular note is that a single public realm improvement can foster multiple wellbeing benefits. For instance, the new wayfinding and branding are making it easier for people to use and move through the campus, while simultaneously building feelings of connection to the place.

Importantly, the improvements to the physical environment have created lots of new opportunities for new events and activities that give people the chance to try something new, meet different people and gain a bit of head space, which are all so important for wellbeing and productivity.

Many of the upgrades give a glimpse into the future wellbeing potential of the campus, with lighting and underpass activations supporting increased out-of-office-hours activities on the campus. And more improvements are still underway, with the Snøhetta library due to open in early 2018.

The evidence suggests that a wellbeing approach to placemaking can continue to help British Land build value for investors, while improving the health and happiness of those who live in, work at and visit Paddington Central.

1 Cox et al (2017); Spengler et al (2014); Grinde and Patil (2009).

2 Holt-Lunstad, Smith and Layton (2010).

3 Martin, Goryakin and Suhrcke (2014).