There’s also something else they have in common: they are all designed by LDA Design, an independent consultancy bringing together urban designers, landscape architects, and planners.

With a 44-year history of excellence in design and planning and with studios in eight UK cities, including London, Bristol and Glasgow, LDA Design is at the cutting edge of creating new places. Its employee-ownership model empowers its 180 strong team to tackle the big issues affecting the communities they work for.

The transition to employee ownership was made possible in 2021 with funding from Triodos Bank UK.

“Employee ownership is the ultimate expression of our faith in each other,” says Frazer Osment, LDA design chair. “It unlocks the brilliance of the collective. All of our employees are helping to shape the direction of the business, take responsibility for its success, and benefit from its growth.”

An employee-driven culture

As well as protecting the long-term future of the business and benefiting its employees financially, the new employee ownership model has enabled the company to align with its workers’ ideals.

Together the entire team created and adopted a charter. This describes their culture and sets out how they will work together in an open, supportive way that respects each other as individuals and rewards employees in a transparent and fair way. The charter is used by their Employee Ownership Trust, which acquired the former owners’ shares, to assess company progress against commitments.   

A further key tenet of the charter is inclusion. By providing a space for everyone in the company to speak up, LDA Design doesn’t just unlock new creative potential and ideas, but also allows for deeper personal and professional growth within the company.

With a goal that everyone should feel valued and love their job, the company is now a wellbeing-first business – allowing employees to work towards mastery of their chosen discipline.

Employee ownership also aids the company in nurturing relationships with clients who share their values. This allows them to develop more powerful solutions to their clients’ problems, for example pioneering better approaches to urban design.

In central London, Alfred Place Gardens near Tottenham Court Road has been transformed from a dull street congested with parking into a beautiful new park for locals and workers. Strand Aldwych is another place where LDA has helped to prioritise people over cars, creating a wonderful car free space for cultural activity.

LDA Design uses the power of landscape-led thinking to design for net zero. It sees first-hand the many links between how places are designed and planned and the ensuing climate and biodiversity crises. LDA Design also recognises that carbon reduction and nature recovery will be rooted in cultural change. It uses the original definition of landscape - to create a place where people belong - while also working towards a future where a 1.5-degree lifestyle is desirable and easy.

LDA Design’s work is centred around ensuring that all projects, from housing and parks to major new infrastructure, maximise benefits for people and the natural world. Their carefully realised designs explore how places can provide for personal and community wellbeing, promote social equity and support a new kind of regenerative economy.

Triodos Bank UK’s support has allowed LDA Design to pursue projects that let it tackle the issues it cares about, by giving employees a steering hand in developing a charter that is aligned with their values.