Carlin Fier: Head of Brand at Battersea Power Station
Carlin, you currently look after the development activation at Battersea Power Station, one of the most iconic developments in the world. Can you please tell us a little bit about how you got here?
After eight years working on exciting development and placemaking projects in London, Berlin and Dubai, I was fortunate enough to be approached by Battersea Power Station, one of the largest and most exciting regeneration projects in London, for the role of Head of Brand. The position involves placemaking and activation on a significant scale with endless possibilities and the culture aspect for me was the most exciting part of the new role.
What skills does a placemaker need to have in order to be successful?
To be a successful placemaker you need to be highly organised, efficient and able to adapt to any situation that arises including last-minute deadlines, requests and inevitable hiccups. So the ability to work well under pressure and be a creative thinker/problem solver are essential skills, as well as having a bit of patience (or in my case sheer determination).
What other industries do you look at for inspiration?
Throughout my career, I have always looked at the arts and retail sectors as a key source of inspiration. Art because it is my passion and retail because it is interesting to see how brands have had to adapt to continue attracting consumers with the changes brought about by online shopping.
How long does it take for a development to become fully activated and how have you, in the past, measured this?
This is quite a tricky question to answer because it really depends on each project. For example, the regeneration of Battersea Power Station consists of eight phases and each phase is activated on opening.
The first phase of the development, Circus West Village, opened to the public in 2017 and is now home to an eclectic mix of bars, restaurants, shops, a theatre, cinema and an events programme which has attracted over three million people in the past 12 months.
The second phase, the Power Station itself, will open to the public in 2021 and will include over 100 shops, restaurants and cafés; a 2,000-person capacity events venue; a cinema; a unique chimney lift experience offering 360-degree panoramic views of London’s skyline from a height of over 100m; new office space, 500,00 sq. ft of which will be home to Apple’s new London campus; and 253 residential apartments. The opening of Battersea Power Station will coincide with the opening of the new Northern Line underground extension, which will connect Battersea into the London tube network for the first time.
How much does media play a part in effective placemaking?
Media plays an extremely important role in placemaking as it is a key channel to reach and communicate with your target audience. However, the types of media (from traditional out of home and advertising and PR to social media) as much as the tone of voice and design of your collateral is all part of creating a brand and a destination to drive consumer awareness and footfall.
What countries inspire you and which capital cities do you look to for new ideas?
I’d have to start with my home town, New York as it’s the city that never sleeps and is full of new and innovative concepts. Los Angeles is another big US city that I regularly look to for inspiration but it also worth keeping an eye on smaller cities that are known to break the mould, such as Austin. Berlin is a very cool and eclectic city and I learnt a lot whilst working there. Asia and the Middle East are always coming up with new ways of placemaking too and of course, I am always watching what is going across London, as we are definitely leaders in this industry.
Can you recommend a book or TED talk on the subject of placemaking?
If you want to hear more about placemaking at Battersea Power Station, I’d highly recommend listening to the ‘Repurpose’ episode from Monocle magazine’s Urbanist podcast, which features an interview with our Director of Placemaking, Honor Fishburn. It gives a real insight into how everyone at Battersea Power Station is working hard to retain the heritage of the original building, whilst at the same time creating a completely new destination for London.
If you had to give three words to describe the fundamentals of successful placemaking, what would they be and why?
Scale because size certainly helps create impact although sometimes the most unexpected finds are in the smallest or well-hidden places that you’d never expect. Though big or small, funding is essential to successful placemaking, as well as partnerships with other like-minded developers or neighbours and local councils.
Do you have an idol or mentor in the placemaking or planning space?
I have always looked to Arts Brookfield, which presents free, world-class cultural experiences and brings the public spaces they operate across the globe to life, with roots from early adopters like Olympia & York (also responsible for Canary Wharf.