Developers are leaving billions of dollars of value unrealised in the projects and places that they create. And it’s not their fault. The industry is hardwired to follow a development process that defaults to ‘Architecture’, ‘Landscape and ‘Luxury’ instead of prioritising Vision and Customer Insight. However, in an increasingly congested and sophisticated market this approach is unsustainable, and results in developments that lack vision, differentiation or an understanding of people and places.

The industry needs to rethink its process. It needs to worry less about bricks and mortar and to concentrate on designing and creating places that people want to visit, stay in, live in, work in or shop in. It needs to concentrate on making places for people.

Research in 2016 by The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors and JLL shows that effective placemaking can increase long-term values by between 20% and 50%. It can also provide the edge that allows you to out-sell and out-lease and out-perform your competitors.

The Austin American Statesman Site

We were invited by SOM to help them and the site’s owners and developers to develop a vision for the most important development opportunity in Austin – a 19-acre waterfront site overlooking downtown and Austin’s Ladybird Lake that is being turned into a mixed-use project that will kickstart a 100 acre waterfront redevelopment plan.

Governors Island, New York

WSP are working to with the Friends and Trustees of Governors Island to develop a commercial real estate strategy for on what is arguably New York’s greatest real estate opportunity. How do you create a sustainable commercial offering on 170 acres of parkland, 500 metres from Downtown Manhattan, in the middle of the city’s harbour, whilst maintaining and enhancing its character, nature and history as well as protecting this as a resource for all New Yorkers.

Water Street, Tampa

This 56 acre waterfront project was only 8 weeks away from construction when WSP were asked to come and define a Placemaking Strategy to help define the vision of place, the leasing and sales narrative and the long-term activation and curation strategy that would help them attract talent and tenants not only to the development, but to the city of Tampa. The client team are now working with a defined vision and a strategy document of 50 values, behaviours and actions to help them realise their place vision.

Shipyard Communities

The San Francisco Shipyard and Candlestick projects in San Francisco are the largest urban development project in the US, covering 750 acres of regeneration and adaptive re-use of a decommisioned Naval shipyard and the site of the old Candlestick Park baseball and football stadium. The new development will provide about 12,500 new homes and upwrds of 4 million square feet of commercial space. WSP have worked with the developer Fivepoint over the last three years to help articulate their place vision and place strategy – and to create a manifesto to guide the longterm delivery of an authentic San Francisco community.

The Base at Concord, San Francisco Bay Area

This reuse project will deliver 28,000 new homes over the next twenty years on 2,500 acres of a disused naval weapons station in the East Bay of California. Working with Fivepoint and Hart Howerton, WSP delivered a place vision that responded to the City of Concord’s long-term development plan. We ran a one day workshop with the city to help explain the concept and proposition, and to explain the principles and values of the place.


This means having a clear idea about what you are making, why you’re making it and for whom. And then making sure that everything you do backs up that vision and that it is clearly understandable to all. This is easy to say, but hard to deliver. But it is the thing that characterises the world’s most successful projects.

You must know what you are doing and why if you expect people to follow and support you.


All the clients we work with have the vision to acquire land and build buildings, and they work with teams of extraordinary creativity, but what they often struggle with is the ability to combine those disparate skills to create places, and articulate their plans to maximize support, demand and value.

That’s where we come in.


We can help you to unlock, capture and combine the knowledge, experience and expertise in your team and turn it into a clear, differentiated and successful vision.

And then we can help you execute it with confidence.


Working on some of the world’s biggest, tallest, most famous projects, we’ve learnt a lot – from both successes and failures. We recognised a repeating requirement among our clients and in response we have expanded our team and services to respond to their growing needs.

The process works. It is deliberately simple, scalable and flexible. It has worked on 5,000 acres and on 500,000 sq ft, on single buildings, new or old, suburban towns and super–urban new neighborhoods.


It starts with learning and discovery. Us learning about you and your project, and you learning something about yourselves too. We will listen and learn, and go with you on site tours, neighbourhood tours and market and competitor audits. We run some workshops and generally get under the skin of the project.


  • Discovery report
  • Workshop designs


From there we design a set of workshops, events and exercises, specific to your business or project. They are challenging and demanding, surprising and insightful and they are designed to share knowledge, unlock insight and to build consensus – and create a sense of a single vision. We then show how the new insights can be applied to your specific project – allowing the team to see the project’s opportunities in a new light.


  • Workshop write-up


Finally, we develop the tools to share insight internally and externally. We have also learnt that a bulky book sits on shelves unread and unloved, so we distil our findings down into as few words as possible – a vision, a mantra and a set of principles that the team can support, champion and execute.

What you end up with is a clear and relevant articulation of what you are making, why you’re making it and for whom. This will build team cohesion and identity, ease decision–making and help build support with planners, local communities, press, stakeholders and future customers.


  • Vision document
  • Articulation of proposition
  • Articulation of customer needs/customer experience


Wordsearch Place can help you at any stage of the development process however we believe that the best approach is to establish a clear vision at the outset, use that vision to guide every development decision and finally tell the world so that they proactively come on the journey.  This is the most successful and profitable approach to real estate strategy which we can facilitate through a 3-stage approach.


  • Bid Vision, Strategy and Narrative
  • Planning Vision, Strategy and Narrative
  • Sales Vision, Strategy and Narrative
  • Experiential Marketing and Place Activation Strategy
  • Brief Writing
  • Architectural Competitions
  • Charettes and Rapid Prototyping
  • Cultural Strategies


‘Finding the Why’

A process of workshops enabling you to establish a clear idea of what you are making, why you are making it and for whom. We help you unlock your vision and establish a differentiated proposition that will enable you to capture the attention of stakeholders and customers while realising premium values. This delivers 4 key deliverables:

a. Project Vision Statement (what is this place)
b. Place Narrative (telling the story)
c. Vision themes (the roadmap to success)
d. The Manifesto (spreading the word)


‘Landing the Value’

Once you have established the vision, Wordsearch Place helps you delve deeper to ensure that the vision is embedded into all decisions so that value is captured at every stage of the development process. We help you hone the skills to create places and execute plans in order to maximise support, demand and value. We focus on 5 primary workstreams:

e. Place-Engineering the Masterplan
f. Ground floor land-use planning and end-user experience
g. How to evolve the story and experience over multiple phases
h. Designing and delivering for your management strategy
i. Agency and brokers workshops –channelling the ‘why’
j. Defining and refining the mix – what and for who


‘Making it Happen’

The final step in the process is making sure that each organisation is set up to deliver the vision as agreed – making sure that organisational structure, culture and team make-up are best suited to delivery and success. We run corporate and organisational vision and strategy sessions, leadership coaching and place counselling to ensure the teams maintain momentum and maximise the success of their vision. These cover 5 key areas:

k. Organisational vision and strategy (Why are we doing it?)
l. How do we do it? (culture and behaviour)
m. Information Diet (being a learning organisation)
n. Maximising communication and team dynamics.
o. Place Counselling (keeping the project on track)



William has worked at Wordsearch for 20 years and during that time has worked on some of the world’s most prestigious buildings and developments. Before that he trained as a Project Manager for Construction at the Bartlett School of Architecture. He was responsible for all marketing and communications for the Shard in London, for the development of the communications strategy and brand for One World Trade Center in New York, and has been the main director in charge of the development of the branding and placemaking strategy, and communications materials for Battersea Power Station since 2008.

He was instrumental in setting up the Wordsearch offices in Beijing, Abu Dhabi, Sydney, New York and San Francisco – and has worked on Barangaroo in Sydney, Hudson Yards and Central Park Tower in New York, The 78 in Chicago and Shipyard Communities and The Concord Naval Weapons Station in San Francisco.




David is a conscientious property developer who has championed the synergy of creating great places while maximizing value. From 2008 to 2017 David worked on the largest planning application ever secured in London at the iconic Battersea Power Station.

Working as both the Chief Development Officer and Head of Design and Placemaking, David was instrumental in developing the placemaking strategy, the masterplan, mix and architecture at the Power Station – running all aspects of design and placemaking.

In 2017, David became one of the founding partners at Wordsearch Place to spread the benefit of his experience on significant projects around the world.