Maria is the founding Director of Living Space Project, a ‘think and do’ place making consultancy and social enterprise. She advises on strategy and project design for collaborative, inclusive urban place making and cities.
She assists grant making foundations, communities, charities, government, developers and planners in creating cities, and neighbourhoods centred on inclusion and good growth. To date, her portfolio includes designing the environment and place programme for the £200 million, 150 community strong Big Local project, developing new models for funding parks and green spaces by commercial and not for profit organisations, and developing place-led strategies and programmes for philanthropic organisations.
As Senior Fellow for Philanthropy and Place, at the New York based Projects for Public Spaces (PPS) and a co-founder of the UK Place Making Collective, she is championing an ambitious platform for local, national and international conversations that are focused on people and place.
Before founding Living Space Project, Maria was Director of Capacity Global - an international environmental justice non-governmental organisation. Before that she was the Director of the UK based Environmental Law Foundation (ELF), where she designed and established its largest project: community hub based advice surgeries. During her time at ELF the organisation won a prestigious The Times Law Award.
Maria is the Chair of the South East Committee of the Heritage Lottery Fund the largest dedicated funder of heritage in the UK, a board member of the UK Environment Agency (a non-departmental public regulatory body established to create better places for people and the environment. Maria has recently been appointed as a Commissioner of the London Sustainable Development Commission, set up to advise the Mayor of London.
She is a member of the International Placemaking Leadership Council, an associate member of the Royal Institute of British Architects, and an Academician of the Academy of Urbanism. She is also an ambassador for the Women’s Environmental Network (WEN), and a patron of the UK Environmental Law Association (UKELA).
Maria has written articles for The Guardian newspaper, New Start, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and, publications of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the World Bank, Social Policy Press and others. She also runs Masterclasses and is regularly commissioned to speak at events.
Maria is the recipient of a Clore Social Leadership Fellowship and holds a BA (Hons) in Organisation Studies and Business Law from the University of Lancaster, a Masters in Public International (Law from SOAS, University of London and a PGD in Architecture, Design and Sustainability from the University of East London.
In her spare time, she collects, as she puts it, “knackered Penguin paperbacks”.
She is the author of The Placemaking Factor.