Mark Brearly, Lara Gibson and Robin Lee
Community Power by Sam Grainge
High Street London
High Street London is our subject and we have looked at the social and physical contributions that can be made to enhance, consolidate and intensify the high street stretching between Aldgate and Tottenham.
Around this high street is a hinterland of urban service spaces that exist on an intricate series of sites and spaces, built on a landscape of gradual adjustment. Multi-storey car parks, loading bays, bus garages, passages, and backlands all make an abrupt transition with a more traditional urban grain. The condition of ‘High Street London’ is typical and all the more interesting for this reason. The high street gains the status of a local institution, catering for civic and semi-social infrastructure, whilst capturing multiple uses with proximity to allow for new forms of workspace, living space and recreation to be explored and supported.
We have been looking at the high street as civic institution; the place where the social lives of the community are played out. We have been developing strategies that look at the social and physical contributions that can be made to enhance, consolidate and intensify the high street to make socially engaged and physically coherent places
Simultaneously we have been challenging students to consider the deeply pragmatic and hard-nosed financial parameters that underpin development within the city to develop plausible solutions that work with and around the logic of planning, landownership and developer margins.
To support this programme we made a study trip to New York. We walked the length of one of Manhattan’s ‘high streets’, Broadway, equivalent in length to the A10 between Aldgate and Tottenham. We observed the unique and everyday and we recorded the uses that occur there. We visited off-island development sites to understand how policy is directing change and how transport infrastructure impacts on city development.
The final projects address both the generic and distinctively local conditions of the high street.
Read as a collection of interventions they demonstrate the innate potential of the high street as the vital beating heart of our cities.