High Street London

September 3, 2010

It’s interesting to read the recent  ‘High Street London‘ report by Gore Scott and UCL for Design for London. It is clear that there is a lot of synergy between their findings and our own work (which is indeed copiously cited there). In particular, they have found that:

  • London’s high streets have potential that is “multiplied by the presence of existing infrastructure and already well-established communities; in-built advantages that many less connected brownfield sites do not possess.”
  • They repeatedly point to the complexity, diversity and adaptability of the suburbs.
  • The high street is seen as a place of opportunity too, for amongst other things for development, for start-up businesses and for their potential for regeneration.
  • Our conception of the wider, ‘active’ town centre as opposed to the typically narrow conception of the high street is demonstrated in the report’s appendix, in which analysis of the extent of mixed-use activity beyond the town centre boundary is demonstrated (see ‘Appendix E: Street and Block mapping’).
  • In particular, their reference to the “bewildering array of activities that feed off each other and the high streets” (page 8 of main report) very much lies at the heart of our own interest in the interrelationship between all non-residential activities.
  • Likewise, it is pleasing to see how adaptability is tied in with the notion of the need of continuity (of architectural integrity) to allow for change (page 8 again).

One Response to “High Street London”

  1. suburbanite Says:

    Other aspects that are relevant to the Adaptable Suburbs project:

    – The Cities Revealed database masks the diversity of activities under the category of ‘Industrial’. In one instance an ‘industrial’ unit houses: car mechanics, car and van hire, large gym, sports centre, language and A-level tuition, manufacturer of engineering parts.
    – The authors maintain that the morphology of high streets allows for both continuity and change: “The blocks show a strong ability to accommodate change, with mixes of uses (and even the built fabric) that are dynamic and constantly changing. In being adaptable, the buildings on the street frontage are generally more robust and longer lasting, whilst buildings behind are more transient and often temporary in nature; the combination of which allows for both continuity and change.” The authors don’t mention this here, but it is evident that it is also the small size of units that allows for: on the one hand continuity in the general non-residential nature of the usage; but on the other hand rapid change, in that a unit can be transformed in its usage without a major architectural shift. This is not the case with the ‘big box’ supermarkets etc., that have the added problem of interrupting the regular intervals of doorways and windows along the street that add to its liveliness.
    – Lastly, it is notable that amongst its various recommendations, the report states that where connectivity is poor, the relationship between the high street and its hinterland should be enhanced.

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