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Weston Williamson recognises the importance of creating successful places where people want to live and work through excellence in city shaping, and foresees a more inclusive and sustainable approach ahead for both urban design and project delivery. This essay is by Constance Desenfant and Simon Catton. It outlines the social potential and urban dimension of transport infrastructure projects, the main focus of the Weston Williamson’s masterplanning team.


1,2+3. Plan Voisin for Paris, Le Corbusier (1922-1925).


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U

rban growth is inevitable; by 2050, cities will increase the worldwide population by 2.5 billion people. Cities are facing an unprecedented dilemma – they can either sprawl with an unplanned or car-orientated periphery that segregates land uses and people, or they can grow with inclusive, Transport Oriented Development (TOD) to re-establish urban equity while reducing energy use, saving infrastructure costs and cutting down greenhouse gas emissions. In a global city like London, commuting is a way of life, connecting two distant economic necessities, job opportunities in the city centre and affordable housing in the outskirts. The daily commute is synonymous with dense vehicular traffic, a pollution-tainted environment and lifethreatening dashes across busy roads. Cities offer opportunities for economic and cultural progress, but they generally fail to meet the requirements for healthy, liveable, equitable neighbourhoods and mobility. The challenge faced by city planners, engineers and architects is substantial, to mitigate reactive urban planning into pedestrianfriendly neighbourhoods through designs that mix land uses and feature high-quality rapid transit options. Nearly 100 years after Le Corbusier designed his Plan Voisin for Paris, car-orientated peripheries continue to develop around megacities like London. In retrospect, Le Corbusier’s first experimentation of city shaping around a car-orientated transport system has not proved successful; cities are made of a complex balance between public and private spaces, and car-orientated developments tend to prevent social interaction, reduce the space allocated to pedestrians and challenge the safety of the city’s citizens. It is clear today that the social and public space potential of a car-dominated city is limited, and similarly, it is illogical to build public spaces around private means of transportation. Nowadays, car-orientated cities or peripheries often represent bad examples of urban planning and often feature poorquality public spaces, lower levels of social interaction, increased environmental pollution, and safety issues.


Rail travel, in comparison, is a safer and more sustainable means of transport that potentially promotes progress and urban growth. Many historic stations in the UK still act as a gateway, with their station square playing an important part in the public/social life of the city. Since the beginning of the first great railway age, cities have developed along railway routes and around stations, unlocking growth potential and creating new opportunities for formerly isolated settlements. Ensuring good access to public transport is the first step to guaranteeing that everyone’s right to a fair and sustainable city is met. Key factors of this kind of accessibility include attractive and safe walking routes to and from stations, and high-quality, high-capacity public transport services. The implementation or expansion of rail transit infrastructure is critical for cities to continue to grow in an inclusive way, and the interface between the public realm of the station and its immediate local area can become a significant space for the neighbourhood. This interface has the potential to offer improved placemaking, contribute to social infrastructure, improve retail offers and provide an intermodal transport interchange, while still being accessible for different types of users e.g. commuters, tourists and recreation facility users. This kind of station integration also faces constraints, such as the impact on urban space of the required infrastructure (viaducts, cuttings, underground infrastructure, etc.) and challenges such as accessibility and safety for all users.


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24+ kms 20-24 kms 18-20 kms 15-18 kms 13-15 kms 11-13 kms 10-11 kms 8-10 kms 7-8 kms 0-7 kms

Car Tube, DLR Train Bus Walk Bike Other

4+5. London workplaces map showing average distances to work (2011). Getting to work map showing London’s most popular transport modes (2011).


Paddington Crossrail & Integrated Project

Pudding Mill Lane DLR Station

Victoria Station Upgrade

6. In designing stations across London, WW+P always considers the existing urban fabric and public realm context making sure the passengers’ experience doesn’t begin and end at the gateline but extends out in to the surrounding public realm. Woolwich Crossrail Station


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An approach to masterplanning through railway-led projects Weston Williamson has been working on transport infrastructure projects for more than 30 years, including the integration of these vital transit components into the urban fabric. Considered by city planners as a key component of both city and railway transit infrastructure, the station square is not always considered an essential part of the project in these mainly engineering-led pieces of work. When Weston Williamson started work on the London Bridge Jubilee line in 1991, it was seen solely as a transport infrastructure project. In the earlier stages, little consideration was given to how the station related to the existing urban fabric and public realm context, with most of the focus being on the passenger experience from the gate line to the train. While, at surface level, Joiner Street (for example) was pedestrianised and incorporated into the station, other identified opportunities, such as the potential for widening the pavement on Tooley Street, were unfortunately not taken forward. Transport infrastructure projects typically involve multiple stakeholders, and as designers we have a responsibility to address the wider issues for the benefit of the overall project. It can be a challenging task to coordinate all stakeholder interests, whether they are to do with parallel construction programmes or funding priorities. The power of the GLA and the Mayor of London now enables ambitious schemes to be better coordinated and procured. This is one of the key reforms to help inclusive TOD: coordinating across the local planning institute, transport company and private developers to align with the ambitions and interrelated goals of master and local plans. The disconnect between transport infrastructure and the local area experienced during the London Bridge Jubilee line project has also continued during the early stages of Crossrail. Weston Williamson was initially working on both the Whitechapel and Farringdon stations; however, they were not able to influence the integration of the station design with the public realm. At an early stage, the local authorities seemed reluctant to engage, probably due to budgeting constraints and project uncertainty. It was only when their designs were being submitted for approval to parliament that the design team was able to make proposals for the closure and pedestrianisation of Cowcross Street in Farringdon.


Too many projects are still overly focused on budget or timescales, and their final designs often miss many opportunities. The London plan for the 2012 summer Olympics is a good example of a project that has been slow to deliver the legacy of new jobs and affordable housing orientated around train stations due to time and financial pressures. Nevertheless, cities like Berlin and Barcelona are providing inspiration and featuring strengthened government institutions. These cities were able to adopt objectives of inclusiveness and methods to monitor progress and coordinate across all the stakeholders for the benefit of the regional or local economy.

The challenging role of the architect and their sensitivity to both technical and social/urban issues On their appointment for the HS2 station at Old Oak Common, Weston Williamson’s work was confined tightly to the proposed station within the red line boundary. Only after nine months of station design work did a dialogue begin about the stations relationship to the wider environment and the local neighbourhood. The station is now seen as the catalyst for a huge redevelopment scheme in West London, potentially providing 90,000 new jobs and 25,000 homes. The collaboration between the station design team and the masterplanning team, as well as their coordination with the engineers, is certainly the most challenging part of the project. Over time, and after the intervention of the Department for Transport, the project should eventually emerge as a design solution addressing all the different ambitions expressed by the multiple stakeholders involved in this redevelopment scheme. As another urban case study closely related to a transport interchange, the Victoria area of London has attracted many redevelopment proposals over the last 20 years. Yet, it took £600m of investment in the station upgrade by London Underground to encourage the developers and site owners to implement their ambitious plans. The Victoria Station Upgrade project is a further example of infrastructure provision facilitating city development, now stretching from city centre to city fringe and beyond.


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7. Aerial shot of Old Oak Common 2013.


Air Quality

Cycle highway

Biodiversity & wellbeing

SUJDS Public realm

The ‘Barrier’ (6 no. vehicle lanes)

SUJDS Accessible services

Sustainable electric buses/transit vehicles

Public realm

Central Activity Zone

Challenge

Opportunity

8+9. Accommodating green routes and spaces for all is a key principle underpinning our masterplanning illustration here with a proposal for the Old Kent Road in South East London.

Central Activity Zone

Walworth in

lk wa

North Bermondsey

10

m

Walworth

North Bermondsey

Burgess Park

Burgess Park

10 m in w

Peckham

alk

South Bermondsey

South Bermondsey

Peckham

New Bermondsey New Bermondsey New Cross

Sustainable Transport

New Cross

Silvertown Tunnel HGV & Diesel Bus Turn around

Outer London Depot

Transport node / town centre Existing station Old Kent Road Stations 1 and 2 Isolated communities Local east / west connections Strategic east / west connections Cycle highway / quietway


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Located in Central London and highly serviced by public transport, Victoria’s challenge is more about the coordination of the use and development of the urban realm in order to accommodate all of its users, rather than a question of equitable access to public transport. Given its expertise in railway infrastructure projects, Weston Williamson has a thorough understanding of station typology – whether it’s a gateway, attractor, metropolitan or local station type – and the goals and targets involved in it. Their work on the urban realm integration studies for 14 potential new or upgraded London stations addressed the impact of a major transport infrastructure on multiple areas across London. The consequences in terms of growth and the outcome for the local community vary from one area to another and have to be handled carefully in order to address the concerns and ambitions of both master and local plans. Weston Williamson’s current overseas work includes Sydney Metro, which has clearly learnt a lot from London’s transport infrastructure projects such as Crossrail – particularly in relation to over-site development (OSD). In many ways, the Sydney scheme is even more ambitious, with OSD potential for over 50 storeys. At Martin Place, for example, the 15-storey tower includes a Tiffany & Co. showpiece retail store at ground level, which has been purchased by the project for demolition and substantial redevelopment. As with London’s current projects, the biggest transformation will be at the edge of the city centre, but Sydney also has ambitious plans for the central business district. The studio’s main contribution to date has been to propose the integration of the new stations with the city’s public realm. In most cases, Weston Williamson’s urban work aims to give back the streets or public spaces to the people, taking into consideration the wide range of users utilising these spaces. Far from being limited to motorised vehicles, these users include more and more green commuters, hence the necessity to design places that can accommodate green routes and the facilities related to it.



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10,11+12. WW+P’s Victoria Station Upgrade.



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13. WW+P’s highway improvement works including sustainable modes of travel. TfL cycle super highway Avenue Road.


City repairs, town centre upgrade and industrial estate regeneration Weston Williamson’s masterplanning portfolio has largely benefited from their experience in transport infrastructure projects, and good working relationships with their clients and multiple stakeholders. While most masterplanning projects are still related to major transport infrastructure initiatives, Weston Williamson’s is also very enthusiastic about exploring urban challenges and issues that are less directly transport-led. The question of city repairs, land use change, regeneration and close collaboration with the many London boroughs represents a relatively new aspect of their work that meets Weston Williamson’s ambition of creating successful places where people want to live and work through excellence in urban design. In the 1980s, planning discussions were dominated by the popularity of out-of-town supermarkets and shopping centres. Traditional retail was severely impacted by the convenience of shopping away from town centres rather than in them. Today there is a much better balance, which has led to the re-emergence of local town-centre shopping. Weston Williamson saw in this an opportunity to rethink the interrelation between suburban and urban spaces and the interdependence of retail/business offers and transport services. In London and elsewhere at present there is a demand among developers for mixed-use developments, including residential, commercial and retail locations adjacent to improved and efficient transport links. This balance of the commercial offer split between outof-town shopping centres and local town centres (convenience stores) has led to the resurgence of multiple leisure and retail facilities spread across the city, enabled by, and relying on, rapid transit. A number of remote town centres have historically emerged all around London, benefiting from a direct connection to central London while offering an active town centre in a more rural and liveable environment. Wimbledon is a good example; its town centre is currently subject to potential redevelopment opportunities afforded by the arrival of faster and frequent Crossrail 2 railway services, helping to build the case for an improved district centre.


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14,15+16. Illustrative Burgess Park Interchange showing WW+P’s ambition to create successful places where people want to live and work though excellence in urban design.


17. WW+P, public realm around Woolwich Elizabeth line Station integrating into the wider Berkeley homes masterplan.


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01. Create Focal Point

18. WW+P’s strategic approach to urban regeneration. Mixeduse development in Southwark and how it relates to the surroundings.

0 1a new ‘place’ on Commercial Way. Create

02. Complete Square

03. Link to Park

04. Enviroment

Explore options to create a better link to the Central Venture Park.

Reduce impact of traffic noise from Commercial Way. Look at re-aligning Cronin St, making it easier to use.

05. Avoid Sewer

06. Connect to Existing

Designated ‘no build-zone’ above sewer as public space.

Make connections to the existing estate. Integrate footpaths into new development.

07. Public & Private

08. Sunlight & Daylight

Create sheltered courtyards, enhancing safety Give life to streets. Front doors.

Avoid massing of buildings that may cast a shadow on existing buildings to North.

New buildings will give a new ‘edge’ to the North of public square & natural surveillance over the Central Venture Park.


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In other areas of London, local planning authorities are undertaking studies to regenerate or requalify industrial sites within their borough, promoting the introduction of mixed-use developments, especially along railway corridors. This raises complex issues in terms of territorial strategy which here again, is tightly linked to the question of mobility. Understanding the impact of a consequent service improvement on an area is part of Weston Williamson’s expertise as well as designing masterplans that respond to the new challenges arising with it. Patterns of activity are established through available space, which in turn has a long-term impact on the environment. The land use of these strategic sites needs to be thought through carefully to respond to the wider land-use and transport strategy for Greater London, as well as the boroughs’ ambition for their local plan and the future of their inhabitants. Humans shape and are shaped by an urban future, and, in some specific cases, cities ‘shapeshift’ with this infinite cycle of construction, deconstruction and reconstruction. A recent feasibility study undertaken by Weston Williamson’s considered these city-shaping issues in response to how transport infrastructure priorities change over time. Built in the late 1960s, the Westway was conceived as part of a larger strategic road network plan for Greater London. Over the past few years, Transport for London has started to investigate scenarios where major transport infrastructure works have been repurposed, and was keen to understand what development opportunities could exist in their place. Weston Williamson’s worked on this project during the summer of 2015, looking into the capacity of land currently occupied by this major vehicular transport piece of infrastructure. An alternative tunnelled road scenario has been considered, where traffic would enter at portals located at existing main access points to the elevated road section. The study looked into how communities separated by the elevated road structure could be reconnected and how significant land parcels could be made available to build a substantial number of new homes, workplaces and community facilities for this part of West London.


19. WW+P’s masterplan proposal for the Westway removal.


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Weston Williamson’s produced a masterplan, turning the derelict space under the road infrastructure into a people-friendly area that could be used by the community to achieve meaningful city repairs. Just like the urban resilience and adaptability that occurred after the Blitz in London, cities and citizens sometimes have to face their own mistakes and solve self-generated problems. This project is a good illustration of how cities can sometimes represent national ‘laboratories’ for synergistic actions, where urban governance and citizen empowerment become decisive.

Conclusion With renewed investment in UK railway infrastructure comes the opportunity to capitalise on the transport benefits afforded by new fast and frequent public transport services. It provides increased individual choice of places to live, work and visit, and helps to mitigate the need for new homes on ever increasing urban populations. This idea of transport orientated development driving so many projects across the UK aims to restore balance between the different users of city spaces. For decades, cars and motorised vehicles in general have taken ownership of the urban streetscape, leaving too little space for social cohesion and limiting the urban integration of the multiple uses and aspects of public life. During the last decade though, designers and city planners have started to focus on giving back the city to people while promoting in some ways the return to the great age of the railway. Stations across the country see their forecourt freed up from cars to leave more space for others uses and transport modes. New local centres start to flourish again along railway corridors. We are not too far from Metro-Land, the early 20th century campaign promoting a dream of new homes in beautiful countryside along the Metropolitan Railway extension lines into Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and Middlesex and providing a fast, frequent railway service to central London. As the global community transitions into a new era of public transport led sustainable development, committed leadership is needed across all professional disciplines and within communities to create healthier, more equitable, liveable and inclusive settlements. The challenges of delivering pioneering new settlements and thoughtful urban extensions, well connected by highly desirable public transport systems, is substantial yet ultimately achievable through innovative design vision and dedicated long term political governance.


Old town

Old town

Station

Station

Waterfront Market

Market

Existing Condition: Disconnected

Improved Condition: Connected

New Park as ‘Urban Mixer’

Railway Station Railway Station

International Bus Station

International Bus Station

Existing Condition: Disconnected International Bus Station / Railway Station Relationship

Improved Condition: Connected

20. Expansion of rail transit infrastructure is critical for cities to continue to grow in an inclusive way.


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21. WW+P’s urban realm design for Riga rail masterplan with proposed new Bus Station and green link to Riga station.


22. WW+P sketch illustrating transport led approach to urban design

Heritage buildings

Walworth Academy

Underground Station

Cycle Quietway

Cycle Hub - Secure cycle parking - Workshop / servicing - Shop - Lounge

Burgess Park

Sports


Entertainment Outdoor Amphitheatre

Mixed Use Transport Oriented Development

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Retail Cafe

Restaurants

Bus Interchange Community Hub - Public library - Computer lab - Rooms for hire - Study areas - CafĂŠ - Changing Places Toilet

Ro

lls

Ro

ad

Workspace Hub - Flexible office floorplate - Private offices - Co-working space - Ideas exchange - Networking breakout areas - Event space

Mixed Use Transport Oriented Development Cycle Highway

Retail Cafe

Health care

Outdoor Play Area

Green Linear Park

Cycle Quietway


Picture Credits: 1. © Le Plan Voisin, croquis, Le Corbusier, 1925 2. © Model of the Plan Voisin for Paris by Le Corbusier 3. © Model of the Plan Voisin for Paris by Le Corbusier 4. © Office of National Statistics data 5. © London, The Information Capital by James Cheshire & Oliver Uberti 6. © WestonWilliamson+Partners 7. © HS2 Limited 8. © WestonWilliamson+Partners 9. © WestonWilliamson+Partners 10. © WestonWilliamson+Partners 11. © WestonWilliamson+Partners 12. © WestonWilliamson+Partners 13. © WestonWilliamson+Partners 14. © WestonWilliamson+Partners 15. © WestonWilliamson+Partners 16. © WestonWilliamson+Partners 17. © WestonWilliamson+Partners 18. © WestonWilliamson+Partners 19. © WestonWilliamson+Partners 20. © WestonWilliamson+Partners 21. © WestonWilliamson+Partners 22. © WestonWilliamson+Partners