Everyone needs well designed open space

A collection of voices exploring the importance of places to just be

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We need to activate our streets

Architecture delivers the widest benefits when we make the most of how buildings hit the ground, says founding partner Roger Hawkins.

Sometimes our commissions are all about streets, enhancing space between buildings, removing traffic, improving accessibility and signage. But other times, it is our role to consider how the built environment can be best used to create new public realm and to identify the opportunities to design spaces that are open and welcoming – for everyone to meet, relax, participate in their communities, and be well.

It’s not always possible to integrate public space into a project – particularly retrofit or infill sites but it’s always part of our work to look at how buildings are contained within space; to make sure they connect with the public at ground level, even when they can’t be accessed. Is there a small rear space that we can upgrade and share? Or can we make more of a frontage to bring activity to the street?

At Earls Court – London’s most important opportunity area – we are developing a strategic framework in collaboration with Studio Egret West to demonstrate how the 40-acre site in central London can benefit not just the occupants, but all the people of this exciting new piece of the city. The Earls Court Development Company has a bold and ambitious vision ‘to bring the wonder back to Earls Court’, opening up this former exhibition site, giving back to local communities, addressing the climate emergency, and providing a blueprint for future generations.

We see Earls Court as an amazing opportunity to offer a rich and diverse mix of accommodation and a variety of open spaces – everything from kids’ play areas and sports pitches, to parks and smaller spaces for quiet relaxation, outdoor dining, and allotments. The emerging proposal is to transition from low rise at the sensitive edges to taller buildings in the centre – the tallest clustered around an existing 31 storey building – and to create all this wonderful open space around them. It’s a landscape-led approach; the transition in heights enables us to deliver a place which respects and stitches in with the neighbouring streets but at the same time creates eight hectares of accessible and welcoming space.

Our driver is to think about the public space; well-designed open space that is an integral part of cohesive, successful, and sustainable communities. We need to work hard with all our clients and stakeholders to make sure it’s part of every project.