Paul Harper from Design for London talks about the redevelopment of Exhibition Road in South Kensington to create a better quality street for all.
The idea for the Exhibition Road project came from Daniel Moylan, who was then Deputy Leader of Kensington and Chelsea. He’d already successfully improved Kensington High Street using some of the principles of shared space and de-cluttering and wanted to use a similar approach there.
This approach comes from Hans Monderman, a Dutch road traffic engineer, who argued that streets serve a number of different users, and if you take away the barriers that separate them; pedestrians, drivers, and other road users will act more responsibly. If you encourage one type of user to dominate space it makes it less easy for others.
A competition was held to try and attract top quality designers to look at the area and make it more fitting for the kind of street it is – one visited by a high number of people on foot. At the time it was dominated by cars and car parking with very narrow pavements, making it a poor experience for the 11 million who visit each year.
Exhibition Road was redesigned as a shared street, taking out kerbs, removing clutter, widening pavements. The space was redefined to make it more equal and encourage car drivers to slow down and take care around pedestrians.
Another aim was to get a wider section of people to visit the museums and galleries and make Exhibition Road a destination in itself. During the Games it was used for festivals and events. In fact one of the things that has happened both in Exhibition Road and other spaces across London is that they have been redesigned for civic and social activities as well as people getting from a to b.
The general idea is to use the space there is more intensively so that it works better for more people. It’s about quality of life. You can’t do much about the cost of living in London, but you can do things about the quality of life and quality of environment and make it somewhere people want to visit, live and work in.
Find out more: www.london.gov.uk/gifts/quality-street