People Friendly Design in London
Streetfilms voyaged across the pond to visit some of London’s innovative transportation and public realm projects. We interviewed Paul Harper, a head urban designer at Design for London, who was in charge of the 100 Public Spaces Programme.
The 100 Public Spaces Programme improved the public realm of London through streetscaping, transportation and public space planning. In this interview, we take a special look at—and a visionary zoom around—Aldgate, a neighborhood in East London undergoing considerable change, including an inclusive transformation from car-dominated streets to a large public park.
Design for London is now part of the London Development Agency's Design, Development and Environment Directorate. The 100 Public Spaces Programme has transformed into new public space initiatives under the current mayor, Boris Johnson, with a focus on the legacy of the Olympics site in East London. The Aldgate neighborhood's public realm continues to become more people friendly with transportation planning and parks.
Voiceover: [0:04] In London, head urban designer, Paul Harper talks about the 100 Public Spaces Programme. The program encourages people-friendly, public space design.
Paul Harper: [0:16] Harper: Design for London's Architecture and Urban Design Unit that works for the Mayor of London. So we work at various different scales from looking at area master plans down to looking at individual buildings, and very importantly, looking at the quality of the public space. The 100 Public Spaces Programme came forward as a way of producing exemplar projects and trying to make sure that design quality was at the heart of those. [0:41] Jan Gehl looked at seven or eight different locations in central London. We looked at what the environment was like for pedestrians there. The results of the analysis he did, which still remains true, is that across London, there are a lot of places where there are considerable barriers for people using those public spaces.
[0:57] And the main thought behind the Jan Gehl study is we should be looking to see how we could promote full use of those spaces. So one way of doing that is to try and remove those barriers, so that's very much part of the program. We're changing lots of people's experience of the city in a positive way, for what is a relatively small system.
Voiceover: [1:18] Aldgate is one of the program's 100 Public Spaces. Aldgate Public Realm Strategy exemplifies the program's people-friendly design approach.
Paul Harper: [1:27] There are two big gyratory systems there, one-way systems that made that bit of the center of London seem like more being on the edge of a motorway than it did being the center of the city. It's a bit difficult to describe because the gyratory's now been taken out. But what used to happen here before is that traffic would go one way down this side of the street and around here. [1:46] So you couldn't see this connection straight across here, and the main road was just going that way. So just having it knitted back into the city like that it becomes an ordinary bit of town again, rather than part of a motorway, which is the way it seemed before.
[2:02] The sense of place in Aldgate is dislocated by the fact that you've got the Whitechapel Gallery in Aldgate, not in Watson and Holmes's Whitechapel. You've got two tube stations and two gyratory systems. So you've got two big one-way systems, and all of that tends to fragment the area.
[2:19] We're standing in what will be Brian Street Park. So what this was, until a couple of months ago, was a one-way system with four lanes of traffic going one way, all the way around. All we've done here is to reintroduce two-way, working on the main High Streets, which runs between the city to Whitechapel to Mile End, Bow, and eventually to Stratford and the Olympic site. That gets knitted back into that High Street. What we see here is a street designed for vehicles. And what we'll have in its place will be a park.
[audio ends at 2:50]