Regeneration project: High Street 2012, Newham
Funding from the Mayor, supported by investment from the Department for Communities and Local Government, English Heritage, TfL, Heritage Lottery Fund and London Thames Gateway Development Corporation, of over £36m, has been invested in London’s oldest high street. The London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games was the catalyst for a range of schemes, collectively known as High Street 2012, that have created more cohesive route between the City and Stratford, home to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. The scheme brought together 17 individual creative projects, from works to the street and building facades, to cultural events and celebrations.
An ambitious programme of events celebrated the area and the London Games as part of High Street 2012. These ranged from an entertainment-led history of Bow to pop-up shops a Summer Safari weekend and more. Some events like the Panorama High Street East which produced a history of the route with locals and visitors donating photographs, have left a lasting legacy. Events also helped to shape permanent changes, such as the redesign of Altab Ali Park. Archaeological digs with students and street painting event helped uncover the site’s history and involve local people.
Creating and improving public space was a High Street 2012 priority. Highlights include a brand new green space designed by EDCO Design in Aldgate, created by unravelling a series of one-way traffic systems and closing one arm of the Aldgate Union gyratory. Altab Ali Park, an underused green space in Whitechapel, has been brought back to life by muf architecture/art. Nearby Whitechapel Market has also been overhauled by Alan Baxter and East Architecture Landscape Urban Design, with better lighting, drainage and services increasing its capacity and improving functionality. Together, these improved public spaces and many others from High Street 2012, have increased the connection between individual places – making each one an attractive destination.
The historic building part of High Street 2012’s vision led to major changes to the facades of important buildings at Aldgate, Whitechapel, Mile End and Bow. Conservation architects Julian Harrap were teamed with a regeneration consultant and graphic designers Objectif to negotiate the dual demands of historic conservation and contemporary requirements for shop front design. A dedicated council officer liaised between shopkeepers and planners and was absolutely vital to the successful delivery of the scheme.
A significant part of High Street 2012 was making sure that traffic infrastructure was improved, including establishing new walking and cycling routes. A new floating towpath and footbridge designed by Adams and Sutherland over the River Lee links up the Lea Valley Walk underneath the A11. New pedestrian pathways were created at every opportunity, encouraging visitors to explore the historic route to the Olympic Park on foot. The creation of Cycle Super Highway 2 also meant that a number of other related footpaths and junctions could be made safer and more efficient. Changes to Stratford High Street by Aecom such as new pavement surfaces, lighting and planting, have made it more pedestrian friendly and human in scale.
Preparing for change
In 2008, the architectural practice Fluid produced a vision study to support High Street 2012. A series of area-based initiatives were proposed for Aldgate, Whitechapel, Mile End Waste, Ocean Green, Mile End Intersection, Bow, the Greenway, and Stratford. The vision document established a broad design framework, setting out standards and overarching aims which individual projects could then deliver. This was a critical part of ensuring that a wide range of architectural, highway and cultural consultants were engaged in a collaborative effort. The study also contributed to the early buy-in from partners, without which the project may not have been possible.
Borough: Tower Hamlets and Newham
Partners/client: LB Tower Hamlets, LB Newham, TfL, English Heritage
Consultants: EDCO Design, JMP, muf architecture/art, Rachel Whiteread, Alan Baxter, East Architecture Landscape Urban Design, PRP, Adams and Sutherland, Aecom, Minx Collective, Timorous Beasties, Julian Harrap, Objectif, Fluid
Funding: Mayor of London £5m, DCLG £1.6m, LTGDC £12m, English Heritage £1m, TfL £10.5m