This proposal sketches an agenda for negotiating Redchurch Street’s future. At one level, this involves imagining the kinds of places the street could viably become. But imagination alone is not enough, because nothing comes from nothing: every viable tomorrow grows from creative responses to today’s potentials and constraints. Our agenda aims at channelling today’s dynamics towards a flourishing future.
Reimagined Redchurch Street
UK retail is in crisis: to make the most of its particular potential, Redchurch needs a re-imagined personality that will strengthen emotional relationships with all its various stakeholders. Innovative re-imagination can only grow from debate between different types of ‘street experts’ - local residents, businesses, social organisations, visitors, landowners - each with their own particular aims. Our overall approach must enable all these stakeholders to address the particular needs that matter in their lives, by tapping into the rich resource-potential of the street’s particular location.
Redchurch Street’s wider catchment: destinations within 15min walk
Wider pavements also offer enough space for positive response to the rapid culture-changes that are currently being triggered by the climate emergency we all face. Trees can be planted where the layout of sewers and other services permit; with ‘grey to green’ planters elsewhere allowing for small-scale local food production. To develop a fractal street personality, we start by locating new space-defining elements like trees, street floor painting and street lights to create sub-spaces within the street enclosure as a whole.
Greening Redchurch: using landscape to create a hierarchy of settings to foster health, well-being and social integration
The street’s personality must also engage the perception of time as well as space – particularly at night, when the place is currently unloved. This is partly a matter of encouraging a broader business time-span, with bakers starting early, and restaurants closing late. Technology will also help; with interactive shop-fronts and projections to enliven the blank walls and security shutters. For continued security, however, we also need a real- life presence of people when businesses are closed: it is important that people continue to live here, so we shall need complex digital mediation of the night-time lighting-experience between residents, visitors, businesses and wildlife.
Enhancing night-time experience to support the area’s local economy
To be branded as Made in Redchurch, the regeneration proposals for Redchurch Street included key interventions focusing around traffic-exclusion, linking with natural systems to support health and well-being, enhancing the night-time experience, supporting existing businesses and building a new business ecology by sowing the seeds of a knowledge economy.
Re-imagining street personality involves using these varied resources to build a common vision, within which each particular stakeholder’s needs can develop. We start by suggesting measures that benefit everyone. First, rat-running traffic involves outsiders using the street without benefitting any of the place’s own stakeholders. Removing it is therefore in everyone’s interests; making it possible to widen pavements and use the street space more effectively for social spaces and displays of merchandise, and for occasional promotions and events such as catwalk evenings. We also suggest timed service access, one way west to east. This is not in search of neatness: service access to the street’s businesses is fine, and loading across the pavement adds to the atmosphere of informal urban buzz. Its purpose is to foster walking - even with prams or buggies, cycling, scootering, sitting, lingering and lazing.
Made in Redchurch
These subspaces will have a major impact on street personality.
There is scope for developing the emotional engagement of stakeholders themselves through creating the physical elements that define them; for example through tree-planting or by designing and making street lights to support safer night time ambiance.
To strengthen the street’s well-established personality, low-investment 3D printing of fashion accessories and small-scale homewares, in relatively under-used upper floors and spaces behind shops, would form natural allies for fashion retailing This production system can be developed to support the emotional engagement of the visitor experience by moving beyond passive consumption; using IT to develop a new type of retail experience: direct purchaser-involvement with the processes of design and production themselves. ‘Design with the phone’, for example.
Facing a retail crisis, the street in any case needs a broader economic base to improve its capacity to survive unpredictable future risks. We need to build a diverse – therefore robust - ecology of mutually-supportive low-tech and hi-tech production and selling enterprises. A mixed business ecosystem needs different sized commercial spaces: from very small micro spaces (when you are starting out) to bigger spaces (as you expand). Availability of different plot sizes and intermingling of buildings of different ages, types, sizes and conditions of upkeep, is apt for this purpose. Redchurch inherits that potential to develop an advanced manufacturing capability which could breathe new life into uncertain futures; generating up-skilling and apprenticeship opportunities for local people.
Cultivating a mixed business ecosystem: supporting existing businesses and building a new business ecology of mutually-supportive low-tech and high-tech production, maker-spaces and selling enterprises.