London festival

how the event creates a blueprint for future urban development

Happy Street by Yinka Ilori was part of the London Festival of Architecture in 2019 (Luke O’Donovan)

Today marks the start of the London Festival of Architecture 2022, a month-long series of events, talks, walks, workshops and installations celebrating and questioning the capital’s built environment.

As a member of the selection committee, I was delighted to see how participants reacted to this year’s theme – Taking Action.

For some the word conjured up ideas around artifice and theatricality but I like to read it as an imperative. Law! To be involved! Don’t just complain once the world has changed around you.

The idea behind the festival is to encourage citizens to understand architecture not as something that happens to them, but as something more collaborative. It’s also a testing ground for new ideas, some of which could eventually be adopted on a permanent basis.

The Exhibition Road pedestrian street with the Foster and Partners (LFA) pavilion

The Exhibition Road pedestrian street with the Foster and Partners (LFA) pavilion

The Scandi-style ‘shared space’ for pedestrians and cars in South Kensington is one such innovation. I remember being quite surprised when I first emerged from the Tube above ground, having always previously accessed the museums through the old pedestrian tunnel to avoid the congested, polluted and lined exhibition road of coaches.

The current pedestrian-friendly streetscape was aided by public consultation at an event at the LFA in 2008, which closed the road to traffic for the first time to make way for a weekend of installations pop-ups, food stalls and shows.

Efficient and smart bicycle parking solutions are another specialty of LFA. The 2006 ‘Reinventing the Bike Shed’ competition gave rise to Anthony Lau’s ingenious Cyclehoop (those teapot handles on traffic signs to which cyclists can lock their bikes) of which 2,000 are now installed in the world.

    (LFA)

(LFA)

This year there was an open call for pop-up bike parking ideas for simple and safe bike storage at train stations. Architect Iain Jamieson and artist Zoe Power created Over Here, a multicolored bike rack, designed to make available bike parking spots easily identifiable even from a distance.

The modular stands are being tested at Victoria Station for the month, but could be rolled out at mainline stations, encouraging more people to combine cycle and train journeys instead of driving.

Dark underpasses and other daunting and depressing walkways are another common problem the LFA seeks to address, from a vacant stretch of canal towpath near Harrow Road in Westminster, to Yinka Ilori’s Happy Street under the railway bridge from Thessaly Road to Wandsworth.

Somers Town is in the spotlight this year. In the shadow of Euston station, historic Camden is on the verge of a huge transformation resulting from the construction of HS2 and the extension of the British Library.

This year’s festival is a good opportunity to get a taste of what might be in store for the region, with a road closure for a weekend and a competition for an installation to experience what might be possible. in a car-free Phoenix Road, part of a green link project between Euston and St Pancras station.

Architecture shouldn’t be dry or intimidating, after all it affects all of us. Whether you want to get more involved in shaping the world around you or just want a glimpse of what the future might look like, this is your month to take action.