Client: London Borough of Bexley
Stakeholders: Greater London Authority; Transport for London
Team: Urban Movement, transport; Architecture Foundation, designer procurement; Retail Revival, business support; Cornerstone Strategies, community engagement; Designed By Good People / Polimekanos / Studio April, graphic design; Kieren Jones, hero signs
Contract: JCT Design & Build DB11 (shop fronts); Term (highways)
Contractor: All London Signs / Shades Group, shop fronts; FM Conway, highways
The Mayor of London’s Outer London Fund (OLF) has supported local high street renewal projects across the city. Untitled Practice were appointed as high street designer for Sidcup High Street under OLF2. This was a complex commission in 3 parts: development of a Design & Identity Guide, public realm improvements (funded through Transport for London), and 30 shop front improvements, with business support, via three separate grant schemes.
Sidcup is adjacent to the A20 London / Dover road and connected by rail between London and Dartford. The High Street curves along the crest of a hill and is surrounded by green spaces, conservation areas, and other significant amenities including the Bird and Rose Bruford performing arts colleges, St Mary’s Hospital, and Foots Cray industrial estate.
The Design & Identity Guide set out key criteria following consultations for both public (local authority) and private (local businesses) to follow and maintain throughout the programme, and afterwards.
The carriageway was narrowed to increase footways for pedestrians, shared-surface ‘pocket’ spaces were created at side streets for events, and new crossings were introduced for better connectivity. All pedestrian realm was resurfaced with a subtle 7 granite mix of random widths and lengths creating an informal character suitable for the town centre. Integrated bespoke granite benches were also designed, reminiscent of 'Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association' features. Trees were planted wherever feasible, extending the distinctive surrounding parkland species into the street.
UP worked with three separate graphic designers and an artist/maker on the design of new and refurbished shop fronts, including contemporary 'hero' signs.
The programme increased confidence and stimulated the local economy, leading to new businesses opening on the High Street. Footfall increased by 17%, business turnover improved by 13%, and shop vacancies reduced by 14% to an all time low of less than 3%. 153 new jobs were created and many existing jobs secured.
See under Journal for a short film of one of Kieren Jones' hero signs.
(Photos by Barry Willis and UP).