Fresh Thinking in Public Realm Design

CHIT CHAT AT NEW LONDON ARCHITECTURE

This week one of our staff members, Hannah, went to a Pecha Kucha talk hosted by New London Architecture as part of their ‘Public London: ten years of transforming spaces’ exhibition. This exhibition aims to look back at the past decade, since the then-mayor of London Ken Livingstone’s Hundred Public Spaces programme set sail, at the projects that have been implemented to revitalise London’s public realm.

The Japanese phrase Pecha Kucha literally translates to chit-chat and is a format of public speaking in which orators are given just 6 minutes and 40 seconds (20 slides / 20 seconds per slide) in which to present their ideas, findings, and thoughts. This particular talk, powered by Pecha Kucha, was called Fresh Thinking in Public Realm Design and featured 8 speakers from various disciplines (Urban Design, Landscape Architecture, Architecture, Transport, Product Design) presenting projects, artwork, spaces, themes and ideas on the topic of recent Public Realm Design.

The presentations covered a range of recent London projects and installations, including the Future Streets artwork project that took place on Brixton paving slabs, the new naturally-purified bathing pond behind Kings Cross Station, the even newer Pop Brixton community hub, various edible bus-stops and the completed pocket park at Derbyshire Street in Bethnal Green.  Each speaker, within their strict time limit, showcased the inspiration and innovation behind these projects and provided the audience with a glimpse into exciting, fun and colourful landscape interventions.

For Hannah, the star of the show was speaker Ross Atkin, a young product designer and engineer whose presentation and confident cadence captured the audience quickly. The presentation’s title ‘Why I followed disabled people around’ also helped! Atkin’s projects showed true design flair and creativity as well as functionality.

In partnership with the Royal London Society for Blind People, Atkin developed Sight Line, which involves a series of tactile changes to the design of roadwork barriers in order to help sight-loss sufferers navigate around construction areas in the streets. Similarly, in a project partnership with Marshalls, Atkin is developing interactive street furniture that allows people with disabilities to move more freely and independently around their cities and spaces, providing them with a better quality of life. A simple key fob can trigger a green man light to remain on for an extended time to allow people to cross the road, or for street lights to increase in brightness as a fob-holder approaches.

These simple design interventions show real consideration to those we all too often in this industry refer to as the ‘end-user’, and Atkin’s presentation stood out as a creative answer to the unheard shouts of many people across the city. It certainly captured Hannah’s imagination and gives rise to the question of how we, as Landscape Architects, can better consider the inclusion of all in our design of public space.

For more information on Ross Atkin please visit his website: www.rossatkin.com