How can we describe that, which on the surface of it, doesn’t stand out, impress, or in any way call attention to itself? I’m talking about a length of Suburban High Street east of Ilford
How can we describe that, which on the surface of it, doesn’t stand out, impress, or in any way call attention to itself?
That, which appears most average and ordinary? When even to describe it as mundane is an exaggeration that credits it with a kind of cosmic universality?
I’m talking about a length of Suburban High Street east of Ilford. This isn’t a kitsch suburbia of garden gnomes and metroland ennui, but a diverse, subtly complicated, hard-working stretch of the city, with little veneer or polish over its worn-out everydayness.
Through sketches of certain buildings and blocks, I am trying to get insight into what the Suburban High Street is actually made of. After all, it is possibly our most enduring piece of social and physical infrastructure, and the very backbone of our city’s urban grain. What constitutes this largely un-designed physical fabric? What needs does it answer, given that most of London is built around it? What role should design play in its ongoing evolution? And what future potential does it hold?
The London Borough of Redbridge (LBR) has recognised that the stretch of Roman Road between Ilford and Chadwell Heath (which once formed part of a Roman ‘high street’ stretching from Whitechapel to Colchester) could do with some design direction.
My time with DfL will run parallel, or maybe tangentially, to a live urban design commission for that area, led by LBR and guided by DfL. That study aims to lift ambitions for individual developments along the street, and improve the streetscape as a whole, in the light of ongoing socio-economic changes. Alongside the consultant team I hope to inform the process, to learn about the possibilities for implementation, and to generate something that could have relevance beyond a singular area.