Croydon Council has launched a contest to rethink a series of underused pedestrian subways across the south London town centre
The call for concepts invites architects and ‘anybody with a love for Croydon’ to propose imaginative solutions for the subways, which were constructed in the 1960s but will soon become redundant following the creation of new surface-level road crossings.
The subways are situated at the Old Town Roundabout near Croydon Fire Station; at Croydon Minster under the Roman Way flyover; at the Park Lane Gyratory near Fairfield Halls; at Addiscombe Road close to the iconic Richard Seifert-designed No. 1 Croydon; at Lansdowne Road (pictured) near Jurys Inn Croydon; and at the Art Deco Grade II-listed Segas House near the Ronald Ward-designed Nestlé Tower.
In its brief, the council says the subways are ‘a legacy of the radical redevelopment of Croydon in the 1960s that focused on vehicle travel. New crossings are now replacing these unfriendly spaces, making them redundant. This provides the opportunity to find new ways to put them to better use.
‘The public will have the opportunity to provide feedback on shortlisted ideas, which will be chosen by a panel of experts. The public feedback will help inform the judging panel, who will ultimately choose the winner. We will then work with the winning and /or shortlisted individuals or groups to see if we can bring these ideas to life.’
Croydon is part-way through a £520 million Growth Zone programme covering transport, schools and community infrastructure, regeneration and public realm improvements, and support for small businesses.
The area – renowned for its Modernist concrete highways, towering offices and multistorey car parks – has been has been the subject of a series of mini-masterplans and public realm initiatives over the past decade, engaging practices such as Studio Egret West, Make, Allies and Morrison, East and at the smaller scale Studio Weave, Jan Kattien Architect, Assemble and OKRA.
The latest competition comes shortly after a collaborative bid by MICA Architects with Charles Holland Architects, landscape experts OOZE and designer Adam Nathaniel Furman won a contest for a £10 million new public space outside Croydon’s newly refurbished Fairfield Halls.
The Reimagining Croydon’s Subways competition is divided into three categories open to professionals, non-professionals and under 18s respectively. Submissions may include a maximum of two A1 or eight A4-display boards. Models and videos will also be accepted.
Proposals may be temporary or permanent and could apply to one or all of the sites. They should consider ongoing maintenance costs. Croydon Council will evaluate the viability of all submissions and announce the overall winners on 27 February.
The overall winners of the professional and non-professional categories will each receive £500 while the under-18s winner will win £500 for a charity of their choice. Several runner-up prizes of £100 each will also be awarded.
The deadline for applications is 4pm, 10 January.
How to apply
Growth Zone team
Bernard Weatherill House
6th Floor, Zone D
8 Mint Walk
Paul Scott, Croydon Council’s cabinet lead for planning and regeneration
Why are you holding a competition to revitalise pedestrian subways in Croydon?
Here in Croydon we’re currently transforming our whole town centre and moving away from an area that is car-focused, to a place where it is easier to walk, cycle and use public transport. This has opened up an opportunity to repurpose these unloved, almost redundant, underpasses from a time gone by into dynamic, quirky public places that people want to use.
But it’s not just about making these subways brighter and a bit nicer, it’s an opportunity to reuse them as something entirely different. This ideas competition is about engaging people to come up with ideas to alter these spaces, to make the spaces below the town centre as enticing as it is becoming above ground level.
What is your vision for the new subways?
The most important thing is that the ideas submitted really reflect the creativity Croydon is fast gaining a reputation for. Not long ago we had Banksy set up shop in Croydon, and we have The Croydon Collection, which is one of Europe’s largest collections of street art. In September we reopened Fairfield Halls, following a multi-million pound, council-led refurbishment. Work has also started with MICA, who won the Fair Field public space competition.
We’ve got six separate sites across the town centre, all of different sizes, and each one offers its own challenges and potential. One, under the Old Town roundabout, has a number of entrances into it and is more open than it is covered. Submissions can be for all of the subways or for a specific one.
They don’t need to be permanent transformations either – submissions could add to our award-winning Meanwhile Croydon project, which combines innovative installations with a civic and cultural programme to reinvigorate areas awaiting long-term redevelopment. We want to see innovative ideas that are engaging and interesting for the communities they could serve.
What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?
With a blank canvass such as this, we’re looking for anyone with creative flair and a love of Croydon to get involved. We’re looking for high-quality design, and this could come from anyone, be it an established practice or one that is up and coming.
And the competition is open to all, from individuals and professional practices to schools, community groups and students. The importance is that the design is of high-quality, sustainable and feasible. We want excellent design throughout our town centre, and beyond; it’s at the heart of what we want to do.
Which other design opportunities are on the horizon and how will the architects/designers be procured?
We’re always looking for ways to improve spaces for our communities and opportunities like these are one way of doing it. As and when these opportunities become available we’ll be looking to promote them as far and wide as we can.
Are there any other recent subway revitalisation schemes you have been impressed by?
We’ve seen lots of examples of how underground spaces can be used. There are really interesting bars and restaurants, thriving hubs of activity, in spaces that would otherwise be empty.
I went to the Crypt Gallery at St Pancras Parish Church recently and it was fascinating – all of this incredible art in this underground vault. What we’ve seen in railway arches is really interesting too, as they are often also unloved spaces that are now becoming happening places.