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Competition: Shopsmart on Redchurch Street

Redchurch Street
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An open ideas contest has been announced for innovative ideas to revolutionise public realm and retail along Redchurch Street in Shoreditch, east London

The competition seeks bold ideas which rethink the relationship between retail technology and the public realm, and that can revitalise the historic shopping street close to Shoreditch High Street station.

The contest, organised by design agency Khaa on behalf of a local landlady, aims to future-proof the road, which has seen big changes in recent decades and is now a hub for boutique fashion stores. Plans were lodged in July for 500 homes and 130,000m² of workspace at nearby Bishopsgate Goodsyard.

According to the competition brief: ‘Redchurch Street wants to boost its future potential. Retail and business are changing; the sense of identity that attracted a community of independent shops, artists and artisans is fragile. Large surrounding developments are already impinging on how the street is experienced.

‘How does a collective of businesses and local community shape their future to keep Redchurch Street a vanguard of city-centre life, retail and work? The ideas competition will set new intentions and explore how placemaking and technology can bring character, activity, community and economic success to Redchurch Street.’

Redchurch Street is a historic thoroughfare connecting Shoreditch High Street to Brick Lane, and features a mix of stores, small businesses, pubs and nightclubs. During the 1990s it was home to The Shop – an acclaimed pop-up gallery by artists Tracey Emin and Sarah Lucas.

Despite its close proximity to London’s busy financial core, the road suffers from vandalism, graffiti, burglaries and antisocial behaviour. The ideas contest seeks ideas to enhance the success of Redchurch Street while also improving its resilience.

In 2017, vPPR and design agency Twelve Studio won an ideas contest seeking innovative, technology-led solutions to upgrade pedestrian movement and wayfinding through Croydon’s post-war streetscape.

Architects, designers and artists are invited to submit a single A3 board outlining a proposal for a public realm or technological intervention to enhance the street scene and retail environment. Up to four sides of A4 written and illustrated description may also be submitted.

Five teams will each receive £1,000 to participate in the second phase of the competition in November. The overall winner, to be announced in December, will be invited to work with local stakeholders as ‘curator’ of Redchurch Street.

The contest launched this morning as part of the Shoreditch Design Triangle festival. Judges will include architect and Bartlett honorary emeritus professor Peter Cook, community engagement specialist Daisy Froud, and Shoreditch Design Triangle co-ordinator Freya Coakely.

The deadline for applications has been extended to midday, 28 October. 

How to apply

Visit the competition website for more information

Contact details



Rebecca Collings, spokesperson for onRedchurch partnership

Rebecca Collings

Rebecca Collings

Rebecca Collings

Why are your holding a contest to re-think the future of Redchurch Street in London’s East End?

The catalyst for a competition was the radical transformation of the Old Street block, immediately west of the roundabout. Planting, lighting and seating transformed it from a bleak nowhere place. I made a first foray to Argos on the street following the transformation, having never previously been tempted to visit.

Competitions are an effective route to smoking out new, diverse and multi-disciplinary talent – talent best equipped to engage with the hydra-headed challenge of a commercially and socially sustainable high street in a busy and popular part of London.

The Main Street movement and Urban Design Action projects in the USA in the 1970s and 80s proved the value of bringing new creativity to bear on local neighbourhoods. High street planning is hidden from view in the procurement of master planners and developers’ business plans. In an area that’s home to a global community, extremes of rich, poor, world class brands and creativity, it feels so right to run a process that’s open, engaging and invites distinction.

What is your vision for the future of the area?

Since the 17th century, Redchurch has bristled with interesting, energetic, stimulating, eccentric, noisy, human and different sorts of uses and activities. We love that – not the stripped-back bland uniformity of haute couture urbanism.

The site is an east / west street, around 5 fine-grain urban blocks in length and we’re looking for a creative partner as much as a solution, with a capital ‘S’. This is an ideas competition that aims to bring the future forward… to reinvent those spaces formerly known as shops. We don’t want to constrain blue skies thinking by anticipating what that might look like.

Our vision is for a sustainable future, which means addressing the social, economic and environmental aspects of an urban neighbourhood.

What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?

First and foremost we’re looking for great ideas. We have intentionally left the brief broad in the hopes that it will encourage people from all design disciplines, be it architecture, urban design, placemaking, landscaping, street art or lighting and beyond. Competitors don’t need to be from established practices, we’re also open to receiving submissions from students and non-professionals.

Which other design opportunities are on the horizon and how will the architects/designers be procured?

The intention is that the overall winner will join the newly-formed onRedchurch – a partnership of local businesses, residents and landlords – to support and potentially direct the ongoing process. We hope that the winning designs will spur a conversation around the direction of London’s small shopping streets, and that there will be more opportunities like this in the future to contribute to a positive future.

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