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Islington Council launches competition to transform Old Street

Old Street Roundabout
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Islington Council has launched a contest for a £1 million transformation of Old Street Roundabout in central London

Open to multidisciplinary teams of architects, artists, designers and technologists, the competition seeks ‘exciting, bold and iconic’ proposals for a new gateway structure or public artwork reflecting the area’s identity as a hub for digital innovation.

The project is part of ambitious plans to close the north-western arm of the congested roundabout to create a new pedestrian plaza and entrance to the busy underground station. It is supported by the Mayor of London, Transport for London (TfL) and Hackney Council. Proposals may exceed the £1 million budget if suitable options for additional funding are identified by the applicant.

Islington Council executive member for environment and transport Claudia Webbe said: ’The transformation of Old Street will hugely improve the area for pedestrians, public transport users, cyclists and people who live and work nearby.

‘Old Street is an iconic location known around the world, and a powerful symbol of what is also known as Tech City. This is a unique opportunity for an exciting, bold, iconic gateway. We are looking for innovative and inspiring ideas, which tap into the pioneering spirit of creativity for which Old Street is so famous.’

Transport for London managing director of surface transport Leon Daniels said: ‘The radical redesign of Old Street roundabout will help achieve our shared objectives of improved air quality, reduced car dependency and more active travel.

‘The open call for design ideas will ensure that vast array of creative talent that exists in London, especially in the Old Street area, can play a part in redesigning the area so that the local community, and people who work in or visit the area, benefit from a truly inspiring new public space.’

Old Street Roundabout is on the boundary of the London boroughs of Hackney and Islington at the junction of Old Street and City Road. It was created in the 1960s as part of an inner-city road improvement programme.

The complex – also know as the Silicon Roundabout and St Agnes Well – includes a sub-surface shopping centre and station ticket hall, and a rooftop bar. The surrounding area is well known for its density of high-tech startups, though the junction itself has been the site of many cycling accidents.

Five years ago Architecture 00 mooted plans to transform the roundabout into a ‘start-up city’. Alma-nac, Ben Adams Architects, Buckley Gray Yeoman, Farrells, Hawkins\Brown also participated in a separate ideas-only call for concepts three years ago.

The latest project is part of plans to close the north-western arm of the roundabout and reintroduce two-way traffic. The closure – due to be implemented in 2019 – will create a pedestrianised peninsula and an improved entrance to the underground station, along with segregated cycle lanes and crossings.

Proposals must take account of the planned new station entrance and the existing station roof, tube ventilation shafts and advertising structures to create a new ‘iconic gateway’ and public space for the area.

Submissions should include two A1-sized boards featuring conceptual proposals along with a site analysis and a 500-word description of the scheme. Longlisted entries will feature in a public exhibition in February and a shortlist of the best ideas will be announced in mid-March.

The deadline for applications is midday, 29 January.

How to apply

Visit the competition website for more information

Contact details

Email: oldstreet@islington.gov.uk

 

Q&A

Claudia Webbe, Islington Council’s executive member for environment and transport

Claudia Webbe

Claudia Webbe

Claudia Webbe

Why are your holding an open call for ideas to transform the Old Street Roundabout?

The Old Street Roundabout is world-famous for its Tech City and ‘Silicon Roundabout’ identity, and is being transformed as work starts next year to remove its outdated gyratory. This transformation will hugely improve the area for pedestrians, public transport users, cyclists and people who live and work nearby. It will create a new peninsula and public spaces, and this is a unique opportunity for an exciting, bold, iconic gateway for Old Street. We have looked for the best way to bring forward as many creative ideas as possible to transform this space, which is why we have put out an ‘Open Call for Design Ideas’, to bring forward the best possible ideas for the site and re-imagine the space to create an ‘iconic gateway’.

What is your vision for the new gateway?

This vision for the Old Street Iconic Gateway is to create a landmark embracing public art and ‘Smart City’ innovation, which will complement the improvements for pedestrians, cyclists and public transport users resulting from the wider transformation scheme. The main objectives include supporting the Mayor of London’s ‘Healthy Streets’ objectives; creating an innovative and high-quality design; making the space feel ’greener’ and more inclusive of the local community; and engaging with digital media and technology. The scope of the site for the open call is not only the roundabout itself, but the areas adjacent in all directions. Many of the ideas that we expect to come forward are likely to require planning permission eventually, as we hope designers will go beyond standard street furniture and highway ideas.

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

We are calling on architects, landscape architects, urban designers, public art specialists, placemakers, urban planners, transport planners, lighting designers, wayfinding experts, engineers, smart cities experts, technology specialists (just to name a few). We welcome firms and teams of any size, including SMEs and start-ups, and combinations of small and established firms. Above all, we strongly encourage multi-disciplinary collaboration and partnerships with a view to generating innovative, dynamic design ideas, and potentially unlocking additional funding or sponsorship opportunities.

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

 The ‘Open Call for Design Ideas’ is not a procurement process, and how the project is taken forward will depend on the quality of the ideas received. Islington Council and its partners TfL and Hackney Council are all involved in a range of public realm and architecture schemes.

Are there any recent public realm gateway projects you have been impressed by?

Old Street has its own unique identity and constraints, and entrants would be best placed to look at the existing context in which Old Street Roundabout currently sits and draw inspiration from the vibrant community surrounding it. Ultimately, in the quest to create the Old Street Iconic Gateway, we are looking for proposals that present the kind of public space that is badly-needed for the residents, workers, commuters and visitors in this renowned area of London.

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