Architect vPPR and design agency Twelve Studio have won the AJ-organised Croydon iStreet competition. Photography by Theodore Wood
The team’s ‘sophisticated and elegant’ halo concept, an interactive wayfinding device that also acts as a stage for street performance, was chosen ahead of five other shortlisted proposals to transform the public realm within the major south London town centre.
The finalists were teams led by Tate Harmer, Atkins London, McGregor Coxall with Denton Corker Marshall, landscape architect CW Studio with Falconer Chester Hall and Swedish technology consultant Tyréns with Hawkins\Brown and Jason Bruges Studio. Each of the shortlisted teams received a £2,000 honorarium.
Backed by Croydon Council in partnership with the AJ, the free-to-enter competition was launched in April this year in a bid to find innovative, technology-led solutions to upgrade pedestrian movement and wayfinding through Croydon’s post-war streetscape while simultaneously providing visitors with information about upcoming local events.
The contest, which had a £2 million guide budget, received more than 60 submissions from teams of architects, technology experts, urban planners and landscape designers based around the world.
Croydon route map
Councillor Alison Butler, cabinet member for homes, regeneration and planning said: ‘Croydon Halo was a simple yet striking design that can be adapted to enhance and illuminate the routes through the town. Coupled with its ability to create a stage for street performances, it will create something that is beautiful and a real talking point for residents and visitors to Croydon alike.
‘The standard and variety of entries received surpassed our expectations and there were some fantastic ideas put forward.’
She added: ‘I look forward to Halo being operation in the town centre and helping people navigate their way around the changing streetscape the intense regeneration we are experiencing will bring.’
Speaking about the quality of the finalists’ submissions, Jo Negrini, chief executive of Croydon Council said: ‘They were all very different in the way they interpreted the brief and how they brought architecture and technology together to create amazing and beautiful routes through the town. Some were guided more by technology, others by built form and architecture and others by art and culture.’
Negrini added: ‘The competition did exactly what we wanted it to do. It has raised some beautiful ideas and, although there is only one winner for this competition, there are so many ideas and so many practices and individuals that we have met through this process with who I’m sure we will have future relationships.’
The contest forms part of the borough’s £500 million Growth Zone programme, which is being delivered with the Mayor of London and is made up of 39 key projects, including transport, schools and community infrastructure, regeneration and public realm improvements, and support for small businesses.
The competition focused on a key pedestrian route leading from West Croydon station to the 1962 Fairfield Halls and taking in North End, George Street and Park Lane.
vPPR Architects, Twelve Studio, HTS Structural Engineers
The Halo concept is not only a striking identifier for Croydon, it will become a sophisticated, elegant and lovely addition to the streetscape. The family of elements, such as the clover-shaped halo and mega-ring, have great potential. It is an adaptable solution which can also work as a framework for events. A great winner
Tatiana von Preussen of vPPR: Croydon Halo is an interactive wayfinding device that also functions as a stage for street performance. Halo comes in a family of shapes, including a simple ring, a clover and a ribbon, acting as recognisable landmarks along the route. The halos hover above the street, suspended by cables from nearby buildings or from metal poles where necessary.
A grid of LEDs positioned behind a perforated Cor-ten steel fascia to both sides of the halo conveys a range of information from wayfinding to local data, such as the weather or football results. Wayfinding will either be fixed or interactive, responding to cheaply produced electronic identification tags. These will be located in tickets, business cards, wristbands and flyers. This permits interactivity while maintaining user privacy.
Bright LEDs located around the base of the halos are used to project a temporary stage onto the street below. These stages will host a range of street theatre, from satellite events relating to performances at Fairfield Halls, to community-led street poetry or music. The halos form a theatrical route from West Croydon Station, through the pedestrianised Whitgift shopping street, culminating at Fairfield Halls.
Dragonfly • Hi! Croydon • Activator • Unhindered • #Croydon
Tate Harmer, Connected Space, Rise Gallery, Lighting Partners
Jerry Tate of Tate Harmer: The Croydon Dragonfly is a series of bold artistic wayfinding installations that inject a new interactivity into Croydon’s public space while stitching together the existing streetscape.
The installation constitutes an interactive urban periscope which enables users to find out about the town’s future through augmented reality overlays, presenting high-level mixed-reality views where one can hover and zoom into different locations within Croydon. Artistic content will create an interpretive description of future developments, unravelling the unique qualities and exciting future of the surrounding streets. In the evening, the mixed-reality content will be broadcast and projected onto the street façades, animating the buildings with textural lighting and projection mapping.
The system is designed as an open interface, which we encourage local artists to hack, creating a series of original and engaging street installations. These interactions would transcend your normal wayfinding experience, bringing new and exciting art pieces to the streets of Croydon. The Croydon Dragonfly creates an interactive beacon, a symbol of progress for the community and a concept that embraces Croydon’s bid to be the Borough of Culture. It would become instantly recognisable throughout London and the world as a leading contemporary interactive structure, synonymous with its local surroundings and the people who embrace it.
A high-impact and potentially beautiful idea which presented a positive message both of, and from, the borough. The scheme impressed with its proposed use of virtual and augmented reality technology. The concept has the potential for community outreach in lots of different areas
McGregor Coxall (UK) with Denton Corker Marshall, 18 Degrees, Wolfströme, Millimetre, Momentum Transport and Intellectsoft
Michael Cowdy of McGregor Coxall: Hi Croydon! is a habitable, modular furniture system. Using a kit-of-parts approach, a range of adaptable, replicable module types allows for endless arrangements, uses and locations – think Lego – where key public space elements collectively combine, to respond to any urban environment.
A community-driven and responsive outcome for the street: through a custom-designed application that integrates the modular components and embraces augmented reality, the community can interact with, design and curate up-and-coming modular configurations. The only limit is their imagination.
• An interactive lighting and wayfinding system: By integrating a dot-matrix into the perforated steel furniture modules we can create a series of light-works and narrative options, such as directional wayfinding, event promotion, special messages, weather reports, place tweets etc.
• A self-sustaining breathing garden: a biodiverse topography can be established where streets become living, ecological systems. Planters can combine to collect rainwater supported by a self-watering system and reserve. Low-tech fans, meanwhile, actively inhale polluted urban air, filtering it though the soil to breathe fresh air into the street.
• A live data response to tactical urbanism: using sensory recognition programs, data can be aggregated into movement information indicating the number of people using, moving through and staying in a space. The outcome is a public space that can learn from itself, gaining a strong understanding of its own impact. So stop and say Hi Croydon!
A flexible, very practical, community-based solution. Although not a winner of this competition, the concept could, in the future, be developed further for a potential prototyping in other locations around the borough
Tyréns with Hawkins\Brown, Jason Bruges Studio and Fourth Street
Anna Reiter of Tyréns: Our approach provides a technology-enabled intervention that is beautiful, sustainable, functional, flexible, deliverable, inclusive and self-funding.
Activator was conceived to serve the community, Croydon Council and business, and enables users to programme the three streets and their adjacent territories.
The physical concept, with customisable typologies, is evidence based. Our proposal responds to specific physical conditions we observed on the competition route, such as hoardings, street proportions, retail levels and activity.
Activator is a family of three interventions: booth, stage and curtain. The booth is a civic information point and also has a pop-up function. The stage is about performance and gathering. It activates public space through pre-programmed functions. The curtain provides a canvas for art or public engagement.
Activator can activate public spaces to reflect shopping and cultural activity throughout the week, changing environmental conditions throughout the day, and promoting specific events or providing up-to-date information on public services.
Activator can also be used to generate revenue and provide useful analytics to guide Croydon Council in its urban planning strategy, including safety, air safety and pedestrian flow.
Harnessing the power of Cloud processing and artificial intelligence, our Activators are a multisensory co-created experience with visual, multilingual audio and touch interfaces, alongside state-of-the-art gesture tracking, speech recognition and environmental sensors.multisensory co-created experience with visual, multilingual audio and touch interfaces, alongside state-of-the-art gesture tracking, speech recognition and environmental sensors.
An incredibly worked-through idea backed by a sound commercial proposition. The digital element of the proposal had been phenomenally well developed
Raj Kumar Suresh of Atkins: Can pavements widen or narrow depending on need? Will fixed street furniture become obsolete? Can the street remain dry while it rains? Will traffic accidents be a thing of the past? Can you enhance safety without needing physical barriers? Does greener always equal better? How much will future streets know about us and our specific user needs? Will they be able to adapt accordingly? Will litter bins (as we know them) disappear? Will we still need somewhere to lock our bicycles in the future? And, finally, are we dreaming big enough?
These were some of the questions we asked ourselves when looking at the design for Croydon’s iStreet. Unhindered defies public realm convention and, in the process, investigates the key questions and trends driving the future of technology and design. Ideas were explored individually as themes, including intuitive efficiency, enhanced safety, environmental issues, and how to create lively, comfortable and dynamic spaces. The proposal looks to rethink the street as an amalgamation of the physical elements, with adaptive and cognitive technologies, to create compelling scenarios – scenarios that stimulate, inspire and, more importantly, start conversations about the streets of today, shaping and improving those of the near future.
A superb presentation and a hugely ambitious concept – essentially a complete rethink of what the public realm could and should be
Team: CW Studio with Falconer Chester Hall, Chris Mullany, Light Collective, Vestre Street Furniture and Hardscape
Carolyn Willitts of CW Studio: Our proposal is a bold and playful technology-led installation, bringing life to the public realm, and creating an exciting destination for visitors.
Large, sculptural yellow letters spelling CROYDON are placed on a route through this historic market town creating an urban treasure hunt. The distinctive golden yellow colour is chosen to reflect the town’s historic connection with the saffron trade. These vibrant, bold letters are simultaneously street furniture, play elements and sculptural pieces, creating a fun and unique way of experiencing the town. They encourage interaction between people, whether friends or strangers, changing behaviour and celebrating the street.
Each letter contains innovative and integrated new technology, enabling it to sense the presence of people and respond in a variety of ways. Passive ambient soundscapes emanate and react to the number of people engaging with the letter.
At night, LED lighting incorporated in the surface responds to the nearby sounds and movements of passers-by, glowing and pulsing and drawing people in. When they near a letter, Bluetooth technology will connect with the #CROYDON app, unlocking visuals, videos, and stories relating to the history of the adjacent building, events on that weekend, or the location of the next letter on the trail.
An idea with a huge sense of joy and playfulness. A great idea for temporary interventions