LONDON'S SMARTEST SHOPPING STREET?
While working at Atkins, Urben Director Paul Reynolds developed the concept for a number of ‘Oasis Spaces’ on side roads of Oxford Street, one of the busiest streets in the UK. As part of that work he successfully submitted an application to TfL for funding from their Future Streets Incubator programme, and went on to deliver the Bird Street project - billed as the UKs most ‘Smart Street’. The concept was to have a space which could be used to trial a number of innovations that were aimed at helping to deliver healthier streets. These included Pavegen Paving which generates electricity as you walk on it, and an Airlabs bench which uses an electrostatic process to purify the air.
However, as well as being a test bed for this technology, the scheme included a number of trading kiosks which would activate the dead frontage of the adjacent building, and provide an opportunity for small retailers to take space and have access to the thousands of people each hour who pass along Oxford Street at the end of this site - which is just 1 block away from Selfridges.
The design incorporated a number of greening features - including a linear seating and planting feature which will ultimately provide a screen to the outdoor dining area of the adjacent restaurant, and also a green wall at the entrance to the street to mark its presence. As the scheme is initially a trial, an artificial grass was used to unify the ground plane, which was previously a combination of footway and carriageway, in a cost effective way. The hope is that once the scheme has shown it is a success, the street can secure funds to permanently repave as a pedestrian area, using appropriate high quality paving materials. However, the system used, which included a crate substructure to support the new space, enabled the scheme to proceed on a trial basis and prove its worth. As part of the project, visitor numbers and use of the street are being counted and compared to surveys taken before its installation. Initial results suggest that footfall has increased significantly.