Marshalls’ latest research project ‘Future Spaces’ identified a need for public sector projects to cater for more people in much smaller spaces, as increasing urban populations are having a significant impact on city lifestyles. Ever-rising house prices and a shortage of housing means that overcrowding is prevalent. Not only are a larger number of people cohabiting, but houses, and their outside spaces, are getting smaller.
While on the surface this is unsatisfactory, it presents some exciting opportunities for designers and architects who can convince clients to innovate around these challenges with minimal space living. Everyone deserves a good quality of life, and good design can deliver a practical, comfortable environment, whatever the footprint.
In order to make space for a growing population, many more amenities need to be included in our urban spaces. Not only are more quality, affordable homes becoming a necessity, but so are places to work and supportive infrastructures, such as transport links, schools, sports centres, shops and attractive public spaces for people to sit in and enjoy their leisure time there.
As part of a £3bn redevelopment programme in Elephant and Castle, the area is being transformed into an exciting new destination for London over the next 15 years. The regeneration includes transforming the wasted space in Elephant and Castle into a usable, thriving public space, including a pedestrianised town centre, market square and new green spaces. Local people will benefit from the dramatically-improved physical environment with tree-lined streets, high-quality open spaces and a largely traffic-free environment, allowing more space for social seating, pop-up markets and events.
The vision for the Elephant and Castle redevelopment is to form a great new town centre, which feels as though it has been designed with people in mind. When Elephant and Castle was originally designed, the motor vehicle was at the heart of planning decisions, and the area was designed with this in mind. Too much thought was given to cars, and the needs of the people were often overlooked.
Marshalls provided a large selection of seats for Elephant and Castle’s newly-regenerated centre, in order to create a bustling and welcoming environment for residents and visitors to take a minute and sit and enjoy the surrounding area.
Marshalls’ bespoke bronze seats in Leicester Square provided the inspiration for this project, and the client wanted to create a similar effect for the seating in Elephant and Castle. Instead of the bronze arms however, the client opted for powder coated cast aluminium. The aluminium was heat treated for additional strength to ensure it stands up to the demands of a bustling public space. In order to satisfy DDA compliance, the design was also adapted to include arm rests.
Steve Reddington, Marshalls' Commercial Director for Street Furniture, said: “The benches were finished with Iroko timber to contrast with the aluminium legs, which create a modern, contemporary aesthetic. Cast concrete beds were added beneath the paving and house threaded tubes, which mean the seats could be simply bolted into place for easy installation.“This also allows the products to be removed at a later date should any maintenance be required.”
He added: “The bespoke seats were designed to encourage sociable, engaging and inviting areas for residents and visitors alike. The end result is a series of functional yet attractive seating zones throughout the Elephant and Castle district, which capture the ethos of sociable seating perfectly and create a place that is enjoyable to sit in, not just to pass through.”
Creating better public spaces is of vital importance to urban areas, as the cost of land means that more city dwellers will be living in tower blocks. Some 263 towers of more than 20 storeys have been granted approval, are under construction or are built across London, and the vast majority – 81% – are residential.
Sociable seating areas in public spaces are a simple, yet highly effective way of creating inviting environments people want to spend time in. It is up to architects and landscape architects to seize the opportunity to inspire developers with innovative communal spaces that make up for the many smaller, gardenless homes we are seeing spring up all over the country.