“ In a city the street must be supreme. It is the first institution of the city. The street is a room by agreement, a community room, the walls of which belong to the donors, dedicated to the city for common use. Its ceiling is the sky.” Louis Kahn
This exhibition looks at what is involved in making a city street a good place. It is a complex subject in which the challenges keep shifting. In this city the issues include rapid population growth, the declining fabric of much large-scale post-war housing, the difficulties of providing low-cost housing in high-cost areas, infrastructure shortfalls, along with a rising concern about environmental factors.
At the centre of our investigation we look closely at a street being reborn right now — Bonchurch Road in North Kensington. It is part of what will be a decade-long project by Catalyst to remake the Wornington Green Estate into the Portobello Square neighbourhood. Here we see in microcosm the challenges that face many areas in Britain and further afield — estate regeneration, mixing rented social housing and new private housing, increasing density, responding to the warp and weft of historic plan and design in order to create a sense of place. These issues become the key themes to explore and structure this exhibition.
Bonchurch Road sits almost in the shadow of Trellick Tower, the controversial Erno Goldfinger designed tower block that epitomises an earlier vision of an ideal for urban living, but which still attracts new supporters as well as detractors.
In the other direction, the housing stock is a neighbourhood of increasingly desirable Victorian terraces (the Prime Minister’s former home is but a short walk away).
Such buildings were once typical of the rotting slums on the site that needed to be replaced. In the 1970s clearance, a large part of Bonchurch Road itself disappeared, becoming the edge of a small park which formed part of a dead-end street structure. Now the street is restored, the park will be upgraded, through routes are revived, and new forms and combinations of homes are created. We apply new aspirations and new learning to how the city can function.
Read the exhibition in any sequence: like a good street, you are free to move in several directions.
Please check out the extensive free talks programme and join in the discussion #remakingstreets