Wednesday, 6 August 2014

New Capital Quay public realm

You all know how I like a bit of public realm to comment on; often the most overlooked and badly thought-out aspect of multi-million pound developments, and yet usually the main and only interface between the general public and the very developments that are supposed to 'improve' areas simply by being.

The public realm provided for residents is one thing - semi-gated areas paid for by said residents via service charges - but there's also the public realm that is truly public, and we are seeing a lot of that in this part of the south east, due to redevelopments along the side of Deptford Creek, the station and the Thames where the local authorities try to include obligations for the landowners to provide public access to riverside walks and so on.

I've been browsing lots of new public realm stuff recently, both locally and not too far distant, and intend to bring you some of the best and worst examples over coming weeks. Here's a local example that commits some of my 'favourite' public realm crimes.

1. Public realm masquerading as a large advertising billboard. 

"You can have flowerbeds but only if we can plant them with our branding."

2. Large paved areas mysteriously free of any features aside from some random coloured paving stones.

"We miscalculated the size of the public realm when putting the budget together and don't want to buy any more street furniture or raised beds."

3. Oversized steel box, presumably containing some kind of services, communications or control equipment, placed in the most obtrusive position blighting any suggestion of an holistic landscaping concept and blocking access to any parts of the realm designed for public access.

"Where the fuck are we going to put this?" "What about the large paved area? That's in need of a feature."

4. Seating. Facing the least attractive view that can be found. A large steel box or something, should you happen to have one handy; failing that, a supermarket entrance. Not under any circumstances facing anything at all interesting, say a river, creek, or the site of a planned footbridge.

"Well the last thing our residents want is people actually using the seats and hanging around looking shifty."

I don't know why I am so surprised, I knew this was going to be shit from the moment I saw the 'renderings' fastened on the fence opposite Waitrose. I just didn't think it was going to be this shit.


Unknown said...

Spot on. Walked past yesterday and wondered if I'd completely missed the point of that space.

Seems like it was the architects who missed the point.

The position/existence of the large green box is laughable.

Anonymous said...

What a waste of an opportunity - sad

Unknown said...

I'm normally optimistic but I agree with you on this.

Maybe it's a new home for the ex-drunks from the anchor before it was removed, seems rather fitting for them.

Anonymous said...

Sat Singh - I'd be wary about blaming any architects - in this instance it's likely they were removed a long time ago and plans changed, if they existed at all. Much more likely is accountants at the developer dictating what happened.

Anonymous said...

I agree it is not a very nice spot. (The other areas in NCQ are much better)

Must say, it is a difficult little area for a public space anyway, with this busy road there.

Somehow, the air smells extremely bad at this point right below the bridge, even more so at the traffic lights, somehow very localized..

I always wondered if this is due to cars being stationary, it being a local low point, or if there is something coming from the cement factory, the smell is extremely pervasive..

Bill Ellson said...

There should be a "What were they thinking of?" award for public realm as poor as this. We could superglue the winner's plaque to the big green box.

Anonymous said...

I think its a lovely spot to sit in the sun and enjoy my Waitrose free coffee.