MacEwen longlist: Better Barkingside

An ambitious new heart to the eastern fringes of the capital

DK-CM Limited for the London Borough of Redbridge

Location: Barkingside, London

‘Better Barkingside’, by the London Borough of Redbridge, radically reinvents Barkingside town centre, on the eastern fringes of the capital. It provides a new ‘heart’ in the form of a civic square and high street park, supported by a range of interventions along the high street and out into the Green Belt beyond.

The £2.1M project has transformed a series of previously neglected spaces around Fullwell Cross Library and Leisure Centre, designed in the 1960s by Frederick Gibberd. Those unloved spaces were turned into ones supporting activity, bringing the internal generosity of the civic buildings into the public realm. A new loggia, modelled on Gibberd’s clerestory windows, lines a previously blank wall to create a town square. Building entrances have become open air ‘rooms’. At the swimming pool, a new public park was created out of a disused pool yard, bringing it back to life as a public space, connecting to the high street and providing a new leafy area in the town centre.

DK-CM brought its architecture into playful and generous dialogue with the suburban high street, in a way that riffs on suburban vernacular but also on European traditions of public space. Since its completion, the new spaces have hosted music events, theatre performances, evening markets and community gatherings and the park has become a de facto part of the high street.

The project grew out of open and ambitious conversations with the local community, including Barkingside 21, a community group who are advocates of the scheme and are active in promoting the spaces and organising events there. Local swimming groups have spoken of their delight at being able to swim under dappled sunlight provided by the park’s new trees, whilst the town square is now the de facto heart of the town and is never empty.

 

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