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Arterial Holloway Road becomes clean, green, safe, happy space

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Words:
Hugh Pearman

PeopleMatter. is Rethink 2025 streets scale winner with proposal to turn traffic corridors into quality public space – which looks realistic now that coronavirus has reduced commuting

A broad highway out of London – the Holloway Road, part of the Great North Road, now A1, which stretches 410 miles to Edinburgh – is also an important local shopping street which boasts its own university, London Metropolitan, has several rail and Underground stations, and passes through a densely-populated residential area. In its submission for Rethink 2025, practice PeopleMatter. – Naomi Rubbra and Leopold Taylor – take the road as an example of what could be done in any city that’s serious about properly redesigning its streets to make high quality public space for those living either side of such traffic corridors. 

As you might expect from a team including the winner of the Dissertation Medal in the 2019 RIBA President’s Medals, their proposal is meticulously set out.  After we have allocated the extra space, she reasons, we need to make those changes part of a permanent uplift of the area. ‘As we adapt to clean, active methods of getting around, how can the spaces we live in and move through give more to their local community?’ they ask. These plans have yet to address the need for quality of public space alongside these newly formed routes. ‘Streets are Made for Walking offers a framework to capitalize on this newly found urban condition and accelerate a transition towards cleaner, greener, safer and happier streets.’

They envisage doing this in two phases – the first reactive phase to 2025 making ­permanent the initially temporary changes to the streets, followed by a further phase through to 2035 in which these new more liveable and breathable neighbourhoods are linked in a series of lateral rings.

In this way the radial roads out from the centre diminish in importance as the centre itself does, and the lateral connections increase in importance. With reduced amounts of commuting into the centres of cities now envisaged, this realignment becomes feasible and desirable: Rubbra and Taylor design it to a high level of practical detail as a template for the city as a whole. 

Because of this the Rethink 2025 judges saw this scheme as the best ‘greening the streets’ proposal.  ‘Beautifully detailed’ said Matt Jones. ‘If you can crack the Holloway Road, everywhere else can do it too.’ ‘It deals with mobility and health which are key themes of coronavirus,’ said Francine Houben. And for Ed Clark, ‘Of the cluster of high street projects, this is the most sophisticated.’


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