“If you can tell a man by his shoes, you can tell a city by its pavements” goes the corny old saying but de-cluttering, better quality surfaces, less barriers, more freedom of movement, X-crossings as in Oxford Circus and the junction outside Balham Station, better thought out planting, focal points. really do make a big difference to the environment and how we feel about a place. The pavements, from the Pond and soon to be FAB new library to the station and on past the venerable Clocktower down the old High Street, could all really do with a redesign and upgrade of its materials and spaces.
We’d all feel a lot better about living in Thornton Heath if our shared spaces reflected the highest aspirations of urban space design. It would improve our shopping experience bringing more business to the small shops; bring joy to all us commuters if when trudging on our way to work we could pass over surfaces that greeted our downcast eyes with materials and textures to lift our spirits; leave those that are just passing through with a nice impression.
The buildings can only change slowly but the street furniture and paving stones can be renewed in a short time. And this will inspire people to renovate the buildings with consideration. People will circulate around the High Street with a lighter step. Some of us might even consider investing in new shoes.
Its the most basic place to start improvement – from the ground up. Let’s ask Jan Gehl to design for us – he says:
“The life or lifelessness of public spaces depends very much on the quality of the spaces and whether they are welcoming to likely users, to walk, stay, sit or otherwise enjoy the spaces. Surveys from existing city areas, as well as new towns and new city districts and developments, have shown
striking differences concerning life and lifelessness. Everything points to the quality issues being of considerable importance. And the evidence likewise points to the need for a more systematic and careful treatment of the public realm in order to secure good quality and to ensure spaces are welcoming to users.”
There are already some nicely kept flower boxes – congratulations to those who keep those so spik and span. And a start has been made on parking down the High Street, but much more could be done. The Leisure Centre has set a standard of design for the rest of Thornton Heath to catch up with. And soon the Library turned Information Hub should be something to be proud of. Let those public spaces be next to get some funding and tlc design.
It will only happen if we ask for it!
Sample jan Gehl’s thinking here: