Visions, Strategies & Masterplans
Projects by service
RESETTING THE NORTHBANK DISTRICT
A comprehensive framework for big vision urban change
2014 – 2016
Visions, Strategies & Masterplans
Northbank Public Realm Survey, 2014Northbank Public Realm Vision and Strategy, 2015A Vision for Aldwych, 2016
Northbank Business Improvement District (BID)
Norman Rourke Pryme
City of Westminster, London
The Northbank Business Improvement District (BID) was established in 2013 with a mission to improve the public realm and environment in the area north of the River Thames - from Trafalgar Square and Embankment to the Strand and Aldwych.
A dynamic part of London’s West End, the Northbank district is home to many prominent institutions, such as the London School of Economics, King’s College London, the Royal Courts of Justice, Somerset House, the Courtauld Institute of Art and the Savoy Hotel. Several of these institutions have active plans to expand and evolve - changes that will radically transform the character and perception of this part of London. Publica was commissioned by The Northbank BID to develop a public realm study, vision and strategy, resulting in a set of detailed project briefs for the Northbank District.
The vision outlines improvements to the public realm that would enhance the area’s remarkable existing assets, ensure its streets and public spaces are well-connected and welcoming, and encourage the celebration of public life across the district. The strategy identifies 40 projects across five geographical areas, presented in a compendium that allows stakeholders to easily compare the impacts and complexity of each proposal.
From this collection of briefs, Publica identified ten priority projects as catalysts to help direct the phasing and procurement of future works in the area. These include large scale projects at the Aldwych gyratory and the Victoria Embankment River promenade, key routes at Strand, Arundel Street and Villiers Street, as well as smaller scale improvements to alleys, lanes and courts across the district.
A wealth of character and opportunity
When the Victoria Embankment was created in the 1860s it was seen as one of the best examples of urban planning in the world. Designed by Sir Joseph Bazelgette, the vast infrastructure project for public health and wellbeing deftly used the construction of a major sewer and underground railway as an opportunity to create a grand boulevard, a expansive riverside walkway and stretches of public gardens.
But today, many of the Northbank’s public spaces are underused. Our survey of the district found that while the area retains an wealth of character, use and has dramatic urban form, a number of its significant buildings and monuments are easily overlooked or obscured by traffic. Here, vehicles dominate the public realm, and pedestrian routes through the district are poorly connected. Once at the heart of London’s night life, the area has now lost much of its vitality after dark.
A vision and framework for Aldwych
The Northbank BID commissioned Publica to develop a public realm vision for the removal of the traffic gyratory at Strand/ Aldwych, one of the key projects identified in Publica's Northbank Public Realm Vision and Strategy.
Through stakeholder engagement, extended research and close observation of the spaces in question, Publica developed a design vision and framework to direct and inform early decisions on changes to the function and use of the public realm and the setting of important institutions and listed buildings.
We worked closely and iteratively with traffic consultants Norman Rourke Pryme (NRP) to investigate and test a series of traffic management options. Our work outlined the potential to create a series of significant new public spaces that, if implemented, would provide a dramatically improved setting for area’s renowned cultural and educational institutions and help to establish new pedestrian connections throughout the district.
The project was adopted as a key priority project by the Northbank BID and was championed by London First. In Autumn 2017 Westminster City Council began the next stage of the project, appointing a consultant team to further develop a design based on the established vision.