London Bridge and Hackney Wick stations highlight the importance of good design

London Bridge and Hackney Wick stations have been touted as railway success stories, showing how good design can add significant value to railway infrastructure.

A new report from the Design Council, The value of design for UK rail infrastructuredescribes how initial and ongoing investment in design increases the positive social, economic and environmental impact of rail infrastructure.

The £1billion upgrade of London Bridge station has been heralded as a prime example of using design to drive commercial value under “significant program and risk mitigation pressures”.

The works were undertaken by a joint venture Costain Arcadis WSP, with Grimshaw Architects, between 2012 and 2018.

The report points out that it would have been easy for a project like London Bridge to be “consumed by the sheer complexity of engineering and construction considerations, reducing attention to other issues such as architectural design and experience”.

However, at the station, a “design-driven decision-making process” led to the adoption of the central Y-columns to support the new section of railway viaduct – an example of an integrated and interdisciplinary design approach.

“The architects suggested that by adopting the Y (and thus reducing the number of overpass columns), the concourse would be easier for passengers to move around without bumping into each other,” the report states. “They reported that the building program had been improved accordingly, but most importantly they added visual interest and focus to the generously sized lobby.”

In the past, the report says, such aesthetic considerations have not always been sufficient to “justify and influence design decision-making”, with designers forced to “emphasize the practical benefits that were likely to be supported and ultimately adopted for construction”.

He adds: “While this has led to success, a lesson for future projects is to consider whether something should be done about the design decision-making process that would require a ‘stealth’ architectural design. “even for the most established design organizations. How would a smaller, less experienced designer cope with such pressures?”

Work at the station has resulted in the creation of the largest retail area of ​​any UK station in the ‘pay side’ environment – ​​the area contained by the ticket barriers. Coupled with the streamlined interchange movement for passengers already in the paying side of the station, this enabled “substantial retail revenue value”.

The project has also brought notable social values, notably through the reduction of crime on the perimeter of the station, with the surrounding streets designed in the proposals.

Meanwhile, the report highlights Hackney Wick Station for its use of design to overcome engineering constraints and maximize value for the local community.

Work on the £28million project was undertaken by Landolt & Brown Architects, between 2017 and 2018.

At Hackney Wick, architects were selected through a design competition. They engaged an artist from the outset and together developed a design approach that “expresses the character of the place”, while working with the multidisciplinary design team, including those who had developed the civil engineering and constructability proposals. .

The skystation reopened in 2018 after the walkway was replaced with a tunnel to provide a cycle and pedestrian link connecting the communities on either side of the tracks. The redevelopment also included upgrading station entrances and ticketing concourses with improved access to the raised platforms above.

The design reflects the “industrial heritage and waterways of the region” and also features colored concrete walls and illuminated glass, which “transform the user experience”. The new public road forms an integral part of local area regeneration plans which aim to link Hackney and Tower Hamlets.

London Legacy Development Corporation chief executive David Goldstone highlighted the impact on the region.

“Improving connections in Hackney Wick is essential to support the regeneration of the area and is a key part of Hackney Wick’s master plan,” he said.

“The new subway will help open up the area to local people and support the businesses that locate there. The much-needed improvements to the station come just as new homes begin to be built in East Wick and Sweetwater and more jobs are created in Ici Est and the surrounding area.

There has been a 27% increase in passenger numbers since the station’s redevelopment, partly due to local population growth, but also due to the quality of its design.

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Abdul J. Gaspar