As part the Open House Festival 2020 we hosted a virtual ideas forum on the importance of public spaces for Londoners and in particular the Waterloo area. The speakers discussed how our use, perception and value of public realm and public spaces has changed this year, some important projects taking place around Waterloo, and what the future may hold for public spaces in Waterloo, and across London more generally. You can watch the presentation and Q and A here.
The event was hosted by Max Breese and we started with an introduction from Nick McGough, Weston Williamson + Partners, who discussed the character and fabric of Waterloo, and the relationships with the River Thames and Waterloo Station.
Abi Lewis from the London Borough of Lambeth followed sharing their Waterloo Masterplan, ideas for the Southbank spine, and discussing how Lambeth are responding to Covid-19 and revisiting their masterplan.
Gesine Junker from Transport for London spoke about their Streetscape programme, and how it is helping cycling and walking, and in doing so improving connections across different parts of London.
Elizabeth House occupies an important site along the northern edge of Waterloo Station. David Auld from HB Reavis discussed plans for the new Elizabeth House, and how the designs improve the public realm around the historic Victory Arch. The proposals will open up new spaces by the Waterloo International Terminal, revealing an elevation to Waterloo Station that is rarely seen, and creating a raised linear green space.
When you think of Network Rail you may not initially think of user experience. Rebecca Cunningham discussed how they are rethinking stations for the future, how the role of stations may change, as will the way we interact with stations.
We are Waterloo have been involved in many small projects in the area, which have engaged the local community, and had positive impacts way beyond their size or scope. Alex Butt discussed some of these projects, and how COVID-19 has led to increased pedestrian only use of Lower Marsh.
Anna Rennison, from Weston Williamson + Partners discussed one of the projects organised by We are Waterloo. Anna won the Baylis Road competition for a pocket garden, with planting that responds to the seasons and encourages biodiversity. Anna described the challenges of constructing the pocket garden during Covid-19 and how these were overcome.
The evening ended with a panel Q&A, with the speakers answering questions on: the challenges of private space, issues of land ownership and ways to deliver coherent public realms, the future of funding sources and maintenance strategies which are essential for enduring impact on community initiatives.