News 01.03.2007

Europe's largest high street to be significantly revamped

Oxford Street in the heart of London is set to change following a re-design from Gillespies. The new plans, which were unveiled this morning in an official launch, also include proposals for Regent Street and Bond Street. Westminster City Council is driving the re-configuration of the thoroughfares through its Action Plan which aims to make the streets more comfortable for the pedestrian. 

London’s Oxford Street is famous internationally as a retail centre and is the largest high street in Europe. With 120 international and 95 flagship stores - and 100 million shopping visits yearly - the narrow and cluttered pavements cannot cope with such intensity of use. Commuters, tourists and shoppers all combine to create an often frantic and overcrowded street scene that provides a challenge to the pedestrian.The concept designs seek to redress this whilst altering the balance of the street to ensure a more consistent pedestrian experience from the east end to the west end. 

As part of the re-design the pavements will be widened and re-surfaced using high quality, durable materials along the 1.5km length. The road will be narrowed to accommodate a two-way flow of traffic with pedestrian priority crossings and a range of other traffic calming measures designed to encourage slower vehicular movement. Parallel kerb lines will structure the wider footways, establishing a clutter-free pedestrian zone adjacent to shop fronts for clear pedestrian movement and another zone next to the road to accommodate street furniture, pedestrian signage and bus stops. The identification of a number of off-street ‘oasis’ spaces will create inviting pause points away from the bustle of the street. At night, an innovative lighting strategy will see the space lit from the south side only - vastly reducing the number of lighting columns by establishing a line of iconic bespoke light masts that offer clearer lighting at night time through the use of low energy LED fittings. 

Regent Street is a more elegant and classic street with stunning architecture that requires more of a simple design response. To properly complement and enhance the built form, the new design de-clutters the street and extends the natural stone pavement. A central reservation and improved crossing points will be introduced to make pedestrian movement easier. 

Bond Street designs will see a more unified natural stone surfacing replace some of the current tarmac thus reinforcing the unique historic character of the street. More efficient traditional lighting columns will extend along Old and New Bond Street with a larger pedestrian plaza being created at the junction of these two famous streets, establishing a rewarding destination for visitors and shoppers. 

Gillespies' partner Steve Wardell says: "From a designer’s perspective, the chance to transform Oxford Street is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and one that is well overdue. We really want to seize the opportunity we have been given to make a difference. The designs will improve the experiences of a large number of people and this has been the priority throughout this project”.