News 21.08.2023

New Kent Road transformation shortlisted for an AJ award

The New Kent Road transformation project in Elephant Park has been shortlisted for an Architects' Journal award in the Landscape and Public Realm category.

The project transformed the northern section of Elephant Park. It greened the busy dual carriageway of New Kent Road, and created three new connecting streets, opening the area into a series of public realm spaces and spill-out for commercial units.

We were asked to provide a setting for new buildings, retaining a listed phone box and existing street trees, and integrate active transport into what was once a drab, uninviting area, which at times felt substantially unsafe. Based on consultations, our coherent design for the public realm reflects the identity and ethos of the wider Elephant Park masterplan – vibrant, green and inherently playful spaces that encourage activity and engagement - while still working within TfL's legal constraints.

Along the heavily polluted A201 New Kent Road, street trees struggled in small tree pits, and few pedestrians endured the grey concrete footway past a soulless line of walls alongside high-density traffic. Our scheme greened the area, with a sequence of attractive landscaped spaces linking the two-acre central park to New Kent Road. These new, accessible throughways prioritise pedestrians and cyclists, and increase permeability to the new park at the heart of the estate. The project activated ground-floor frontages, creating opportunities for new business start-ups, including a new gym, and encouraging interaction between people in what was previously a no-go area.

We worked with Treework Environmental Practice to ensure the mature plane trees were retained. Around the trees, we replaced paving with new beds, planting hardy species able to cope with the dry shade characteristic of the areas below established trees. We vastly increased the tree pits, allowing for far greater root expansion under the paving – the trees will be more firmly rooted to withstand the higher winds which are becoming more prevalent as a result of climate change. As well as retaining the existing trees, we’ve added new trees: planting specimens of hardy species such as ginkgo, ensuring they were large enough to withstand anti-social behaviour.

By working with the council, client and local community, we’ve improved this drab street out of all recognition. The area now feels safe, attractive and inclusive, with high-quality pedestrian and cycle lanes reinforcing connections through the area. We’ve enhanced the area’s biodiversity, improved air quality and drainage and contributed to creating a cohesive new neighbourhood. Local people gain increased access to nature, and can see the changing seasons reflected in the different foliage. At the same time, the greening of the area will improve the air quality, and reduce summer temperatures at the hottest period of the year.

The area forms part of the £2.3 billion regeneration programme by Lendlease and Southwark Council, transforming 28 acres of Elephant Park. It regenerates the former Heygate Estate, creating over 3,000 new homes and over 50 new retail spaces, including affordable retail provision.

The full shortlist for Architects' Journal awards is published on their website.