THE DESIGN – Piazza and Public Spaces
Great emphasis has been placed in the exhibition and proposals on the creation of a viable public space, which is a good idea as this is what the local community can potentially benefit from.
It is unusual to have piazzas which are narrow and long strips of land. This piazza has specifically been designed in this way to increase exposure to the larger amount of retail element that has been proposed. There is also no ‘destination’ building at the end of this to create interest, just a block of flats.
The diagrams showing comparable public spaces are further misleading. What the diagrams show are moments of relief in the dense urban fabric of inner London areas which are heavily developed. These urban environments are far from anything that is currently present in Northwood and foreign to the character of it and not what locals want for this area. Columbia Road flower market is singled out as an analogy to the Northwood proposed piazza. There is a world of difference!
Columbia Road is indeed delightful and has 2 storey terrace houses along its south side which allows sunshine into the street making it indeed a pleasant space. This is in abrupt contrast to the Tfl proposed piazza which will have four storey blocks on three sides with very much reduced sunlight reaching the area. Please look at the shading diagram.
If Tfl architects wish to quote other examples of areas in London to bolster the piazza they should mention the facts. The south side will be only 15m wide (three-quarters the length of a cricket pitch) overlooked by a 4-storey block.
Saint Christopher’s Place and Exmouth Markets are in dense areas of Central London with no open spaces nearby and busy Londoners use them happily because of a lack of other outdoor spaces to eat, meet and socialise in. They are popular because they are off the main streets and are in the main unknown to tourists. Even from your own photographs it how little sun permeates these spaces. The Tfl development, however is on the main road through Northwood as is the piazza.
Will the piazza in fact remain a ‘public space’ or will it be a privately owned and controlled space? If it is the latter, areas may be assigned to shops/ retaurants for their customers thereby reducing the space available for the enjoyment of general public, families and children. The owners would also have the liberty to close the piazza at night or prevent people congregating if they so wished. In short, residents would not be getting the space for their enjoyment as they have been led to believe and they may not be able to enjoy it without spending money.
The piazza is long and narrow in its proportions, approximately 18/20metres by 80/100metres. It is shown enclosed on south, west and east by 3 + storey buildings (3 storeys + active roofs which will be taller than normal roofs).
If we consider the sun angle during summer and winter this rudimentary sketch shows which areas would only actually benefit from the sunshine in summer and winter.
It is clear that the piazza would be completely shaded during the winter months, only the Green Lane end of the piazza will get some sun around noon.
TFL’s options 2 states “The Piazza” as being of high quality. However, it appears to be narrow and will be extensively shaded as it is built up on 3 sides except to the north, which will be open. At the South End it will only be 15m (49ft) wide and overlooked by a 4 storey block. It is hard to visualise this as a pleasant new urban space.