On a sliver of land just four metres wide, Sayer Street packs in the infrastructure to support all the social life which characterises London’s best-loved high streets.
Set against the construction hoarding for a mixed-use development within the Elephant Park masterplan, the project will complement the recently opened terrace of cafes and restaurants on the south of Sayer Street until the other half of the high street is complete. The temporary nature of the scheme allows it to test responses to some of the pressing existential questions facing town centres across the country, including how to balance the implications of the emerging experience economy against the continuing need for civic spaces that define a sense of belonging in the city.
Our response takes the form of a linear folly. Undulating canopies shelter event spaces and seating nooks, interspersed with lush planting and three compact workspace pavilions. The entire assemblage sits within a framework of brightly coloured scaffold and lighting that draw the eye ever further down the street.
These, for us, are the pleasures of walking in the city: reasons to wander, opportunities to meet and vantage points for watching life go by. Abundant exotic planting is a central part of the spatial experience, softly enclosing areas within the folly. A community radio station, a flower shop and an art gallery art the first workspace tenants, completing our high street microcosm with retail and cultural activity.
Once the development behind is completed in three years’ time, the modular scaffold that makes up the superstructure will be struck, and the workspace pavilions, manufactured off-site, will be re-deployed at a school, community space or elsewhere within the regeneration site.