Marks Barfield’s New Urban Heart for Clapham Old Town Starts on Site

A new £2.2 million public square in the historic heart of Clapham, funded by TFL and Lambeth Council, has started on site.

The project creates a new high quality tranquil urban piazza in Clapham Old Town reducing the dominance of traffic by removing the existing gyratory system, redesigning the bus stop and stand layout and reversing the percentage of road to pavement area (currently 65/35% to 35/65% ); effectively giving the area back to the pedestrian. It reclaims the public realm for public enjoyment – making an attractive space where people can meet, sit, pause or pass through. Marks Barfield Architects (MBA) – together with Armstrong Bell Landscape Design – propose the planting of up to 80 new trees providing year round interest; high quality york stone paving, free draining fine rolled gravel, and seating.

The new public space is defined by contained planting to the north and south, and has glimpses of the Common and Holy Trinity church while encouraging the visual connection to the active frontages along Clapham Common Northside. The strong line of Plane trees running along the Common side of Clapham Common North Side is continued down into the new public space to define its western edge and strengthen the link with the common. The planter at the northern end of the space is raised at one corner and contains Deschampsia grasses and multi- stemmed Amelanchier trees which filter views of the buses. The gravel area hosts a scattered plantation of Catalpa Nana trees which give shelter to numbers of individual chairs, lending an informal character to the space. The small scale of the trees reflects the domestic scale of the Polygon.

The scheme has the firm backing of the majority of local people. Extensive and lively local engagement and interaction over a period of more than a year and a half influenced the design solution and culminated in a consultation run over the summer of 2012 involving 715 people. This confirmed 85% support for the scheme from local residents and businesses. Funding for the scheme will come jointly from TfL and Lambeth Council.

An earlier phase of the Clapham Old Town Regeneration Project has already transformed nearby Venn Street from a traffic cluttered street into an urban oasis free from cars and is now home to a regular street market, outdoor eating and relaxed enjoyment of the art house Cinema.

The Old Town is in the centre of historic Clapham and is at the heart of the conservation area; once home to Graham Green. The space opens up to Clapham Common to the South with its visual focus being the Holy Trinity Church – the centre of Wilberforces’s Clapham Sect in the late 18th century . The space has evolved in an ad hoc way over the last hundred years or so and has never been designed. The intensification of the area, the growth of traffic, buses and its many and disparate uses, has lead to a number of problems and conflicts which we are seeking to resolve. Also changing lifestyles mean that we are choosing to live out doors more than before.