In contrast to the White Horse Bridge project, where the intention was to create a clear separation between the local population and the crowds arriving at or departing Wembley Stadium on match day, at Abbey Wood the intention was to find a way of bringing an already fractured community back together.
The railway station at Abbey Wood has been chosen to become the south-eastern terminus for the new high-frequency Crossrail link, scheduled to start traversing London from east to west in 2017. As a consequence, the station is due for a major overhaul and, in preparation, a thorough multi-disciplinary study was commissioned — sponsored by Transport for London, the London Development Agency, Crossrail, Network Rail and Greenwich and Bexley Councils — to explore how such a project might help rejuvenate the whole area, bringing broader socio-economic benefits to all levels of the community and promoting new growth. A detailed design for a new station was not required; instead, this was seen as an urban masterplanning project seeking to define guidelines that outline how the station’s refurbishment could be used to act as a catalyst for new development in the surrounding area. Read more
This was a complex problem. Not only is Abbey Wood split in half north-south by the railway line, but the station also stands next to the Harrow Manor Way overpass that separates the community east-west. The team commissioned to undertake the study comprised 5th Studio (urban realm analysis and design framework), Arup (transport planning and socio-economic analysis), Jones LaSalle (development strategy) and ourselves as overall co-ordinator and architectural advisor on the station itself.
From the earliest team discussions, it became clear that the station could not be seen in isolation. Rather, it needed to be seen as a new transport hub, linking more efficiently with the major bus routes on the overpass and acting as a magnet, drawing people towards the centre of the area, interacting far better with its immediate surroundings, and providing new and far more welcoming links between the four parts of the community.
At present, the current station ignores the adjacent overpass and offers only indirect access to the pedestrian walkways, themselves dingy and uninviting, that allow people to pass beneath it. In contrast, we proposed raising the entire station concourse to the level of the overpass, setting the new ticket hall well back to create a new forecourt between the station and the road where passengers can transfer between bus and train in safety and comfort.
Generous stairways on either side will allow open and clear access up to the concourse level, with looping ramps or lifts for those who prefer, and a new street level forecourt will be created off Felixstowe Road to the north, as a safe pick-up and drop-off point for local commuters. For those arriving on foot, all pedestrian approaches will be transformed with new landscaping and better lighting, with new walkways beneath the overpass connecting directly to the station concourse. Announcing its presence, the new ticket hall — now clearly visible from all directions — will be fully glazed, acting as a beacon and safe haven at night, with its cross-vaulted roof-form presenting welcoming arches to all sides.