Sense of place

Place-making architecture should be encouraged when upgrading or designing a new interchange facility or zone to make the best use of the opportunity for a better public building helping to support a sense of local pride and civic architecture.

But this does not mean that designs have always to be different - a recognisable place may be one where all elements are in harmony as a whole. Best practice in integrating design and construction can deliver better value for money as well as better buildings.

Good design is functional, efficient and attractive for users and the public and respects and enhances the local surroundings. It should look at how it can enhance peoples' lives, helping to revitalise the fabric of an urban area and deliver social, economic and environmental value.

Quality and affordability of facilities will affect the character of the interchange zone and contribute to its sense of place and ability to become a destination in its own right.

Does the surrounding area have its own function and identity?

Place-making interchange facilities or zones often border onto major destinations that may add a sense of identity to the place.

The starting characteristics of an interchange zone reflect its location within a city, urban, sub-urban or rural area; then whether it is a recognisable centre of activity or district at that location. For example, stations such as Charing Cross are known to be placing passengers directly in central London; at the same time it is known as a travel centre. Assessment first requires determination of the type of centre, then of its characteristic functions.

Another key determinant of the interchange zone's identity is the main function of the area itself. At many, it may be relatively non-descript and residential. However, London has some interchange zones with considerable identity, such as Canary Wharf for business, the Barbican for art and culture, Oxford Street or Brent Cross for shopping, North Greenwich for leisure (the O2 Arena), Wembley for the national stadium, etc.

In some cases, the interchange zone may have an overwhelming 'transport' identity in itself, such as Heathrow for the airport or St Pancras for the Eurostar.

What commercial facilities are on offer within the interchange zone?

For some, larger interchange zones, there is the opportunity to incorporate a wider range of facilities. Passengers will appreciate commercial outlets, from a basic hot drinks counter and newsagent, to shops to buy gifts and souvenirs. When the range, number and quality of the goods sold increases, the interchange itself may become known for good shopping, for example at St Pancras, Victoria, Hammersmith and Wood Lane.

However, the desire to provide commercial activity should not outweigh the role and function of the interchange movements; the level of commercial activity should be appropriate to the scale and function of the interchange.

As commercial activity also assists with passive surveillance, making passengers feel safer, ideally the shops should be open as long as commercial constraints allow.

Is the interchange zone well connected with external facilities?

An interchange zone should be clearly signposted to and from major destinations outside the interchange zone to highlight its location for pedestrians, cyclists, and motor traffic. TfL Interchange Sign Design Guidelines set out signing requirements to indicate the different modes available at any given interchange facility and National Rail has its own well-known signifier. These symbols should be on display at each entrance outside the interchange facility or zone.

If the main access route to the interchange facility is via a shopping centre, such as at Stratford, negotiations with the commercial owners must take place so that sign posting to the interchange facility is arranged and kept updated. Equally, information about external facilities needs to be displayed within the zone, with signing and wayfinding to specific locations. These may be negotiated with and sponsored by facilities providers.

Does the quality of design add value to the local area?

The added value of a well-designed place can manifest itself in many ways for different stakeholders. It is important that stakeholders recognise what these are. Some social and environmental benefits are less tangible and can be easily overlooked. For example, these benefits may include:

  • A sense of well-being for local residents resulting in a positive environment to live and work
  • Encouraging users to linger and enjoy local facilities such as cafes and retail outlets
  • Reduced congestion resulting in improved environmental conditions

There is also scope to support sustainable regeneration through active support of a mix of 'human scale' community, start-up business, social enterprise and complementary transport activity in redundant buildings and on adjacent waste land.

Do landmark buildingsĀ and features increase the sense of place?

Landmark buildings can add value and increase the sense of place by promoting the culture or image of an area. These can be an important factor in encouraging businesses to locate there can boost tourism and visitors contributing to the local economy.

The introduction of public art and natural features, such as tree planting, can make interchange zones more attractive public spaces and make waiting or transferring between modes more enjoyable.

Care should be taken however to ensure that these features do not obstruct pedestrian routes or provide screens for antisocial activities.

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