Icon asked six local architects to redesign the east London eyesore – here are the results
As part of Clerkenwell Design Week, Icon invited six of the area’s most distinguished architects – Almanac, Ben Adams Architects, Buckley Gray Yeoman, Farrells, Hawkins Brown– to rethink the eyesore that is Old Street Roundabout.
Though located at the heart of London’s tech industry, the so-called Silicon Roundabout seems a forgotten space.
These schemes are displayed on plinths along Clerkenwell Road until the end of the festival. Read and see the thinking behind them below.
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Old Street Pier by Hawkins Brown
Our intervention takes inspiration from the “Internet of Things” and seeks to provide a place for modern industry, where creative people can meet and do business.
Rather than a “tech hub” at silicon roundabout – a clinical term inspired by engineers and computer geeks who communicate only via email – we envisage a place where artists and makers can flourish in a social melting pot that uses 3D printing and rapid prototyping; a space for people to work with their hands and minds, designing for micro-manufacturing; a white-collar market where sounds and smells are positively encouraged.
There will be opportunities to have a coffee, fix a bike, buy freshly-made bread, get a haircut, book a trip or start up a new business. Switching roads to two-way traffic removes cars from the north-east corner, creates a social pier and gives priority to pedestrians and cycles, connecting to Hoxton and beyond.
Silicon Folly by Buckley Gray Yeoman
As the centre of London’s new silicon economy, everyone knows that Old Street roundabout is going places. If nothing else, it is a development site with huge potential in a prime slice of real estate. Recent schemes have sought to capitalise on this potential with proposals for new road networks, events spaces and even towers to be built here.
That’s fine. The site will be regenerated and the roundabout will - one day - be lovely. But is there something we can do right now? Our proposal for Old Street roundabout looks to play with the existing structures and constraints, and offer something that can be implemented immediately: a pop-up folly that heightens the presence of the roundabout and forms a bold new focal point for the junction. It won’t change the world. But it will look great – even if only for a day.
All Together Now by Alma-nac
Old Street Roundabout: A node, a moment, a void, an aberration at the convergence of four roads.
All Together Now: A festival, a destination, a celebration, the tastiest of dishes.
Old Street roundabout is the epitome of “terrain vague”: an awkward space pregnant with potential. These are the places where new ideas of space are tested and new types of programme pioneered. Almanac proposes a festival of folly and delight with no pre-ordained function beyond that of a meeting place. It is a celebration: a moment to pause in the most hurried of places.
The Beginning: An elevated concave platform shields the newly created realm from the hustle and bustle of the city below. Inward focusing, blinkered from the overbearing surrounding context, the inhabitants rise into an other-worldly space with the halo of the sky above.
For inspiration we thank: Boullee, Sterling, Del Val, Peter Shire, Peter Blake, Andrea Branzi and Pevsner.
St Agnes Ascending by Ben Adams Architects
Old Street roundabout is a charmless combination of 1960s shopping precinct and angry traffic jam. We have gathered all the retail spaces and escalators into an elegant drum that descends to the tube lines.
The roundabout is replaced by a shared space where traffic is less important than the bikes and pedestrians that characterise Shoreditch. An effortless translucent tower hovers over all – a beacon for tech city, a landmark for creativity and, at times, a screen for digital communication. Generosity replaces mean space and public life has a new arena in which to unfold.
Old Street in Bloom: The Post Beard Apocalypse by Farrells
“My friend lives in Farringdon and she hasn’t seen a tree for a week”.
A procession of suit-clad towers march down City Road towards the bearded conurbation of Shoreditch, realising architects’ lofty aspirations. Old Street is witnessing rapid and dramatic change, with new landmarks erupting and altering the equilibrium of this relatively unchartered territory.
Located on the border of inner London’s greenest borough, the area surrounding the Silicon Roundabout couldn’t be less representative of Hackney’s leafy credentials. Windows of new developments are designed as shut to protect inhabitants from high pollution levels, while planning authorities advise against planting within the public realm over vandalism fears.
Old Street in Bloom imagines a time after developers have departed. Nature is allowed to prevail; resetting the environmental stability, casting designers assertions aside and enabling the city to evolve instinctively as a “tangled bank”.
Can you do better? Send your efforts to firstname.lastname@example.org for the chance to be featured on Icon's website
Coming soon: Ben van Berkel of UN Studio discusses tall buildings and the area around his Canaletto building on City Road in a video interview with Icon
Words and images
Alma-nac, Ben Adams Architects, Buckley Gray Yeoman, Farrells, Hawkins Brown