The redesign of #OxfordCircus and the introduction of pedestrian piazzas is a welcome change to this area. It already has the advantage that many tourists assume it’s a ‘must visit’ location, so it attracts the needed footfall to compete with the iconic #TimesSquare. As such, the Oxford Circus revamping actually meets a demand that already exists, rather than having to generate one from scratch, which is always a good place to start from.
The Times Square pedestrianisation programme (2010-2016) obviously worked wonders, and Oxford Circus would undoubtedly benefit from doing the same. But it’s not just about pedestrianization, but how you actually activate the resulting space. There is so much that can be done – from film screenings and outdoor yoga classes to Christmas markets and concerts – this is where the project needs to look at some of the truly vibrant revamps of civic spaces done recently.
For example, #BedokTownSquare in Singapore became a place where citizens can enjoy outdoor cinema, community art classes and music performances. Similarly, the historic square #Sechseläutenplatz in Zürich, which was dominated by a car park, got redesigned into a pedestrian zone and year-round tourist destination with water activities for kids, and even a Christmas market with an ice-rink.
Oxford Circus could also benefit from the socialite life of the nearby Soho area with food and drinks spilling onto the streets creating a party atmosphere just like the Munich beer festival. The suggested redesign would also compliment the other areas such as Covent Garden, Chinatown, Piccadilly Circus and make them a destination with a purpose and point of view, which lack uniqueness as an experience at the moment.
By adding more pop-up activities, Oxford Circus has the potential to become one of ‘the’ places to visit in London – think Camden Market on the weekends, but less shabby chic, and more edgy and energy. It can become the cool place for young adults, who are looking for that socialite New York-ish style.
Image credit: An artist’s impression of how Oxford Circus will look after the changes. Photograph: Westminster City Council/PA