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2005 06 30
Regent Park Déjà Vu?

A major problem with the original Regent Park development was that its public spaces – of which the project had an abundance – lacked visibility and circulation from outside the community. Without these qualities, the public spaces between buildings felt private, and ended up being treated as such.

The redevelopment of Regent Park is intended to rectify these problems by putting public streets through the community once more. Unfortunately the drawings of the design chosen for the first new building suggest one of its features repeats some of the old problems.

A tall glass tower, designed by architectsAlliance, will rise beside a lower building. A signature feature of the design is a staircase that rises parallel to the sidewalk at the base of the tower, leading to a green space between the buildings, elevated two storeys above street level.

The staircase creates a tall blank wall that looms up over the sidewalk, and in the drawings extends along the entire length of the block, making the new street (an extension of Sackville) unpleasant and opaque to pedestrians.

Both the visibility and the physical access to the elevated green space between buildings, meanwhile, are greatly reduced by the direction of the staircase, which is at a right angle to the garden area. As a result, this garden area will feel like an isolated private space between buildings, as the old Regent Park public spaces did.

The design of private buildings has a powerful impact on public space, and small details can make an enormous difference. The staircase needs to FACE the sidewalk (rather than being parallel to it). This simple reorientation will get rid of the blank wall, and instead create a pleasing open space along the street, one that is welcoming. It will provide a clear view from the street into the elevated green space, knitting it into the city fabric. Finally, it will encourage the buildings on either side to provide openings – windows and doors – at or near street level, making the street feel open, watched and used.

After going through the trouble of demolishing Regent Park, it is very important that we do not repeat some of the same mistakes in the first building of the new development.

Small-scale drawings can be seen here.
[email this story] Posted by Spacing Magazine on 06/30 at 02:03 PM

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