By Harvé Dhillon
I am not quite sure whether it’s my own frustration towards British high streets or the news article I read about the revitalisation of high streets that inspired me to write this. It’s no doubt that we have all realised or felt that the British high street seems to be homogenised, with the same shops, similar characteristics and uninteresting streetscape. It’s not that every high street needs to provide a completely niche shopping experience, neither does the urban designer need to be pressurised in order to create a completely different public realm in every city centre. The lack of identity and experience to the city dweller is experienced when nearly every high street in the country feels its necessary to have similar materials, street furniture and retail outlets.
The benefits of good urban design of high streets are not just an aesthetic issue but can actually positively contribute to the economic benefits of high street retail. It may seem like something that is taken for granted but more than often the design of the high street does not need major regeneration schemes but rather small interventions.
The urban transformation of Kensington High Street in Central London has proven an effortless yet effective approach to the revitalisation of the high street. The reduction of street clutter by mounting traffic signals and signage on lamp columns and removal of guardrails and bollards had meant that the area provides a more attractive environment for pedestrians. In addition the removal of staggered crossings and the removal of traffic islands created the space improve the quality of the streetscape.
Read more about high street urban design and the revitalisation of high streets on http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/2011/05/23/how-good-design-can-revitalise-high-street-retail-91466-28742533/ and also the Urban Design Compendium provides guidance about the success of Kensington High Street on http://www.urbandesigncompendium.co.uk/kensingtonhighstreet?ThumbnailID=2#largeimagesection.