Image by B. Alter
The London Festival of Architecture 2010 is a huge two week extravaganza that spans the city. There is a big international element this year, with more than 30 embassies opening their doors to present new work by their country's architects. Private architects' studios will be open to the public, cycle tours, walks, talks and displays will keep city-lovers busy for days.
Each week has a theme, and this one was Nash Ramblas. John Nash designed a very elegant part of the city in 1811 and this week celebrates his legacy and future plans for the area. Week two is the East End and a tour of the 2012 Olympic site (can't wait to see it) and the third weekend examines urban spaces and green initiatives, including the creation of a community orchard.
The Royal Route, commissioned by the Prince Regent in 1810 was one of London's earliest pieces of town planning. In 1809 he appointed John Nash as Architect to the Department of Woods & Forests. Under Nash's leadership some of the loveliest parts of the city, including Regent Street, Piccadilly Circus and the Regent's Park were developed. The route he envisioned was not the final one that was built because existing land ownership was an impediment to his grand plans. At one junction over 250 retail stores were destroyed for the road.
Now in an audacious and expensive town planning initiative, many of the areas on his original route are being revitalized with new squares planned, barriers being removed, cars banned and gracious green areas introduced. A group including the Crown Estate, the Royal Parks, Westminster City Council and RIBA London will highlight the potential of an improved pedestrian route. Developed with the architect Sir Terry Farrell, the proposal for the redevelopment of John Nash's 1812 plan for a grand concourse from Regent's Park to the Mall is being called the "Nash Ramblas" after the famous Barcelona boulevard. It will feature an avenue of trees in the centre, wider crossings, elimination of some underpasses and Oxford Street could be pedestrian part of the time.
An open-air exhibition in the Regent's Park lines the elegant Broad Walk and tells the story of the development of the area by Nash. Several shops along Regent Street have displays in their windows to celebrate his creation.
There are talks by architects in the pop-up pavilion nearby. Throughout the weekend there were debates and activities around the past and future of Nash's creation.