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Westminster City Council's Head of Place-shaping joins Future Cities Forum's Summer 2023 Awards

Above: Ruchi Chakravarty of Westminster City Council

Future Cities Forum is welcoming Ruchi Chakravarty, Head of Place-shaping at Westminster City Council, to our all-female judging panel for our Summer Awards 2023 to be held at The Haymarket Hotel, London.

Ruchi is a former architect who contributed to our January discussion forum on creating place around Somerset House and the former offices of the BBC World Service. She has been working with LDA Design on the project Strand Aldwych to create a haven of peace, re-directing traffic and designing new spaces in which to dwell. She told Future Cities Forum:

‘Safety was the key driver to think about change at the Stand concerns about cars speeding. We worked closely with TfL on this massive bus route, as we had to match or reduce journey times. Once you remove the traffic then you have the beginnings of a place. What is the space going to be was the next question and who is going to walk through that space? There are 45,000 students around the Strand Aldwych but in the old Strand at ground level you would not know that. You have got artists’ studios in Somerset House and then you have the theatres. You are starting to bring the inside out and starting to set that vision for what it could be. It raised the quality of public experience.

‘It's been a completely multi-disciplinary do we create a pause in the footfall of all those walking down from Covent Garden so they can spend some money in the Strand Aldwych and experience some of the amazing things there? What we had with the stakeholders there including the North bank BID was a truly co-creative process to begin to decide what sort of events would we have there?'

King's College London has taken over the buildings that housed BBC Bush House in The Strand and Beatrice Pembroke, Executive Director for Culture, King's College London, commented on the value to the University and its' Vision 2029:

'It is our 200th anniversary in 2029 and the Strand/Aldwych project will be transformative for Kings. Prior to the pedestrianisation, we had concerns for student and staff safety and this creation of place is significant for wellbeing. It allows the University to make a difference to society through our research and education. Getting students back has been a big process and having a distinctive place for UK and international students is important.

'We want to work outside in the place as a living classroom while recognising it is also a space for everyone. We want to break down our walls and make sure our research is relevant with the public, for instance our work on urban sustainability. It is the most monitored area in Europe, so it is a good test bed for research into pollution for example.

'Our relationships with cultural partnerships are also important and offer us the chance to co-programme with artists in creating a cultural destination. Partners are working together well here and the fact that there was a culture strand to the project from the start has been essential.'

Below: view of Strand Aldwych remodelled for pedestrians, with King's College London's (KCL) buildings flanking St Mary le Strand church. The BBC's Bush House is on the right and is now occupied by KCL.


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