The lockdown forced by the recent Coronavirus pandemic has been detrimental to human well-being, quality of life, and mental and physical health. These social restrictions have revealed a lack of public and communal open space, which disproportionately impacts city inhabitants and historically-underserved communities, further reassessing the link between public space and public health. The public realm’s capacity to support Londoners’ health is now rivaling the housing crisis as an urban and architectural problem. Specifically in the City of London, the vast majority of buildings turn inward to create closed-off courtyards that are insufficient for light, air, and public amenities. Being mostly inhabited by commuting workers and tourists, the City has lost its urban life from people and green public space.
We need to enhance our existing public realm to do more in order to live well together. Our goal for the site is to connect with the City rather than looking inward as individual objects in a field. For equitable public spaces, a seamless integration of interior and exterior spaces is possible for symbiotic support of all people wherever they gather by providing interactive moments of plants, people, and daylight that are physically and digitally expressed. Deconstructing the built environment in this way encourages temporal, interactive, and inclusive forms of spatial agency for Londoners. Therefore post-pandemic design should promote equitable access to essential amenities and should absorb future urban shocks by building in capacity for resilience and social and environmental regeneration of the site and surrounding 15-minute neighborhood.
REPLENISHING FIELD highlights the possibilities of urban life on and beyond the one-block site in the City of London. Within the Gresham parcel is the source from where green public spaces reach out to interact with and transform existing buildings and streetscapes. Geometric form and meandering movement takes over the public realm breaking the urban thresholds and static buildings. Levels of urban growth create a diverse tableau of hybrid spaces above, below, and through that have multiple uses and services over days, weeks, and years. Replenishing Fields aims to ensure that these spaces provide the highest level of quality, inclusivity, and accessibility for all Londoners.
The design armature is flexible and elevates the potential of post-pandemic urban life through dynamic re-programming. Additionally, as biophilia is inserted throughout the neighborhood the visual expression of the field acts as a beacon for wayfinding.
With the addition of more green space to combat heat island effect, more public space is a benefit to the City of London as the area will become more comfortable in the face of climate change.
As the design and its biophilic elements are multiplied throughout the neighborhood, revitalization of habitat and urban life will occur and will remain through formal and programmatic redundancy.
In contrast to the closed and insular existing building stock equitable access to outdoor space and bolster promotes mental and physical health for individuals and communities.
A newly-defined and variegated public realm filled with nature, daylight, and people allows urban social life to thrive.