Petticoat Lane Shopfront Improvements
As part of the Tower Hamlets Middlesex Street regeneration programme, we were commissioned to undertake an in-depth feasibility study for shopfront improvement works on Middlesex Street and Wentworth Street, London. Detailing both the opportunities and challenges in increasing footfall on the high street, our proposal became intrinsically linked to the operation and visual appeal of the three markets taking place on and around the street.
The occupancy rates of Petticoat Lane, Wentworth Street and Middlesex Street markets are down by around 30%, and have been declining for some time. Often, the market layout encroaches on the shops, the pedestrian passage is both tight and limited, and many of the shopfronts are in a poor condition with oversized signage and solid metal security shutters. With the purpose of retaining the authentic character, spirit and diversity of the area – its tenants, family-run businesses, cafes and African fabric shops – our feasibility strategy outlines a sensitive and economic approach to improvements works, keeping the needs and values of existing tenants at its heart. Working with the Tower Hamlets Council team, heritage team and Heritage England, the proposal looks to maximise the visual appeal of shopfronts within the context of the area’s conservation status.
Crossing feasibility strategy, stakeholder consultation and architectural, landscape and graphic design, the next stage of the project will lead to individual shopfront designs and budgets.
The kiosks were created with the belief that small is beautiful; both aesthetically and ideologically. Their size makes them more accessible to independent and experimental operators that are rarely accorded an entire building; a shop or studio that might otherwise be closed off is made visible. Their scale creates an intimacy that allows for more informal and accessible interactions with visitors, passersby and neighbours, and a greater exchange between plants and architecture. Together, these elements create more layers, diversity and granularity to an otherwise quiet street.
The kiosks tread lightly on the existing surrounds, intersecting established exotic trees and breaking down existing perimeters with new, mostly native, plantings; creating a permeable yet intimate public outdoor space with many little nooks. The landscaping references the many Brutalist public spaces in Canberra by incorporating washed exposed aggregate cast concrete.
Molonglo’s work over the years has taught us to place importance on the smallest of interventions. While modest compared to our other projects, we have dedicated the same level of care as we would a large project. We hope they will be proof of what small yet considered development can achieve.