© NOOMA Studio
The London Borough of Camden, one of the LFA 2022 Destinations, is rich in the variety of its architecture and communities, working and living in the borough. We’ve been working closely with Camden Council this year on a design competition for a large-scale public realm activation on Phoenix Road in Somers Town, a main link between Euston and St Pancras Stations. The winning design will be delivered for the final weekend of June and will be, for me, one of the highlights of this year’s festival.
The chosen design team, NOOMA Studio, is a London-based interdisciplinary design practice of architects and creatives who champion inclusive design and community engagement. Their previous work includes The Lived Experience of Our Streets – a commission with the Cross River Partnership and various local authorities that sought to create a fair future of streetspace. The team were also shortlisted to deliver an ambitious new £3 million community sports pavilion and public realm plan for Argent & Barnet Council as part of the Brent Cross Town development.
NOOMA Studio are creating a street garden for the people of Somers Town – The Phoenix Road Performing Gardens – that facilitates performance. Pavement painting and greenery including barrel-planters prepared in collaboration with Global Generation will bring colour and life into the street. NOOMA Studio have also designed three pavilion structures, The Speaker, The Storyteller and The Performer, which will host the planned and spontaneous performances of poetry, dance and storytelling that will activate the street. The team have worked with partners including Global Generation, Somers Town Museum – A Space for Us, Maria Fidelis and Regents High secondary school to create the installations and a programme for the weekend which showcases the spirit of the local community around Phoenix Road.
The installation opens at 7pm on the Friday evening (24 June) with drinks, entertainment and speeches and the programme continues all day Saturday and Sunday. From Radical Screen Printing to Children’s Flag Painting and a community meal on Saturday lunchtime, there should be something for everyone to enjoy. If you are a storyteller, performer, or speaker you can even book one of the pavilions for your own performance.
Although the road will reopen after the weekend, much of the installation including pavilions, planters and pavement painting will remain in place until the Somers Town Festival in early July. At the end of the installation the plants used in the installation will be received by the local people to rehome in Somers Town’s inward facing gardens.
Running this competition in collaboration with Camden Council, provided the opportunity to use the Festival as a space to explore and test ideas, supporting the planned improvements and future vision of the area.
As an area of planned regeneration in the coming years with initiatives including the Greening Phoenix Road project (funded through HS2 mitigation funds), a temporary public realm intervention like the Performing Gardens is a test bed for new ideas which look at alternative scenarios for the area. This weekend in June, Camden will see a vibrant, green, and vehicle-free space created on Phoenix Road and be able to imagine what an improved public space for Somers Town could look like for the local community and beyond.