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Just How Powerful Are Pedestrianised Streets?

New Road, Brighton, design by Gehl Architects

New Road by Landscape Projects and Gehl Architects, Brighton, England. For all you landscape architects out there who don’t think site analysis and local context are a crucial first step in designing, this project is about to prove you wrong. New Road is a perfect example of how a landscape architect should assess a site and its surroundings. When Landscape Projects and Gehl Architects were commissioned by the Brighton and Hove City Council, pedestrian and user experience areas within the city were suffering from contained access. As a result, they were relatively inaccessible and ignored, with other areas drowning in traffic congestion. What they called the Public Space/Public Life Survey analyzed the urban structure, movement patterns, and open-air activities, both in the winter and the summer, to provide advice on improvement projects in the public realm.

New Road, Brighton, design by Gehl Architects

New Road, Brighton, design by Gehl Architects. © Gehl Architects

New Road, Brighton, design by Gehl Architects

Gehl Architects said this about the study:How people use spaces helps us design places. Our first step is always to understand the local context as a basis for finding solutions. In Brighton, we gained a detailed understanding of the street: its physical features, but also who used it and how they moved. We also spent a lot of time talking to people so we could respond to their needs to help them improve the environment they live in. Facilitating this dialogue through workshops and meetings was also key to our work on New Road: Talking to people about their hopes and fears helped us meet our goal of creating a more walkable, relaxed, attractive, and accessible city.

New Road, Brighton, design by Gehl Architects

New Road, Brighton, design by Gehl Architects. © Gehl Architects

A New Type of Street Space

The most significant project to emerge from the study is New Road. Lying in the heart of Brighton’s Cultural Mile, New Road had become a rundown back alley dominated by the needs of vehicles rather than people. Despite its heritage and numerous cultural institutions, it was failing to attract small businesses and visitors and not meeting the needs of locals. However, the street was ideally located, and Brighton and Hove City Council knew something had to be done, originally coming up with the idea to close the street to all vehicular traffic. More Related Articles: 

New Road, Brighton, design by Gehl Architects.

New Road, Brighton, design by Gehl Architects. © Gehl Architects

BUT AFTER TALKING with the owners of small businesses on the street, they discovered that the owners were concerned about losing business if vehicles were banned. Therefore, the landscape architects came up with an idea for a new type of street. New Road is now England’s first shared-space street — where cars are welcome, but on people’s terms. The design of the street encourages cycling, sitting, standing, and walking activities based on people-focused space programming. To do this, the street was re-imagined as a natural stone surface without curbs and crossings, allowing pedestrians and cyclists to move through the entire space freely and to have priority over other users. Everything about how this site was designed was done to guide users to act a certain way.
New Road, Brighton, design by Gehl Architects.

New Road, Brighton, design by Gehl Architects. © Gehl Architects

THE VISUAL QUALITIES guide all users to become more aware of their environment, encouraging eye contact between users and lower speeds from drivers and cyclists. To do this, the team consulted Guide Dogs for the Blind, not just to make the street more user-friendly for the visually impaired, but to use the same techniques to move people through the space in a certain way. Tactile guidance strips line both sides of the street, with textured paving areas to mark thresholds, potential hazards, and movement onto the shared surface.
New Road, Brighton, design by Gehl Architects.

New Road, Brighton, design by Gehl Architects. © Gehl Architects

A TEXTURED RUMBLE STRIP marks the beginning of the street, so drivers know to slow down and to allow pedestrians to hear vehicles enter. The surface stones were carefully arranged, changing in tone, module, and finish to hint to people how to arrange themselves. The study found that with numerous theaters, the street was much more active at night. Therefore, lighting was a key component of the site. Designers involved a lighting artist, who carefully designed the lighting through the space to make people feel welcome and safe. However, the centerpiece of New Road is the wooden bench that spans the length of the site, creating a border that looks onto the space where people can linger.

Movement Survey Shows Obvious Success

Through the use of bespoke paving, seating, and lighting, New Road now invites people into the space, makes interaction possible, and has completely changed the dynamic of the street. Locals have embraced the space, while it also attracts visitors and has quickly become one of the most popular streets in the city.

New Road, Brighton, design by Gehl Architects.

New Road, Brighton, design by Gehl Architects. © Gehl Architects

Traffic levels through the area have dropped by 93 percent, the number of pedestrians has increased by 62 percent, and there was an incredible 600 percent increase in lingering activities, which has resulted in an increased contribution to the city’s economy.
New Road, Brighton, design by Gehl Architects.

What a transformation – From Old road to “New Road”, Brighton, design by Gehl Architects. © Gehl Architects

“86 percent of the citizens of Brighton would like to see more areas like this within the city”. Once the success of the project was recognized by the City Council, Gehl Architects and Landscape Projects trained city staff on how to use the Public Life/Public Space survey method to assess the impact of the design and analyze the rest of the city to improve other public spaces. With the success of New Road, 86 percent of the citizens of Brighton would like to see more areas like this within the city. In fact, cities all over the world are now employing the same method of surveying to create more accessible streets. “New Road has provided the basis for our ongoing consultancy on a broader urban design strategy for Brighton and Hove, and the thinking and methods behind the design of the street have created a solid platform for urban development throughout the city,the Gehl Architects designers said.
New Road, Brighton, design by Gehl Architects.

New Road, Brighton, design by Gehl Architects. © Gehl Architects

Full Project Credits For New Road

Project Name: New Road, Brighton, UK Location: Brighton, England Landscape Architect: Landscape Projects Architects: Gehl Architects Engineer: Martin Stockley Associates Client: Brighton and Hove City Council Commenced: Autumn 2005 Completed: Summer 2007 Budget: £1.75 million Awards: Landscape Institute Award, Civic Trust’s Special Award, National Transport Award for Urban Design, and Exemplary Best Practice for English Partnership’s 2013 Urban Design Compendium Website: www.gehlarchitects.com Website: www.landscapeprojects.co.uk Recommended Reading:

Article by Taylor Stapleton Return to Homepage

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