Active Commuting for a ‘Mini-Holland’ in Kingston
An ambitious project, designed to encourage more people to take up cycling and walking, is now complete and open to the public. A new station plaza, cycle hub and cycle/pedestrian bridge, part of Kingston’s Go Cycle scheme (funded by the Mayor’s Mini-Holland programme), has been created by Sarah Wigglesworth Architects and international engineering practice Buro Happold.
The project represents a significant redevelopment of a busy transportation hub in the heart of Kingston Upon Thames, to enable more people to walk, cycle and use public transport, reducing carbon emissions and in turn improving health and wellbeing for residents and visitors.
By 2050 the population of the Royal Borough of Kingston is expected to grow by 30 per cent; that’s over 50,000 extra people from 2015, who will need better connections to move around the borough. Sustainable travel is key to accommodating that growth and ensuring the continued success of the borough through improving existing routes and opening up new ones. The scheme is nicknamed ‘Mini-Holland’ as the Dutch have truly embraced the bicycle – with a population of 17 million, there are 22.5 million owned bicycles in Holland and over 30,000km of dedicated cycling infrastructure.
As part of the Mayor’s Mini-Holland programme, Go Cycle Kingston re-establishes a strong green connection from the station forecourt to the riverfront and transforms the derelict landscape adjacent to the rail tracks into an attractive and usable public amenity for people walking and cycling.
The project consists of a trio of new interventions, including, a station plaza, cycle hub and new cycle/pedestrian bridge. These are united by new crossings at the station forecourt and a newly landscaped green route to the riverside.
Dr Will Norman, London’s Walking & Cycling Commissioner, said: “The past year has seen a huge growth in walking and cycling across the capital, and as we look to the future it’s vital we avoid a car-led recovery from the pandemic. Kingston’s new ‘Mini-Holland’ scheme is providing improved cycling infrastructure and a wonderful new landscape, enabling more people to walk or cycle safely around the area, driving down traffic and getting active at the same time.”
The Station Plaza
This is a focal point for visitors and local people alike. Works have included narrowing of the roadway to expand the pavement for pedestrians while tidying up visual clutter outside the station. A re-paved zone in front of the station directs people towards the town centre and unifies this area into a coherent forecourt.
Inclusive design was particularly important to enable all groups, irrespective of their abilities, to use the space safely. Andy Murdoch, Director at Buro Happold, explains: “The team conducted thorough surveys and workshops with the community and stakeholders to better understand the key issues affecting users. Improving pedestrian safety was critical in this busy area, which meant we recommended lowering the speed limit on roads around the station to 20mph, giving the entrance a much calmer atmosphere, despite remaining a busy transport hub. Approaches into the forecourt were made to encourage cyclists to slow down and make them aware of pedestrians – it encourages a change in mindset.”
The unsightly disused railway land next to the station has been transformed through innovative landscaping to create a linear park that better connects the station to Bushy Park and existing cycleways. This helps provide a more pleasant cycling and walking experience for commuters and residents, along a greener space.
The Cycle Hub
The cycle storage hub is adjacent to the station and has a three-storey storage capacity for 398 bicycles. Linking back to nearby historic motifs and gothic tracery patterns, the cycle storage was designed as a modular overlapping structural truss that gathers different cycle activities on and around it. The upper levels provide secure and convenient cycle storage throughout the day. In the future, the coffee shop will become a sociable meeting place and community event space on the ground floor, and a new cycle workshop will offer free tools and a space to carry out repairs. Cargo bikes and cycle rental will also become later available on the ground level to encourage cycling, while reducing vehicle congestion and pollution.
The Cycle and Pedestrian Bridge
A new, wider cycle and pedestrian bridge was fabricated offsite to reduce the impact on the local area and installed during two nights, over the A307. The distinctive steel lattice structure, a third of the weight of the previously existing bridge (despite being wider), allows cyclists and pedestrians to safely cross the road with plenty of space in two directions, while providing better links to the riverside and adjoining cycle networks. Rather than replacing the foundations of the old bridge, they were incorporated into the new version.
The historic development of movement routes have shaped the experience of today’s Kingston. From early walking routes and ferry crossings, to permanent bridges for the road and railway, to the 1980s gyratory and one-way system, modern thoroughfares now bisect ancient routes creating challenges to movement through the town.
Sarah Wigglesworth, Director at Sarah Wigglesworth Architects, says: “Our intention with Mini-Holland Kingston was to create a focus, remake connections and celebrate the ‘spirit of the place’. We worked with stakeholders including Kingston Museum and Kingston University to draw upon local references which have influenced the design language and structural expression. Our influences for both the bridge and the hub reference the work of Eadweard Muybridge as well as the form of a crown, a nod to Kingston as the historic setting for the crowning of six Saxon monarchs on the King’s Stone, still visible in the town centre.”
Matthew Hill, Assistant Director – Highways, Transport, and Regulatory Services at Kingston Council, says: “The new Cycle Hub is a great asset for our communities now and in the future. The ability to pop into town and park your bike securely while shopping, catching up with friends or working will enable more residents and visitors to travel in an environmentally friendly way while encouraging active travel. The whole project really helps to transform sustainable transport options in Kingston for our residents.”
Jean-Christophe Chassard, Go Cycle Portfolio Delivery Manager at Kingston Council, says: “The project has been a great success and delivered with outstanding quality, ingenious technical solutions and excellent design. The revamped forecourt at Kingston station has been improved with the creation of new wide open shared use spaces for pedestrians and cyclists, and the new bridge and cycle hub have been brought to life through a successful collaborative consortium between our design partners and council. It is commendable.”
Peter Murray, Curator-in-Chief of New London Architecture (NLA), added: “The Mini Holland project was not just about creating better conditions for cycling. It was about making better places. During the selection process for the design team SWARCH displayed understanding of the project and design skills that convinced the panel that they would reshape this iconic piece of the town for the better. They understood the importance of the station’s role as the gateway to Kingston as well as the complexities of managing the often conflicting interests of pedestrians and motorists. As a result, they have turned an alienating space to a welcoming one and developed a coherent architectural language that links building and engineering to form a landmark that celebrates the changing hierarchy of road users in all our cities, changes that are currently accelerating as a result of Covid-19.”
About Sarah Wigglesworth Architects
SWA is a pioneering, award-winning design practice that specialises in designing for sustainable communities. 2019 marked SWA’s 25th anniversary. The practice has spent the past two and a half decades creating people-centred places that are joyful, inventive and resourceful. Its portfolio includes master-planning, cultural buildings, offices, private and social housing and structures for sport and education. www.swarch.co.uk
About Buro Happold
Described as 'passionate', 'innovative', 'collaborative': Buro Happold is an independent, international engineering practice that for over 40 years has become synonymous with the delivery of creative, value led building and city solutions for an ever changing world. Having worked on every continent, clients include more than 90% of the world's leading architectural practices, and Buro Happold has collaborated with global organisations such as the United Nations, The World Bank and UNESCO. Through a global community of driven, world leading engineering and consulting professionals Buro Happold delivers elegant solutions for buildings and cities that seek to address the major problems facing societies today. @burohappold www.burohappold.com