As the modes of transport that we prioritise in London change, our appreciation of the urban landscape changes. We recognise the 3,500-person capacity courtyard at Somerset House as one of the great public spaces of London. It is easy to forget that, until the 1990s, the courtyard served as a car park for the employees of the Inland Revenue and other public offices, based in Somerset House. The parking in this vintage photo would look mundane in an industrial park, let alone in one of the magnificent buildings of Central London.
This year, the shock of the pandemic has been the catalyst for neighbourhoods to restrict, or even ban vehicular traffic in residential areas. This is done by implementing so-called Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) which use a variety of interventions to block or limit traffic.
So far, the design of these bollards and planters has been prosaic at best, rudimentary at worst. Let’s hope there are exciting opportunities at LTNs for landscape designers, product designers and architects in 2021.
To learn how other European cities are driving out cars, click here.
Somerset House is currently closed to the public but features on Seeing Architecture's South Bank to Covent Garden walk. Visit our tours page for more details.