Windrush Square, Brixton, London
In-use: The space is left open for flexibility, clear sight lines and pedestrian routes, with a minimum of objects and planting. One of the central elements is a large sculpture used as seating, a meeting place and for informal play. Photo by Davis Landscape Architecture
Rethinking road layouts: The historic photo to the left shows the former Tate Gardens and road layout where the space effectively functioned as a roundabout. By closing one street, in front of what is now the Ritzy cinema, a more coherent public realm has been created, with activities spilling out into the square.
Design around an existing asset: A central, mature tree is retained as a key feature in the space. Steps with ramped access create a slightly elevated platform around the tree to protect the existing roots and provide various places for seating.
Soft landscaping: The southern half of the space is retained as a grassed and treed area with diagonal paths across it to accommodate pedestrian desire lines. Pleach trees help to shield the space from the traffic of Brixton Hill and create more intimate, covered seating areas.
Thresholds and connections: wide and textured crossing points help to plug the square into the wider city, overcoming the barrier of busy roads.
Textures and detailing: A variety of textures and materials, including elements of text detailing the history of the Empire Windrush journey, add interest to the square. A relatively busy floor material palette complements the minimal furniture and planting.
Off-peak: Clever and creative lighting casts beautiful shapes and ensures the space is well lit to help prevent antisocial behaviour in the evenings. Photo by Gross Max – designers of the space
Reflection: As a truly public space that is owned and managed by Lambeth Council, Windrush Square provides an inclusive setting for the surrounding civic buildings and continues to be an important gathering place for meetings, rallies and public events.
A highly valued public square that aims to reconnect a series of public spaces and honour the area’s dynamic multi-cultural community
In each issue of Behind the Image, one of our contributors visits a contemporary public space from around the world. The photography tries to reveal an alternative perspective on a familiar precedent, famous space or place. These images illustrate how the public space works in practice: exploring its features (designed and unintended), and the way it relates to the surrounding context.