previous stateThe suburb of Barking is one of the main focuses of regeneration in the Thames Gateway project, an enormous initiative of urban transformation in which the banks of the river in East London are the main object. After years of neglect and marginal existence, its urban fabric has been subject to the pressures of major construction work while recent tensions between newcomers and the existing population have affected its social fabric.
aim of the interventionBarking needed a new civic space that would rescue a lost identity from the past and that would project into the future a place where the new community could come together. The creation of a new main square in the centre of the district, with an investment of over two and a half million euros, was part of the Mayor of London’s "100 Public Spaces" programme.
descriptionThe area of paved level ground in front of the Town Hall, which was mainly used as a parking space, has now been transformed into a centrally located, well-equipped main square that is full of shared meaning and sense. Besides the Town Hall, the new square is flanked by a library and a Learning Centre, while the fourth façade is “Folly Wall”, a new bare brickwork wall which hides a supermarket flank wall and, in resembling a ruin, evokes the red-brick facades of Barking’s old buildings. The square is connected with Ripple Road, the borough’s main shopping area, by way of an arcade illuminated by chandeliers and tiled with black and white terrazzo paving slabs that hark back to London’s magnificent Edwardian houses. Alongside the arcade and the square is an arboretum with forty mature trees of sixteen different species that are lit up at night with colours that vary according to the time of year.
assessmentThe eclectic coming together of all these picturesque and extravagant elements counters the banality of an urban landscape that had lost its attributes, giving the space the colour of new meanings and making of it a recognisable and meaningful place. Surprisingly, it is eccentricity that has brought centrality to Barking’s new main square.
David Bravo Bordas, architect