Street to stage:

Niki May Young
Wednesday 02 Jul 2008

London street transformed by new installation

Londoners will be taken to another level this summer when an anonymous central London street is transformed into an exciting cultural space by a two-storey high ramped walkway.

The NLA Sky Walk, commissioned by New London Architecture, will launch the Bloomsbury Hub of the London Festival of Architecture on 4 July. The 160m long installation will zigzag across Montague Place, WC1, creating a series of new public spaces directly behind the British Museum, staging performances, exhibitions and events over three days including: open-air theatre by students from RADA (Much Ado About Nothing and Gargantua), a continuous picnic of locally produced food and music from University of London School of Oriental and African Studies world orchestras.

The installation aims to give Londoners a different view of the street, revealing Montague Place’s potential to become one of the capital’s great public spaces.

Designed by one of the UK's most exciting young architecture practices, Carmody Groarke, the NLA Sky Walk breaks down the accepted notion of the street merely as a means of getting from A to B. The street is reinterpreted as a series of places formed by the changing height, shape and profile of the temporary promenade. The NLA Sky Walk rises up to four metres at its peak and knits into the existing landscape – plane trees puncture the stage and landmarks such as the British Museum and Senate House are used as focal points.

The meandering form will take pedestrians on a journey allowing them to explore the architectural detail of the surrounding buildings and providing never-before experienced views of two of London’s finest examples of landscaping and green public space - Bedford and Russell Square.

Farrell and Partners vision to guide future development in Bloomsbury and the projected plans for the north-west side of the British Museum by Rogers Stirk Harbour & Partners will give this overlooked area of the capital a new significance. For the 100,000 visitors who use St. Pancras International every day, it forms part of the journey between the station, the museum and into the West End.

Camden Council has plans to transform Montague Place into a usable space and a destination in its own right. Urban designers Burns + Nice have developed proposals to radically alter and improve the local streetscape in Bloomsbury. In addition to Montague Place, new schemes are also proposed for Great Russell Street, Malet Street and for a vibrant public square at Byng Place. Camden has worked closely with local stakeholders and is consulting on the scheme in July 2008. There will be an exhibition of Camden’s proposals on the NLA Sky Walk.

Peter Murray, director of the London Festival of Architecture 2008 comments: “The NLA Sky Walk is designed to help us see - to understand the space in a different way and to inspire ideas for its future use. When people taste its potential they will no longer be satisfied that such a dull and second-rate place sits within the network of wonderful Georgian Squares of Bloomsbury. It reinforces one of the fundamental concepts of the Festival of Architecture – that by understanding the city, we can see its potential and change it for the better.”

The NLA Sky Walk will be built over three days, constructed of a portable staging system chosen not just for speed but also so that the materials can be reused. It is covered in a translucent black mesh, which gives the ramped walkway a sculptural quality.

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