FROM CORRIDOR TO BOULEVARD
Canals were built for only one purpose with no concerns about the possible implications on the surrounding environment.
They were built as corridors to transport goods between destinations, with the aim to reach these destinations, as fast as possible. Their configuration was mainly driven by cost.
The width was as narrow as possible; hence the narrow boats (70ft x 7 ft or 20mx 2 m) were designed to fit within the Harecastle tunnel built by engineer James Brindley for the duke of Bridgewater. They were conceived with only one towpath as two were not necessary to pull the boat and had very few connections to the surrounding built environment. On Grand Union Canal, along Kensal Green Cemetery, you have to walk 1.5 km before being able to reach an access back to the streets and 0.5 km between the 2 access points on the stretch of the towpath under the Westway. The rare accesses along the canal keep the canals alienated from the city and creates a sense of insecurity for the pedestrian.
It never was intended as a place to wander or to be used by the public.
They were a thoroughfare, and when they pass through the city, they become corridors.
What are the positive actions we can take to make the canal part of our cities?
We should increase the connectivity between the canals and the city, increase the activity on the canal towpath to transform the unloved parts of the towpath into a destination, improve the amenity of the canal towpath and finally we should embrace the fact that there is a new growing Canal boaters community which is creating a commercial opportunity for the Canal & River Trust.
· Create regular accesses, to remove the sensation of being in a corridor
· As wide as possible to be highly visible from the main streets, to allow a seamless usage
· All future developments next to a canal should include new accesses to the canal
· Install amenities for boaters such as more water stations, bike repairs stations, more moorings
· Improve lighting (solar panels)
· Build installations to create a destination
When we carried-out a survey in 2017 for our project as part of the London Festival of Architecture, we asked passers-by in this area how we could improve it and the answer was:
· A work-out station that can be used by all generations
· Calisthenics for young adults
· Experimental allotments
· Pop-ups work units
There is a new generation of boaters and they are not goods carriers!
Another interesting aspect to improve the canals in London, is the
· number of subscriptions for residential boats which keeps increasing, particularly in urban areas. In 2016, the number of licenses increased by 10%, with 335 more boats.
· 58% of the boaters in 2016 were using their boats as their main home
· 50% of the surveyed boaters were choosing this option as a result of the high cost of housing
· The cost of housing is mentioned frequently as a driver of this increase, particularly in London, but also in Bristol and Bath.
These new boaters are professionals, artists, social workers. Living on the canal is a lifestyle choice.
The canal of the 21st century is one which addresses this demand and embraces it as a new commercial opportunity.
Canalside Forum Speaker
Co Mooring Launch Party
28th June 2019
The Co Mooring Project is by WY Design, tomos.design, COMPENDIUM and Studio Yu as part of the London Festival of Architecture 2019, to create a new public realm intervention alongside the Grand Union Canal, organised by the LFA and Westminster City Council (WCC), in partnership with the Canal & River Trust.