A Capital Idea

Jim Eyre

Marble Arch, Park Lane, Hyde Park Corner and Grosvenor Place, which are all now part of the Congestion Charge bypass, are dominated by heavy traffic. Though I like the buzz of the city as much as the next person, I've had the unpleasant experience of walking this route with the roar of the traffic as an accompaniment many times. It should be a joy but, in practice, it's an endurance test. Furthermore, Victoria seems strangely disconnected from the West End by the oppressive nature of Grosvenor Place.

This Capital Idea seeks to reclaim the edge of Hyde Park for the pedestrian and to reconnect it to the western frontage of Mayfair. Removing the southbound inner carriageway by making the other carriageway two-way just leaves enough distance to extend the existing greening towards the building line. By narrowing the road to suit local traffic only and widening the pavement, using good natural materials and introducing planting there is the potential to transform this route into one of London's finest walks.

Hyde Park Corner should form the narrows where two major London parks flow into each other, while providing the stepping stone between Mayfair and Belgravia. By routing Park Lane and Grosvenor Place underneath Hyde Park Corner with a subterranean roundabout to connect with the Piccadilly/Knightsbridge underpass, and thereby reducing the acres of blacktop on the surface, this critical civic space can metamorphose into a user friendly setting for its monuments and memorials, with capacity for yet more which we will, no doubt, unfortunately need. Currently pedestrians and cyclists find it difficult to negotiate Hyde Park Corner. By allowing light traffic only and removing it altogether from the North side we can give it back to the City.

Buckingham Palace Gardens with its high wall forms an alienating setting to Grosvenor Place. I feel sure that the wall's presence is the main reason Victoria feels so remote. By pinching around 30 metres of the gardens, repositioning the wall and developing the frontage to the Street, itself narrowed and enhanced as a pedestrian route, a strong and attractive link could be established right down to the heart of Victoria.

In front of Victoria Station, I would like to see a beautiful covered glazed concourse, highly refined and elegant as a frontispiece piece to the station.

This sequence of London spaces is at present deplorably sub-standard. Changing the nature of this important route would alter the psycho-geography of London for the better.

This piece first appeared in the New London Quarterly in Spring 2012.