Hi street

Define High Street.

If you had to select one image that would represent your local High Street, what would you choose?

Visit any virtual library and two themes begin to emerge: lack of identity and surprise if the recurrence of 'Fried Chicken' and 'Costa‐bucks' don’t feature.

There has been a shift in recent years with many proclaiming the end of the High Street, driven in part by digital disruption. The British government has commissioned and observed reviews on the issue. Mary Portas and Bill Grimsey who are amongst the analysts, have set out their recommendations of how to fix the problem. Both exhaust negative terminology and as ever, people who only see problems tend to be part of the problem.

High Street is the most commonly used street name in the UK, which according to a 2009 statistical survey has 5,410 in total.

In reality, the institution of the High Street is mid evolution, which presents what I call, opportunity. It is now fast becoming more than a task oriented destination, changing to a destination of experience and social interaction. It offers experiences which are rarely afforded elsewhere and the demand for the 'Costa‐bucks' culture is simple enough proof.

So what to do in the midst of evolution?

Embrace it. It’s time to be experimental and open up a dialogue with… local people! Discuss things. Try things. Make mistakes. Move on. Repeat until successful.

As an architect, my default setting is probably supposed to be; add shiny new signage, re‐render the elevation and replace 4no. windows. Wrong answer, try again. I fundamentally believe a better solution is to put people at the heart of place making.

In the spirit of Louis Khan asking a brick what IT wanted to be, I’m asking local communities to stand up and engage in similar conversation... to say

Hi street, what do you want to be?


Author: J. Brown