The announcement signalled the Royal Boroughs intention of bringing Exhibition road into the new century. The formal selection of Dixon Jones Architects and Ove Arup and Partners for the design of the project was confirmed back in August 2004. There is a strong commitment by the project team to respect the views of local residents, treating them as ?experts? on the local environment.
The project will aim to make the most of the famous buildings along the road, including The Natural History Museum, The Victoria and Albert Museum, The Science Museum and The Royal Geographic Society. The vision is to create a finished environment which will set new standards in urban design, whilst also delivering an improved quality of life for the local people. Key focus points for the development will include building recognition of exhibition road as a place of cultural and educational significance. Specific measures are included in the proposal to address the poor state of the pedestrian tunnel from South Kensington Station to the Science Museum.
The most dramatic changes proposed by the scheme, although yet to be fully detailed, are made in regard to traffic management. Apparently the designers want to make the road an attractive place for pedestrians, without excluding road traffic. The scheme will reduce the driver?s certainty about the road environment, re-defining the ownership of road and pavement space, drawing largely on experiments undertaken in Holland. Trials of the new approach have produced substantial reductions in road traffic accidents.
The project is one of Ken Livingstone?s 10 flagship projects for re-development of street space. However there are substantial questions over how the project will be funded. The project is being financed by the City of Westminster, the Mayor and Transport for London (TfL). It is estimated that the project will require at least £25 Million in order to achieve completion, yet current funding stands at only £550,000 contributed by TfL. Other sources of funds currently being considered include the department of Culture, Media and Sport, the Government Office for London and even the National Lottery.
An extensive public consultation exercise is due to begin shortly. The proposal appears to be positive news for all the users of Exhibition road, however if it is ever to reach fruition, the substantial funding shortfall will need to be addressed. There is also the more open question of whether changes in the road landscape will be sufficient to change the behaviour of London drivers.