City of London launches design competition for £250,000 Digital Service Points

The multifunctional public interventions will look to replace the Square Mile’s outdated blue Police Boxes with 21st Century digital hubs.

The City of London has launched a competition to find a “modern, multifunctional” design solution to replace traditional Police Boxes.

Police Boxes have been a staple part of the capital’s urban architecture since the 1930s. At their most popular, there were some 685 on the streets of Greater London.

However, technological advancements and cultural changes have served to render the boxes largely obsolete in the 21st Century.

The competition, run in connection with the City of London Police, New London Architecture (NLA) and Bloomberg Associates, seeks to turn the boxes into Digital Service Points. Following the competition process, the winning team will be revealed in late May 2021 after which the process of raising the funding for the delivery of the selected design scheme will begin.

A now decommissioned Police Post, the smaller version of the once ubiquitous London Police Box

Designs should “seamlessly blend in”

The competition brief for the proposed Digital Service Points stipulates that designs should “seamlessly blend in” to existing street furniture and physical infrastructure within the Square Mile.

Exact locations for the placement of these Digital Service Points are under consideration and designers are invited to suggest places as part of their proposal.

Potential areas suggested in the brief include parks or existing car parking spaces, with NLA saying the hubs will be installed in “areas with high foot fall where there is significant scope for safety and public realm enhancement”.

Significant digital capabilities

The brief also places a heavy focus on the interactive and digital capabilities of proposed solutions. Designs should include an exterior digital touch screen with which the public can report crimes or inform public services about an accident.

Other uses for a public facing interface could include maps, directions, travel updates and museum programmes, the brief says.

Additionally, the interior of the structure should provide a docking station, including a screen, keyboard and mouse to support police work, and Wi-Fi.

One of the last remaining Police Boxes is actually a replica, and is located outside Earl’s Court Tube Station

Public amenities

As well as performing the role of digital community hub, design submissions will also need to have several practical physical features.

Approximately 0.5m x 0.5m worth of storage space will need to be included, for the safe keeping of policing and medical equipment. An enclosed defibrillator, accessible from the outside of the box will also be needed.

Beyond the necessary requirements, the competition brief also encourages designers to think about incorporating one or more public amenities into their proposals. These might include plants and other greenery, water fountains or bottle filling stations, wayfinding or public art.

However NLA does also add that in all designs, consideration should be given to not obstruct the existing public realm, foot flow or other street furniture. And while landscaping and greening are desirable, maintenance of these spaces should also be taken into account.

Two competition stages

The competition will be run in two stages – the first stage asks designers to submit a short paragraph of up to 500 words on why they are interested in the project and describing their initial concept. An initial sketch is also required.

Up to six ideas and designers will then be shortlisted, and will each be awarded £1,500 to develop a design proposal. This will require the equivalent of two A2 boards explaining the proposal, hand or computer drawn 3D visualisations and an outline of proposed materials and the fabrication and installation process.

The work expected in this next stage will be reflected in the honorarium sum offered to designers, NLA says.

For more information on the competition and to submit initial ideas, head here.

Images: Shutterstock

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  • n February 2, 2021 at 4:53 pm

    Tardis design for 2021 ?
    3D visualisations and an outline of proposed materials and the fabrication and installation process

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