Croydon is looking to transform itself into the ‘new Barcelona’ and has brought in Will Alsop to envision its future as a ‘beacon of sustainability’. Can the town really turn itself around, or is this pie in the sky?

Quoting the much-repeated line ‘build it and they will come’ from Field of Dreams has never seemed more appropriate. I suppose it’s easy to be sceptical about this sort of thing, but the fact that Croydon has hired Will Alsop in the first place is a very promising start. With his utopian plans, an open mind and a decent amount of dosh, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t turn itself around, is there? Where there’s a Will, there’s a way!
Mark Lester, Founder, Mark Studio

Having lived for a period in Barcelona I find any link with Croydon extremely tenuous. Barcelona was established by the Carthaginians and is said to have taken its name from the great Barca family. Legend links the hill behind the city to the Tibidabo mountain of Biblical fame. Built around Ildefons Cerdà’s plan and graced by Antoni Gaudi’s architecture, it nestles between the Pyrenees and the Mediterranean. Croydon, meanwhile, looks like it was designed by Billy Liar on acid. That Mr ‘Blobby’ Alsop can make something of it is doubtful. Better rip it up and start again.
David Gray, Director, Creative Leap

Enter alt description text here

As a Mancunian living in London I found myself living and playing footie in Caterham, Purley and Sanderstead in the 1980s for more years than I care to remember. I drove through Croydon every night on my way home from work and had fond late-night memories of Sinatras. Love it as I did, I have to admit that Will Alsop can’t get in there quick enough for me. New Barcelona? Much as I would love it, I think not.
Phil Jones, Managing director, Real Time Consultancy

Sustainability is not something you add to a place from on high – such as a 30-storey skyscraper filled with rainforest plants. Mad. Besides, Barcelona’s been ruined by tourism. I’m more entranced by the idea of bringing the River Wandle back to the surface as a series of waterways and lagoons. The name Croydon is thought to be derived from the Anglo-Saxon for ‘crocus valley’ – and you can eat crocus roots. So I’d lose the tower, go horizontal, and turn Croydon into a productive edible landscape.
John Thackara, Founder and organiser, Designs of the Time

Latest articles

Upcoming design books to look out for

Spotlighting marginalised women designers, “heads on” design solutions to environmental issues and more – these are the anticipated design books we think you should read.