The ideal city: Westminster Council

Last year, Westminster City Council launched an international competition for the design and implementation of a new street furniture range to commemorate the millennium. Tagged as ‘the millennium post’, the competition brief gave designers ‘a chance to shape the environment of Westminster; to evolve new ideas on street furniture design and influence world views of the heart of London’. Out of 250 entries, the judges (Kenneth Grange, Eva Jiricna, Rodney Kinsman, Lord Snowdon and Chris Wilkinson) chose design consultancy Pearson Lloyd’s scheme. A second, more sculptural scheme by the artist Peter Fink was chosen as an iconic expression of the new century.

Since then, Pearson Lloyd has been commissioned to develop the designs for mass production. Still at the stage of choosing a manufacturer, the design consultancy aims to have the first prototypes installed in Westminster by 2001. Full production will commence in the autumn: Paddington Basin and Marylebone High Street are two potential sites. Plans for selling the range under the Westminster brand to other cities, in the UK and abroad, are also underway.

The street furniture range is designed around a triangular aluminium post, with concave faces that accept various accessories. The range comprises a signage system, street lighting, railings and bollards. ‘Our intention was to produce a range that was both rational and expressive,’ says Pearson Lloyd partner Tom Lloyd. ‘A major challenge was how to integrate road signage, pedestrian signage and information into the aluminium post. The signage was designed to work on different levels to respond to the various types of people who use the centre of London, from tourists to commuters and residents. For example, we created some waymarkers that would indicate pedestrian areas such as Soho or St James which are not immediately recognisable through street names. They were also designed to incorporate route maps and direction keys that relate to tourist maps.’

Although Pearson Lloyd kept the council’s trademark blue and green colours in the design, the brief was loose enough for them to reinstate urban landmarks such as the street clock. ‘Street furniture usually falls into two brackets,’ says Lloyd. ‘Either mass produced or small batches of Victorian vernacular stuff, which is thought to be better quality.’ The current range proves that there is a third stylish and contemporary way, expressive yet modern, through which to live street life.

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