Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Open House (3): Deptford Market

Our walk through Margaret McMillan Park with architects BDP continued into Douglas Way, the part of Deptford Market which has been revamped under the same project. Here, the key challenges were both budgetary and legal. The first speaks for itself; the second relates to the rights of stallholders.

The architects had a vision of the market extending the full length of Douglas Way. Unfortunately the stall agreements relate to specific locations, so the stallholders were entitled to insist on their original pitches. That made moving the second-hand market, which was in the square beside the Albany Theatre, almost impossible.

However, the matter resolved itself when the square was closed for resurfacing and infrastructure works. The stallholders preferred their temporary pitches along Douglas Way and chose not to move back. The square is therefore free for new uses: ideas include a food court. It also now has infrastructure such as electrical points which make a wide variety of events, such as concerts, possible outside market hours.

Parts of the area are paved with granite, but there is also a lot of tarmac. The reason for this does seem to have been financial. However, I was surprised to hear that my least favourite aspect of this compromise design - the markings painted on the square - was a deliberate decision. Rather than the usual small corner marks to show pitch locations, the architects chose more obvious, colourful painted lines which were meant to evoke a barcode. The contractors had to be convinced that the lines were intentional, and I'm not surprised. It's not to my taste: rather than barcodes, they evoke a very ugly car park!

Once again, a lot of street furniture was removed to make the space more open and welcoming. Granite seats and trees were added in the square; the old mural was rendered over in preparation for a new design to be painted during Deptford X. The lighting hangs on wires rather than being supported by posts, again making the square a less cluttered, more flexible area.

Differences of taste aside, it was helpful to hear the architects' vision for the market area. It will be interesting to see whether the hoped-for developments in usage occur, and how well the new granite and painted tarmac age. At the moment, the square remains a rather empty place and it may require further effort from the Council to change that. More positively, the number of market stalls has apparently increased since the changes so there are grounds for optimism.

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