After several years of work, the pedestrianisation of part of Strand has been completed, turning a once busy traffic choaked road into a quiet space for walking and resting.

The church of St Mary-le-Strand, which has spent most of its life as a roundabout in the middle of the road is now surrounded by planting and seating, while the once narrow pavement outside Somerset House is now a wide pedestrian plaza.

The road traffic that ran along Strand is now diverted around Aldwych, which has been converted into two-way traffic, so while the pedestrianised space is the most obvious change, a lot of work had to take place around Aldwych as well to prepare for the traffic diversion.

The southern stretch on Strand at the King’s College end remains more road like though, for sharing with cyclists, while the northern side of the church has been filled with planting and more seating.

Unsurprisingly considering it’s right next to King’s College, there’s a lot of seating and tables all around their end of the pedestrianised zone, which is more scarce at the western end closest to Charing Cross.

At the moment, there’s a row of temporary bollards along one side, as a work of art. Called the VoiceLine, by the artist Nick Ryan, it’s umm, well, it seems to be people talking — which a sign says was drawn on the BBC radio archive, as well as “the multi-layered histories of The Strand, to create a unique spatial sound work”, whatever that means.

There’s a morse code message at the bottom of the explanatory board, which offers a greeting to those who speak Morse.

It still feels in places more like a road that’s been closed, than a purpose-built plaza, but that effect may fade over time as the new planting settles in and grows.

There are notices hanging on the low railings that they are not to be used for locking bikes to, and that any bikes found there would be removed on 5th December. Coincidentally, that was the day before the officials from Westminster Council turned up for the official unveiling.

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25 comments
  1. Ed says:

    That area was always a honking quagmire of gridlocked bus stops and taxis, so great to see it revamped. Both the new pedestrian areas and the road around Aldwych seem so much improved now: better for pedestrian and cycle traffic, local shops, students and those of us just passing through.

  2. Paulus says:

    A terrific scheme in conception but the execution is a disappointment. If only they had taking their cue from Somerset House with a relatively unadorned vista of high quality paving – along with some commissioned seating. The flower beds and randomly curvy lines / resin surfaces are akin to something a market town might go for a rather than a world city. On the plus side, a lot of this is potentially temporary (they call it ‘Meanwhile’) and will be reviewed in a few years time after analysis of how people are using the space. This may explain the road-like appearance of some areas We shall see.

    • Yann says:

      I already think this is stunning, but if it is to be temporary, this makes it even better to me. What a brilliant initiative to allow it to adapt over time. Too much of our public space today is designed to a high spec, but fails, at high cost. We could do well to learn from this.

    • Chris Rogers says:

      Not really a fan of this kind of thing. Too bitty, too messy. As for the church of St Mary-le-Strand, it’s only been a ’roundabout in the middle of the road’ since 1900 – it was built in 1717, far closer to the existing buildings, so for about 2/3 of its life it actually stood more or less as architect James Gibbs intended.

  3. Martin says:

    It is a pity that buses were taken out and not designed in as part of a meandering shared surface. The Aldwych is very congested now especially late evenings when buses have to compete with theatre coaches and taxis to access stops. You also have to allow an extra 10-15 minutes to ensure you don’t miss your train home.

  4. Lord Lucan says:

    Waste of money…

  5. Simon Adams says:

    Looks ok, bit of a miss mash of styles. Not sure how long the planting will survive, seems on the small side to be very hardy.

    Big improvement on a road of course.

  6. Charles Richards says:

    Continuing the Khan Killing Kids policy. Squeezing many lanes into one and removing bus lanes for the small number of cyclists not only slows the traffic, but doubling or trebling the time to pass through increases the amount of pollution produced contrary to the ULEZ project.

    • Mat says:

      Charles, do what I am doing, leave London. Move to another country if you have skills you will have no problem.
      Me and a few others who work in A.I are moving to Europe, better work life balance in Europe than London.

  7. Mat says:

    Oh, less space in London to drive now.
    It now takes me more time to get to work, 25 mins more now.I don’t want to spend more time traveling.
    Decided to leave London by 2023, take my skills to another country.

    • ianVisits says:

      If this tiny bit of road being sealed off is adding 25 minutes to your commute by car, have you considered walking?

    • Marco says:

      Walk, bike or take public transport. Simple.

    • Vince says:

      No-one drives to work in central London, been that way since the 90s.

    • nick says:

      Good.

    • Rob says:

      To be honest, anyone who decides to drive to work in central London can’t be that smart. It is slower and more environmentally harmful than any other mode of transport and completely unsuited to urban environments with constrained space. Good luck finding another city with any kind of population density that will allow you to do it.

  8. Stephen Sheppard says:

    Despite all the moaning here, I’m very happy for the church,its been marooned there for a very long time…..in the mid fifties, I used to wait at a bus stop opposite where the church is and feel sorry for the building…

  9. Chris says:

    This is great to see – I’d like more schemes like this.

  10. Ms Terry Jones says:

    To Chris Rogers
    Kingsway has always had heavy traffic. In 1997-99,roughly, I worked in a building where we had to keep windows open in summer. The papers on our desks&computer keyboards were filthy with black dust & traffic noise was incessant and loud.

  11. Ms Terry Jones says:

    To Mat and your annoyance about driving in London : hope you enjoy the excellent public transport in European cities.

  12. Joel Sachs says:

    I remember perhaps thirty years ago a sign at a consruction site that read something like asking for the public’s patience (or perhaps caution) “during the pedestrianisation of the Strand.” Does anyone know if my memory is correct? I was very struck by the grotesquely American character of the word… especially because I am an American!

  13. Becky Kennedy says:

    I think this is lovely – I don’t mind that it’s ‘bitty’, London by nature is extremely bitty! Letting the design be guided by use is an excellent idea, and once the planting’s established the edges will be less apparent. All this moaning about not being able to drive round there any more! If you’re not a cabby, a bus driver or delivering stuff, you’ve got no reason to drive through Central London, surely? I worked in Soho for nearly 20 years and never drove there once…

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