London's largest new public space for a decade
Tuesday saw King’s representatives join partners and neighbours for the official opening of the Strand Aldwych redevelopment, which has transformed one of the capital’s most congested and polluted streets into a bright, welcoming destination.
The £22m, three-year redevelopment led by Westminster City Council, has created a green and tranquil space measuring more than 7,000m2 – the size of a football pitch – for King’s students, staff and the community to enjoy. The pedestrianised space unifies the area between Bush House, Somerset House and the Strand Building for the first time, improving safety for students and staff moving between different areas.
This completion of the physical redevelopment of Strand Aldwych marks the establishment of a new ‘creative thinking quarter’. The space will benefit from the long-established cultural and learning stature of the area, with collective innovation and experimentation by King’s and other partners leading to a co-created programme of educational and creative commissions on display throughout the year.
Representatives including the Lord Mayor of Westminster Hamza Taouzzale and King's President & Principal Shitij Kapur officially open the space.
Somerset House Studios resident artist Nick Ryan on developing The VoiceLine.
KCLSU Jazz Society perform in the newly pedestrianised space
King's representatives including Professor Rachel Mills, Robin McIver and Professor Shitij Kapur at the launch of The VoiceLine
The Strand Aldwych redevelopment has been shaped and influenced by colleagues across King's Culture, Estates & Facilities, the Strand Faculties and beyond. Their expertise has ensured the success of the co-design process between the partners, securing benefits for students, staff and the wider King’s community including use of the space for events such as graduation ceremonies and welcome weeks.
The Centre for Urban Science and Progress (CUSP) London, the centre based at King's that brings together researchers, businesses, local authorities and government agencies to conduct interdisciplinary research and innovation using Data Science in and for London, worked closely with Westminster City Council on the redevelopment. This has included advising on how King’s could assist and also benefit from Strand Aldwych, as well as integrating several MSc student projects in the process. During the redevelopment, CUSP London hosted several insights events with the council, focussing on areas including Behaviour, Data Sharing and Digital Strategy.
Celebrating a modern meeting place
At the launch event, representatives from King’s and Westminster City Council, as well as partners including Somerset House Trust, the Courtauld Institute, London School of Economics and Political Science, St Mary le Strand and other local neighbours, marked the launch of this distinctive new central London landmark in an afternoon celebrating the richness of the historic neighbourhood. The launch included performances from KCLSU Jazz Society and the GKT Orchestra, as well as a speech from President & Principal Professor Shitij Kapur.
This transformational project creates a tranquil pedestrian-friendly space at the heart of London, enabling our community of students, researchers and staff to engage and connect the public and our local communities with life-changing ideas and learning. We look forward to working closely with our neighbouring cultural partners, with the Northbank BID and with Westminster City Council to bring this new destination to life and contribute to the future of our extraordinary city.’– Professor Shitij Kapur, President & Principal, King’s College London
About Strand Aldwych
Modelling urban sustainability
The Strand Aldwych redevelopment contributes to creating an outstanding, distinctive campus for the King's community. The pedestrianisation of the area aims to help inspire sustainable and healthy lifestyles, with improved air quality, reduced noise pollution, larger pedestrian and cycle zones, increased cycle parking and improved cycle and pedestrian safety. Large, planted areas with year-round colour support biodiversity and pollinators in the area, with trees providing natural shade.
A meeting place for engaging and learning
King’s Vision 2029 sets out an ambition to be a civic university at the heart of London, working in partnership to contribute to the success of the city in which King’s makes its home. This new space provides opportunities for education and informal learning for both students and the public, while facilitating closer relationships between cultural neighbours and partners across Westminster.
Where curious minds meet
Strand Aldwych provides a significant opportunity to develop activities that showcase King’s research and innovation, bringing education onto the streets to connect with a wider audience and giving the community the opportunity to collaborate with local partners.
Some of the projects already underway include:
Since March 2022, students from King’s Departments of Digital Humanities, History and Modern Languages, Literatures and Cultures, alongside students from the Courtauld Institute of Art, have been investigating and presenting stories of the history of the Strand. Their work has led to an online exhibition hosted by King’s Archives, an R&D location-based digital narratives project from Visiting Fellow Rob Morgan, created with input from King’s and Courtauld students, and a street-facing public display in the windows of the 171 Strand shop, which was formally the site of the King’s Student Union shop.
Find out more about 'Stories from the Strand', as King's students delve into the history of the area.
FreeStation Pollution Monitors
Professor Mark Mulligan from the Department of Geography is using a system of FreeStation air, noise and pollution monitors to gather reliable, detailed and local environmental data about the area. This ‘fieldwork in the city’ speaks to Professor Mulligan’s pursuit of science in the service of society, as he tracks King’s hyperlocal environment in real-time, as part of a global project which improves access to data.
Dr Kate McMillan, artist and Senior Lecturer in Creative Practice at King’s, will present Never at Sea in St Mary le Strand in June 2023. This immersive visual arts performance will explore the embodied experiences of migration, climate change and loss through the stories of women who have sought refuge in the ruins of a church.
The launch saw the unveiling of the first Strand Aldwych artist commission; an immersive audio installation celebrating the history of radio and marking the BBC’s Centenary. The VoiceLine by Somerset House Studios resident artist Nick Ryan was commissioned by Northbank BID in partnership with the BBC and is inspired by the historical broadcasting legacy of the area: Marconi House was the location of the BBC’s first broadcast on 14 November 1922. The installation includes 'visions of the future' recordings gathered from King's students.
More projects and initiatives will be announced in Spring 2023.
Students, staff, faculties and King’s partners will be an integral part of the continued success of the Strand Aldwych development, including how the space is used, shaped and programmed. Further opportunities for collaboration will be shared in 2023.
To stay up to date on Strand Aldwych engagement, learning and creative commissions, please register your interest here.
Find out more about the history of the Strand Aldwych development here.