The identity of King’s has always been closely linked with the identity of the Strand. An iconic thoroughfare linking the historic political and economic centres of London in Westminster and the City.
The Strand was described by Sir Walter Besant and G E Mitton in 1903 as “not to be surpassed by any street in mediaeval Europe, not even Venice”. The Strand Pedestrianization programme, whose construction was completed in December 2022, is thus unlike many other urban improvement projects which seek to reduce or remove car traffic. It is an exercise in urban social good; and its place as the Strand Campus’s norther façade makes it a major cultural opportunity for King’s which challenges us to look afresh at what urban space is for, who it is for, and our relationship with it.
The purpose of Unmapped Strands is to explore the opportunities which the pedestrianization project are creating for the College, particular the possibilities for setting up participatory and digital research frameworks to better understand the social benefits and challenges. In summer 2023, we began to establish such a framework by conducting an initial study with a small group of users of the space, exploring with them how their perceptions and use of the area now pedestrianized had evolved as a result of the programme through a set of interviews and discussions. These Strand pedestrians also traced their walking trajectories through the space over a two-week period, enabling insights into the main points of focus and footfall. In parallel with this, we have begun to investigate the possibilities for exploring the digital reception and negotiation of the space through online platforms and locative media.
This initial approach has shown the great potential that The Strand holds as a case study. It provides rich opportunities for exploring how the pedestrianization project has impacted the behaviours of pedestrians, and promises to deepen our understanding of how the new space affords opportunities for digital placemaking.
Unmapped Strands is a project of the Department of Digital Humanities, in partnership with the Digital Futures Institute’s Centre for Attention Studies. The project Research Assistant is Dr Cristina Kiminami.