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Paul Finch's big town centre idea

Mon 11th August 2014

Wimbledon is synonymous with tennis, strawberries and The Common…but if you lived or worked there, what would be your kind of Wimbledon?

Architects, designers, planners and visionaries are being asked for their ideas on how a future Wimbledon town centre could evolve and prosper as part of a competition organised by Merton Council and Love Wimbledon Business Improvement District, and supported by the Design Council.

Paul Finch OBE, programme director of the World Architecture Festival and deputy chair of the Design Council, is one of the architecture and design A-list judges who will be reviewing the ideas presented, alongside Wayne Hemmingway, Peter Murray, Alison Brooks and Morag Myerscough.

He says the judges are looking for ideas which will ‘change the idea’ of what a town centre is for – beyond being a place to shop or enjoy amenities. How can centres become places which will meet the needs of future generations?

“It’s a question of identity and use, which affects not just Wimbledon but town centres across the country,” he says.

“We need to decide what they could really be. So instead of worrying about the challenges facing our high streets, we should see opportunities to re-invent our town centres for who lives or works nearby, or who visits.

“The impact of digital has redefined the idea of what communities are, and the whole idea of public and private space has been turned on its head. Younger people don’t interact with a town centre in way our parents and grandparents did – at markets, shops, cafes and community centres. We need to find a town centre model which works for them too.

“So the competition is a good way to start thinking about this – and specifically about what Wimbledon town centre might change and improve. These days a new visitor to a town can use apps and augmented reality to become as knowledgeable as a local about the place’s heritage, culture and good places to eat. But there remains an enormous interest, especially among the young, for opportunities to take part in events with lots of other people – whether it is watching sport or concerts on big screens, or taking part in public debates.

“Maybe our town centres will become busier places for human interaction – something that has happened in cities since the Greeks and Romans. The good news is that can be protected from the weather much more easily than in the past, and can take advantage of digital communication to expand the range of what is possible.”

And Paul urges all sorts of people with ideas – not just architects, designers or planners – to put their creative foot forward.

“This competition is not just about everyday architecture or planning, but about ideas,” he says. “We want people to exercise their creative juices thinking about how people live and what is special about Wimbledon which can deliver the lifestyle they require.”

The competition is organised by Merton Council and Love Wimbledon Business Improvement District. Anyone who wants to take part can submit their ideas in whichever format they prefer. Poems, songs and abstract sketches are just as welcome as scale plans or 3D animations.

Shortlisted entries will be showcased on the Future Wimbledon website as well as at a New London Architecture exhibition, and cash prizes of up to £3,000 are on offer. Full details and a brief are available throughout this website.

Brought to you by

  • FutureMerton
  • London Borough of Merton
  • Love Wimbledon

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