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Old June 6th, 2011, 09:41 AM   #61
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Old June 6th, 2011, 09:53 AM   #62
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BTW, won't the financial heart of the City be pretty awesome in a few years? I haven't been to the area myself, but if I'm not mistaken most of the City's tall buildings will be located close to each other - Heron Tower, Tower 42, the Gherkin, Broadgate Tower, Willis Building, Aviva Tower, 225 Leadenhall, 60 Fenchurch, Bishopsgate Tower, 100 Bishopsgate...

Times Square will probably "win" because of the amount of lights and the (seemingly) constant flow of people, but the eastern parts of the City will probably be pretty nice. Certainly better than PC in terms of awesomeness, i think.
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Old June 6th, 2011, 09:57 AM   #63
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50 years ago it looked like this.



Sadly these days are gone forever. Westminster Council hates what it sees as the vulgar advertisements and would probably do away with them all if it could.

Fair enough they're gone for good from the London Pavillion building but the one opposite (under the LG sign, initially refused by Westminster Council, granted under appeal!) could happily accommodate a few. As a building it's not a looker !!
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Old June 6th, 2011, 10:38 AM   #64
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If we want a district with plenty of neon lights and the like we should be thinking of creating a new one. As a gateway to the City in the eastern fringe, or even to CW. Not only could this theoretically be better than what we'd get at Piccadilly Circus, it would also continue the wish to expand the services of that part of town.

Harking back to 50+ years ago ignores the context of the city and the way it has changed. Back then the West End was the sole/main reference point of nightlife and entertainment as London's centre of gravity shifted from around St. Pauls/Bank to Charing Cross. Presently, we are seeing a shift back eastwards and the development of new nightspots in central london boarding the City (Shoreditch, London bridge), whilst the West End appears to be focusing more on retail and daytime/evening entertainment. The model appears to be the Old Town centres of most European cities, hence the desire for pedestrianisation, shared surface, etc.

Personally, this is something I welcome and if done correctly we can have the best of both worlds. There is a whole area larger than most city centres' to create our tall and futuristic neo-NY/tokyo fantasies.
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Old June 6th, 2011, 12:00 PM   #65
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I disagree with your optimism. The West End is still considered the primary entertainment district and meeting space, the history is there to protect it from too much gentrification and it is neither heavily residential nor a desolate office district. It has the critical mass to power the urban entertainment of the 21st century.

The political and economic force for other areas of London which fashionably become niche entertainment districts appears to be straight to gentrification where the overt focus on the home owner tends to stagnate the future before a critical mass of change can take hold.

There is no other area like the West End, it will take many decades for any other area to come close, even more now with the debacles, flaws and compromises with the large scale regeneration plans in the East and South.

In Londons case the West End is also a giant conservation area. Compared to the open evolution of the core meeting areas of say Times Sq and existing mega cities in Asia and other emerging global cities around the world I would predict London will be left behind in this regard.

As a pressure-valve to unleash urban creativity, The Oxford Street / Tottenham Court road junction is a no-brainer in this regard, but just look at the clumsy process and the lack of collective vision we have there at this crucial opportunity created by the large scale redevelopment there!
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Old June 6th, 2011, 06:40 PM   #66
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I disagree with your optimism. The West End is still considered the primary entertainment district and meeting space, the history is there to protect it from too much gentrification and it is neither heavily residential nor a desolate office district. It has the critical mass to power the urban entertainment of the 21st century.
I'm not sure if I would describe what I said as optimistic; more grabbing the potential. The West End is still the primary entertainment across the broad, but it is no longer the sole one like it use to be, and it certainly is not the premier district for the term 'nightlife' (by which I mean specifically bars and clubs), certainly not for people of my generation (I'm 26). Currently, I wouldn't say there actually is one, more a smattering of areas which are roughly equal. It will continue to lead in retail and generic entertainment, as well as offer a decent selection of watering holes and music joints.

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The political and economic force for other areas of London which fashionably become niche entertainment districts appears to be straight to gentrification where the overt focus on the home owner tends to stagnate the future before a critical mass of change can take hold.
You're talking about areas like Camden, Brixton, etc, places which are not part of London's central core, but hubs in the inner-city. Location is key. I can't see something like that happening on the Eastern fringe. It didn't really in lower Manhattan when it became flooded with residents after industry left.

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There is no other area like the West End, it will take many decades for any other area to come close, even more now with the debacles, flaws and compromises with the large scale regeneration plans in the East and South.
Yet this is what happened in NYC to a degree. Midtown around Times Sq. was for most of the first half of the 20th century the main spot for all types of entertainment, including clubs and bars as well as theatres and shops. However, a shift occurred which saw a number of bars and clubs move southwards, first towards Greenwich Village in the post-war period (although it always contained some outlets). Gentrification took hold and spillover effect happened into neighbouring SoHo, then TriBeCa and finally the LES, the final portion of Manhattan before the artist fled across the water to Brooklyn. Now it plays host to most mainstream outlets, whilst Midtown continues to be the main centre for retail, theatres, hotels, as well as commercial. This is what I think will happen and we should be working to accelerate the process.

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In Londons case the West End is also a giant conservation area. Compared to the open evolution of the core meeting areas of say Times Sq and existing mega cities in Asia and other emerging global cities around the world I would predict London will be left behind in this regard.
Which is a major pullback to it ever becoming some kind of neon and futuristic cluster and hence a reason why people should stop trying to push something that will likely never happen. It's wasted energy.

Anyway, London has little to fear from Asian mega cities, who are mostly hype. The urbanisation and quality of life in those cities continues to be appalling, and due to political and cultural factors, they'll never be as international and racially mixed as London and other Western cities unless there is a massive socio-political shift. Even Tokyo today isn't.

The challenge will continue to come from the usual quarters, plus a whole host of smaller cities which can compete on a micro-level (e.g. Berlin for the arts, Zurich for finance, etc. The worry here is a drip-drip effect). Toronto could possibly join the top table if it continues to grow rapidly. In the longer term, I can see Buenos Aries, Rio, Sao Paulo and Cape Town join the top ranks if they equal current OCED development levels and control their crime (which is happening in Brazil at least).

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As a pressure-valve to unleash urban creativity, The Oxford Street / Tottenham Court road junction is a no-brainer in this regard, but just look at the clumsy process and the lack of collective vision we have there at this crucial opportunity created by the large scale redevelopment there!
It's shit what is being planned, but the area was never going to be some kind of Shibuya district and people are hopelessly naive if they ever thought it had a chance of being so. The best hope for something like that is - as I said - on the Eastern fringe of the central core IMO.

For the West End, we should be linking up the various streets better (esp. OS and CG), opening up the back streets around OS, either pedestrianizing or having a highly quality shared road scheme there, demolishing post-war rubbish, and over the longer term supporting individual businesses and reducing the number of chains (the US might be worth having a look at here. Some cities used their zonal laws to restrict large chains from having too many outlets. Should also consider grants, tax reductions, etc).

Just my opinion though....
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Old June 6th, 2011, 06:57 PM   #67
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Old June 6th, 2011, 07:58 PM   #68
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"It's shit what is being planned, but the area was never going to be some kind of Shibuya district and people are hopelessly naive if they ever thought it had a chance of being so. The best hope for something like that is - as I said - on the Eastern fringe of the central core IMO. "

well that is my point, talking about soft-urban design of linking streets and patching up is always good but completely unrelated.

The post was a response to the wow factor experienced by someone in Times Square. I have felt the same emotion in Times Square and Shibuya, I understand the urban mythology of those places. Piccadilly Circus was once London's global wow factor and I feel that the relatively recent traditionalist approach to the West End as a whole is misplaced and potentially damaging. I am sure there will be a type of global contemporary architectural wow factor in the City at some point but will it be teeming with all types of people on all sorts of missions? Unlikely.

Please note the important point here is that the conservation umbrella in no way considers sympathetic approaches to the street and social experience of the area and is very much merely a fetish of the facade vaneer and of not seeing anything popping up behind pre-war buildings. It also hides an insidious "traditionalist" approach to the urban where we have "cars to sweep away drunks and beggars" for example to keep the status quo of street use in Soho.

The scale of redevelopment in the Tottenham Court Road area and the surrounding area is huge and will never happen on such a scale again. It could have easily become a vision of an urbanscape with a wow factor to link in with modern concepts of entertainment and a large meeting point for masses to congregate. A shared urban space as a pressure release from the confused antics in Piccadilly Circus. Unlike the East and South fringes it is also still a logical location.

With in the last 20 years plenty of global cities have got their act together, it wont take long before they are giving London a run for its money. For all the talk of social mix and freedom in this country and in London in particular I don't see how people think that is instantly some how expressed in urbanity. The urban quality has not been as good as in other European, Japanese and N. American cities for some decades now and we have instilled a very corporate whiff to the urban. Also the lack of belief in the urban compared to emerging cities puts a serious dampener on the potential of its population. Make do as best as you can more comes to mind, rather than an image of the urban running with the people.

The planning system in this country is the most strict in the world. As a counter to that, in theory it is meant to be the most democratic but is that really expressed in the West End? I have seen more democratic and expression of freedom at some levels in very politically conservative countries where London with all its potential appears relatively fussy, condescending and chained to the floor with tradition.

I do not have faith in other areas of London of rising to the challenge purely because there is no vision in place, the political system is always happy with the status quo and as far as I can see the great development direction in fringe areas around central London is mainly to do with more stealth houses for more stealth offices rather than creating a new wow meeting point.

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Old June 6th, 2011, 09:11 PM   #69
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Quote:
I do not have faith in other areas of London of rising to the challenge purely because there is no vision in place, the political system is always happy with the status quo and as far as I can see the great development direction in fringe areas around central London is mainly to do with more stealth houses for more stealth offices rather than creating a new wow meeting point.
I agree there is no vision currently. However, what i meant was we have to be realistic about this. Currently, there are 3 main obstacles to developing any section of the West End in the manner you would like: CofW; developers; the public. If such a vision was to arise, therefore, I personally believe it would be more likely to happened in the location i said. I just can't see the situation changing in the West End, I mean we've been talking about pedestrianising OS more than a decade yet nothing has happened. There needs to be a complete shift somewhere.

Quote:
With in the last 20 years plenty of global cities have got their act together, it wont take long before they are giving London a run for its money. For all the talk of social mix and freedom in this country and in London in particular I don't see how people think that is instantly some how expressed in urbanity. The urban quality has not been as good as in other European, Japanese and N. American cities for some decades now and we have instilled a very corporate whiff to the urban. Also the lack of belief in the urban compared to emerging cities puts a serious dampener on the potential of its population. Make do as best as you can more comes to mind, rather than an image of the urban running with the people.

The planning system in this country is the most strict in the world. As a counter to that, in theory it is meant to be the most democratic but is that really expressed in the West End? I have seen more democratic and expression of freedom at some levels in very politically conservative countries where London with all its potential appears relatively fussy, condescending and chained to the floor with tradition.
The city is still held back by the fragmented system of governance developed in the mid-60s for political reasons. Whilst thankfully the dark-days of the 80s and 90s where London was leaderless, lacking in vision and just hobbling along are behind us, many of the problematic issues remain. Until more functions concerning the running of the city are handed over to a single authority (i.e the Mayor and GLA), this will always hold us back, as the more bodies you have in decision making the more inefficient it becomes. I've long favoured making it so that the boroughs deal with the social functions handed to them by central government (LEAs, social care, etc) whilst the running of the city handed over to the mayor (waste management, street cleaning, planning, etc). Among other things it would save money due to economies of scale.

The biggest fear for me is that drip-drip effect i mentioned. The UK as a whole has developed a - deserved - reputation as poor value for money compared to most other developed states (i.e. what your income can get you). If you're on or around average incomes you can expect a small and expensive place to live and below-bar and expensive public goods (e.g. transport). You may be able to get a pint here cheaper than in France, or jeans for less than in Germany, but it is the regular basics which people tend to compare upon.
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Old June 7th, 2011, 12:02 PM   #70
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http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion...t-2293831.html

Nostalgia for neon on Piccadilly Circus

It's all change at Piccadilly Circus. Since the late 1970s, Sanyo's colossal, rippling white and orange neon sign has been wrapped around Britain's best-known advertising site, forever reminding passers-by, tourists and tramps that the Japanese brand is the last word in, uh, cassette tapes (I'm sure they've updated their product list since then).

Now car maker Hyundai is going to take over Sanyo's spot on the much-photographed corner of Shaftesbury Avenue. Incredibly, it is the first change of guard at Piccadilly's dazzling hoardings for 17 years, and Hyundai will pay £2m a year for the privilege, which seems reasonable when you compare it to the price for a single prime time TV ad. OK, I'd admit that if you put Piccadilly Circus next to Times Square it looks rather tame. But the quaintness of the corner plays in its favour – and 34 million people supposedly look at the signs each year. Space come up very rarely, and some of the incumbents have been there for several decades (Coca-Cola's sign went up in 1955). When Sanyo's is taken down, it will be the last of the neon signs – dating from the last days of disco, too! – as all other brands converted to LED long ago. Sigh. Modern advertising must be in a very bad state indeed if one finds oneself misty-eyed over some luminous tubes.
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Old June 7th, 2011, 10:48 PM   #71
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Hyundai at Piccadilly? They must be serious about raising their image in Europe, cause I'm pretty sure they are sponsoring the Euro 2012 Football too.
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Old June 7th, 2011, 11:07 PM   #72
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I still think they could put more billboards on top of the coke sign.

Speaking of which, a really really attractive representative from Coke took a photo of me with a laptop, and then from that laptop they uploaded my face onto the Piccadilly sign.

It was quite cool seeing my face up on Piccadilly circus... I had previously had a message displayed on the Vodafone sign.



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Old June 8th, 2011, 02:17 PM   #73
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I think the important thing is to not automatically link the digital world with advertising. The crassness and parasitic potential of commercial advertising is definitely the driver behind its demise from Victorian times to today.

However we definitely accept it in some areas as part of its tradition, specifically theatres and cinema. Who would deny the exciting qualities of theatre boards in the West End that link the culture of the area with visual cues?

Also due to the high profile and limited space of Piccadilly Circus the advertising went beyond basic signage to the realms of art and collective identity of the space. New technology has allowed some displays to offer interaction and to blur the crassness of the marketing message.

The display on the corner of Leicester Square, being a mix of information and art was a brilliant solution to enliven a very dull building with out the need for commercial branding. A far superior solution to a vibrant entertainment district, yet unbelievably this was removed due to conservation considerations.

London is a design, artistic and creative industry hot bed, digital interaction and messaging is common place in the home and in remote devices and now second nature for most people. Why not create a permanent digital urban space of sounds and visuals to promote all of these qualities out there in our city to act as a large public meeting point for people?

I don't see this as a crazy proposal that requires us to turn all our urban concepts up-side down.

Instead I feel that linking the physical urban with its corresponding digital world is a natural evolution of all that the West End has stood for, it certainly is the natural destination for all the people that would appreciate it and would again bring London into a leading role in urban experimentation, its traditional role which seems to be conveniently ignored in most planning debates.

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Old June 8th, 2011, 06:57 PM   #74
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@Potto:
Perhaps you should come over to Zagreb to see a real lack of vision in urban planing and development ( if such words can be applied to Zagreb ). While I agree that the Oxford Street/Tottenham Court Road junction could have been done much better, it's not disasterous. In fact, it's far from it. The abomination that replaced those 3 Victorian buildings as a part of the Crossrail scheme can easily be replaced with a better building, or covered in neon/LED signs and adverts like those in Piccadilly Circus.
If you were to strip Tokyo or Times Square of their neon signs, there would be a "wow, what a dump" effect there as well. Westminster Council does have a point with being oposed to neon signs. Neither New York nor Tokyo have such beautiful 19th/early 20th century buildings and palaces, and London should show its beautiful architecture, not hide it.
Besides, London is a big city, and with the latest gentrification and redevelopment projects along with the growing population, there's plenty of places that can be London's Shibuya district. Stratford city in the east is a good place, and if E&C ever get redeveloped as it should, it would be a perfect place to cover in neon/LED lights and create a futuristic southern gate to the central London.
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Old June 8th, 2011, 09:33 PM   #75
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The problem with Picadilly now is that the lights are a bit half hearted. Either they should do it properly and add sufficient to get the wow factor back or or just take them all away to reveal the beauty of the buildings behind. In fact, without the adverts picadillly circus could look great with some subtle lighting and perhaps a more old fashioned feel to it with gas lamps and the like.

Maybe now that the Oxford Street / tottenham court road junction has been ruined by that dross on the corner they could cover those buildings in neon instead and free up Picadilly?
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Old June 9th, 2011, 12:33 AM   #76
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Kind of weird seeing your face up there? Not to mention embarrassing! she mustve been really really really attractive but seriously that is very cool...
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Old June 10th, 2011, 03:01 PM   #77
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Perhaps it's just because I have lived in London for so many years now that I don't even glance at the ads in Piccadilly Circus anymore - but it has certainly lost it's magic compared to the 50's/60's. As a child being brought to London on holiday, it was one of THE 'sights' of London. I can't believe it is any longer. It all looks so sterile. Looking back at the old ads it all looked so much more interesting.
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Old June 10th, 2011, 09:56 PM   #78
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^I would go further and say the whole area has lost it's magic- its pulsing urbaninity. The 'buzz' if you will. Leicester Square could be a world class film venue. Shaftbury and Piccadilly a theatrical spectacle for the theatre. Yet it's not. The theatres blend in and don't stand out. The place looks fun down. We need decent visionary master-planners.

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Old June 11th, 2011, 03:25 PM   #79
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Have some patience, guys. Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square are both getting re-paved with improved pedestrian realm in time for the Olympics. Leicester Square will also get a classy new lighting scheme on the buildings. The Piccadilly Circus neon signs have nearly all been converted to animated digital screens now, and I for one think they look cool. Taken together with Quadrant developments (though I detest the way part of the old Regent Palace Hotel has been gutted), the new neon-lit W Hotel, the repaving of Chinatown, possible new Chinese gate, restored St Martin in the Fields, Trafalgar Square part-pedestrianisation, etc, I think there's plenty to be optimistic about. Some of you are much too hasty in writing the area off. It's actually improving quite rapidly.
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Old June 12th, 2011, 02:44 PM   #80
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Has this been posted yet?

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