Design Studio 13

Master of Architecture (MArch RIBA Part 2)

Tutors: Andrei Martin and Andrew Yau

Andrei Martin is a partner at PLP Architecture, a London-based multidisciplinary design practice.

Andrew Yau is a design director at Urban Future Organisation, an international practice and design research collaborative.

Radical Reuse: Oxford Street

Just as retail transformed cities at the turn of the century, will its demise or reinvention be the contemporary catalyst for urban change?

This year, DS13 focused on Oxford Street, one of the oldest thoroughfares in London and Europe’s busiest shopping street. But despite these superlatives, Oxford Street is also in a moment of crisis. The shift to online shopping and the ensuing global retail apocalypse has changed the landscape of the street, choking this well-oiled machine that produces sensation and impulse by depriving it of its fuel – footfall. With a 50% reduction in pedestrian traffic, and the onslaught of digital consumerism, street shopping is rapidly becoming history. So, what’s next for Oxford Street?

We began the year by imagining an alternative, post- retail Oxford Street through a series of interventions that operate across scales, from the scale of the body to that of architecture to finally that of urban infrastructure. Within the spatial container of the street itself, we proposed new connective civic tissues, bridges, layered public realms, infra-thin and ultra-long buildings to produce ecosystems tasked with the production of multivalent moods and atmospheres, as well as with inferring new scenarios for the inhabitation of the street. Through fluid typologies we speculated on new ways of being, acting, producing, and consuming.

From the perspective of the architectural critic, the history of retail display can seem a bestiary of novel forms, a disordered field of possible worlds of fantasy, creativity, appropriation, emulation, and plagiarism. Retail presents an extraordinary sourcebook for the grammar of forms and techniques of communication that currently shape architectural thinking.

Fischli, F., Olsen, N. and Jasper, A. Retail Apocalypse, (Zürich: GTA Verlag, 2021)

In the second part of the year, we mined this rich grammar of retail forms and techniques to establish new post-retail typologies able to reinvigorate the street. But a reinvention of Oxford Street also entails a reassessment of the act of building itself and its ecological impact, so instead of building novel realities from scratch, we refashioned the existing structures in a way that considered and expanded upon their inner anatomies.

Archive of DS13’s work from previous years:

MArch DS13 2016-2017

MArch DS13 2017-2018

MArch DS13 2018-2019

MArch DS13 2019-2020

MArch DS13 2020-2021

MArch DS13 2021-2022