Post-war planning had a number of failings in historic central Coventry, including the imposition of tower blocks in the middle of the street, poor urban legibility and damaged or blocked views. Outdated retail concepts abound including inward-looking arcades and multi-storey car parks. Retail accounts for over 90% of the area’s offer, which will lead to a sharp decline if nothing is done to introduce new uses and functions. To put it bluntly, the city centre will die, socially and commercially, if it is not transformed.
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City Centre South Coventry
Urban Design Concept
Chapman Taylor Architects and Shearer Property Group
Coventry, United Kingdom
What tackling that means in practice is restoring the traditional functions of the city centre, not just creating another bland, identikit retail street. There should be a vibrant night-time economy and a reason for people to visit.
Our design remedies the mistakes of the past while respecting the best elements of the area’s heritage. It’s about urban renewal and about delivering a sense of place for the city. Our plans will create an authentic, socially and economically sustainable space for the people who live, work, shop and socialise in the city.
We analysed the centre at a very detailed level, looking at the historic street patterns and architecture, where mistakes were made, where new vistas could open up, where existing routes can be reinforced and historic axes reinstated.
We have held a series of consultations with everyone from business owners, market traders, councillors, the university and local residents, and held a public consultation and workshops. We have strong backing from Coventry City Council and from Historic England, with whom we have consulted throughout.
Sustainability at its heart
The sustainable elements have been thoughtfully considered, even at this outline planning stage, through the situation and orientation of buildings, the heating and ventilation strategy, cycling and pedestrian provision and the use of sustainable materials, mandated via the design and access statement.
The scheme itself is a social catalyst to encourage people to live and work in the city centre and to provide flexible and well-considered buildings that will stand the test of time.
An improved urban environment
There will be new residential apartments at the upper levels, new public spaces, new retail units, F&B and leisure and community uses to activate the street level. A curated pavilion building will stand in the heart of a new plaza, which will be fronted by the city’s listed and much-loved indoor market. A new hotel, medical centre and cinema will complete the rounded offer.
Photographs and sketches from before the war show a vibrant place full of market stalls and lovely shop awnings, people living above shops, varied roofscapes. That is what we are trying to achieve, not through a pastiche, but through a completely new space that combines that character and approach with the needs of Coventry now.
Our design aims to restore the spirit of historic Coventry, including its mix of functions, the interaction between buildings and the street, the verticality, the varied rooflines and the fact that people lived right in the heart of the city.