Friday, 4 December 2015

Changing London: Tottenham Court Road

New 'South Plaza' portal at Tottenham Court Road © Transport for London

New information technology and social media has 'monetarised our private lives', according to Jerry Harris' engaging thought-piece on 'Transnational Capital and the Technology of Domination and Desire'.
Hmmm...maybe...but mobile devices and social media also often sorely test my skills as a professional London pedestrian.
You've probably encountered this too.
People who don't look where they're walking as they assume their mobile phone miraculously deploys a new-fangled PNA - or Pedestrian Navigation App.

Rapid change
Totally encapsulated in their device bubble, they also might be missing out on London's ongoing rapid change.
Today, for example, the newly opened 'South Plaza' egress from an ever-changing Tottenham Court Road station escalates me from the bowels of the Northern Line tube onto Charing Cross Road.
The new entrance, garlanded by French artist Daniel Buren's colourful artworks, forms part of Transport for London's £500 million transformation of Tottenham Court Road station that serves the Northern and Central tube lines.

Centre Point
Look up from the escalators through a 15-metre high glass canopy and you'll see London's 34-storey Centre Point tower, rising 117 metres from the junction where the eastern end of Oxford Street meets the southern tip of Tottenham Court Road.
Completed in 1966, property tycoon Harry Hyam's Grade II-listed Centre Point stands completely cloaked.
The tower is undergoing its own transformation from a dowdy 20th Century office block into a new plaza with piazza, 82 apartments, 13 so-called 'affordable' homes, a pool, spa and, of course, a ubiquitous new set of chain shops for London.

The old station ticket hall that fused confused tourists and harassed London commuters in one cramped scrum is now replaced by a space probably large enough to swing five cats.
TfL say around 150,000 people use Tottenham Court Road station daily. This will rise to 200,000 when TfL-run Crossrail services call at Tottenham Court from 2018.
But Crossrail - London's new east-west London railway - and Tottenham Court Road's 'over-station development' hasn't pleased everyone. 
Controversially, it involved the demolition of buildings, businesses and ways of life for people on Dean Street, Diadem Court, Great Chapel Street and Oxford Street itself.

Some things don't change though.
'Dogs must be carried', barks the sign at the top and bottom of an escalator.
Darn, I brought my mobile phone but keep forgetting to bring a dog.

© Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, December 2015