KPF has contributed to the regeneration and conservation of the Covent Garden Estate in central London in the roles of both master planner and architect of a collection of projects.
Although a renowned district with a rich history, world class cultural assets such as the Royal Opera House, and highly significant historic architecture, Covent Garden was in need of improvement when acquired by our client Capital and Counties (“Capco”) in 2006. Intensive tourism, public realm congestion, lack of maintenance, and outdated facilities had made this a part of London avoided by most Londoners. Aspiring to make Covent Garden a world class urban mixed use district, Capco seeks to both improve the quality of the visitor experience and re-balance the mix of uses to include residential, modern workplaces, and upgraded retail and food and beverage outlets. A masterplan was needed to assemble the many small scale initiatives around the estate within an overall development framework. Three workflows emerged as part of a long term investment by our clients: 1) Public realm improvements, 2) Conservation and re-positioning of the heritage assets, and 3) Replacement of non-contributing outdated buildings with new architecture.
KPF’s expertise in mixed use environments allowed us to conceive of this historic section of London as a single functioning entity that sponsors a great diversity of experience. Covent Garden is something of a prototype for modern mixed use developments in so far that it has always supported a diverse mix of uses. Originally a speculative residential development of the Duke of Bedford in 1630 it later became a marketplace, an entertainment district, and more recently a retail destination. The KPF masterplan initiates a new phase of evolution that builds on this diversity of experience and conserves the intrinsic qualities of the place.
Improved permeability throughout the district is a first principle, as reflected by the creation of entirely new pedestrian routes and courtyards which improve links to surrounding transit hubs and neighbouring districts, alleviate congestion, and increase retail frontage. Several new courts and atria have opened up formerly closed interiors of blocks to the public realm. Historic structures have been restored and in some cases returned to their original use, and in others repositioned as an alternative use such as residential, hotel, or retail.
The new architecture is inspired by the unique character that differentiates Covent Garden from surrounding areas. Its history as a marketplace and a place for entertainment is evident in its varied palette of architectural styles. The relationship to the immediate surroundings is always the starting point for our architectural studies and colour, texture, and scale must reflect the fine grain and idiosyncratic character of the area.