The competitive procedure with negotiation, which is set to open for applications in early January, seeks exciting, bold and innovative proposals to transform the large prominent public square next to the council’s £30 million Fairfield Halls regeneration into ‘one of the most exciting public spaces in London’.
The project, scheduled to complete in 2022, sits alongside plans to transform the wider area into a new cultural quarter. The council’s private development company, Brick by Brick, is leading on the area’s residential components.
In its brief, the council says that Fair Field ‘will be a truly world-class public space. It will be one of the most exciting public spaces in London; a destination space accessible to and accommodating a broad demographic.
Proposals should integrate water, public art and lighting; promote cultural and community activity; improve connections to nearby George Street and East Croydon station; and celebrate the history of the area.
The historic Fair Field – also known as College Green – was transformed into a civic plaza during Croydon’s reconstruction in the mid-20th century. The Arnhem Gate at its eastern end is a reference to Croydon’s twinned town in The Netherlands.
Today it is at the centre of an ambitious regeneration masterplan drawn up by Rick Mather Architects (now renamed MICA), which has also designed a £30 million overhaul of the 1962 Fairfield Halls and new housing.
The contest aims to provide ‘legible, step-free access’ between Fair Field and nearby George Street, East Croydon station, Barclay Road and Park Lane and deliver a new forum for cultural and community activity celebrating the area’s heritage.
Proposals will be expected to optimise the potential for performance, exhibitions and activities while integrating play facilities.
A full OJEU contract notice will be published in early January and the deadline for submitting completed selection questionnaires is expected to be in early February.
Shortlisted teams will be confirmed in early March and invited to submit design solutions by mid-April. An overall winner will be announced in August.
Q&A with Jo Negrini, chief executive of Croydon Council
Why are you undertaking an OJEU Procurement Tender exercise for the transformation of public realm within the Fair Field cultural zone?
With Croydon’s £5.25 billion regeneration now well underway, there is real momentum in our town’s growth. We have been putting culture firmly at the heart of our regeneration and Fair Field, located in our stunning new cultural quarter, will be a hugely important space in Croydon’s town centre.
This prominent area will become a mixed-use neighbourhood with a thriving cultural, civic and community offer. The jewel in its crown will be Fairfield Halls, an iconic venue transformed by a £30 million refurbishment into a world-class arts centre, bringing the best of national, international and local entertainment to the heart of Croydon. The cultural quarter is also home to Croydon College, a centre for further education which attracts students from across the globe.
As such our cultural quarter needs a bold and ambitious setting. Fair Field will be an exemplary public space, attracting visitors not only from within the borough but from across London and the South East.
The time is right for us to be more ambitious, and look to pioneering and transformational proposals for this important part of Croydon’s town centre. We are using a process that is open to local, national and international participation so we can push boundaries and create a fantastic public destination.
We’re proud of and ambitious for our borough and what it has to offer. This scheme, which will be of the highest quality, will be monumental and really help us continue put Croydon on the map.
What is your vision for the future of Fair Field?
We want it to be proudly grounded in Croydon’s heritage and provide an exciting destination for the thousands of people who will, live, work in and visit the town centre every day to enjoy as part of their daily lives.
Welcoming and accessible routes will lead to a space showcasing the most exciting, innovative and high-quality design, providing a platform for cultural and community activity linked to the Fairfield Halls and Croydon College.
We envisage the use of water and lighting will be key parts of this exciting space, while other interventions and technologies could also be considered. The spaces and routes within Fair Field will provide fun, safe and uplifting experiences for all on a 24/7 basis and it will be a beautiful destination in its own right.
Croydon has always aimed to think big, bold and ambitious, and Fair Field will be no different.
What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?
We are looking to receive submissions from teams of talented and progressive architects, landscape architects, and designers who have experience in designing and delivering inspiring, sustainable and resilient public spaces.
We also want these teams to have a real interest in Croydon, get under the skin of its fascinating history and thriving future, and understand their sense of responsibility to shape an important space for public good.
This opportunity will be open to established and emerging high-calibre practitioners, both nationally and internationally through the OJEU process utilising the London Tenders Procurement Portal.
Which other design opportunities are on the horizon and how will the architects/designers be procured?
Croydon Council has recently been given the go-ahead for the next phase of Growth Zone funding to continue to invest in and regenerate the borough’s infrastructure over the next four years.
But there are not only transport improvements as a result of this. There will be benefits to other open spaces, our cultural offering and many other areas. So yes, there will be plenty of design opportunities on the horizon.
The procurement process will vary from project to project, and will use a mix of in-house expertise as well as external design teams.
Are there any other recent major public space regeneration projects you have been impressed by?
There are several pioneering projects we have been impressed by, particularly ones carried out as a collaborative effort between talented specialists; architects and landscape architects working alongside innovative artists; designers and engineers whose work pushes the boundaries of public space, art, light, technology, and inclusiveness.
Every place is different; from how it looks and its history to its culture and socio-economic layout, so the design for Fair Field will need to need to respond to and enhance its unique context. We will welcome innovative designs that reflect the requirements for Fair Field.