The ambitious £10m scheme, funded by Croydon Council with a contribution from Coast to Capital, will be the next phase of the development surrounding the iconic Croydon venue, which reopens on Monday (16 September) following a multi-million pound council-led refurbishment which has restored the building to its former glory.
The new public space - Fair Field - will encompass the area known as College Green between Fairfield Halls and Croydon College, the Fairfield Halls forecourt and Park Lane frontage, along with pedestrian routes linking it to East Croydon and other spaces in the town centre. Historically known as the Fair Field, the site was Croydon's venue for entertainment and social activity, hosting fairs, markets and performances until the arrival of the railways in the 1860. The scheme will restore the site to its former name, and its use as a valued civic space for the community and visitors to enjoy.
The winning team, made up of world class architects, landscape architects, designers, public art experts, engineers and other specialists, submitted a joint bid outlining ideas for a vibrant new space in between the college and Fairfield Halls. These include a naturally-filtered ‘water mirror’ – a shallow pool with springs reflecting Croydon’s skyline - surrounded by greenery, creating a stunning new space. When dry, the space could play host to performances, concerts or markets. Public art gateways and innovative lighting installations would light up the area, welcoming visitors to the new public space and the Fairfield Halls.
The project will also link up Croydon’s new cultural quarter with the rest of the town centre, enhancing the route to East Croydon Station and Wellesley Road, making it more accessible and attractive. Together with new landscaping linking to The Queen’s Gardens, it will help to join up the town centre’s network of public spaces.
The team will now start work on creating a final design, and it is anticipated work will start on site in 2021. In the meantime, a range of temporary measures including light installations, greenery and seating will ensure visitors still enjoy the space. For those wanting to be active, table tennis tables will be installed next to the college and a new cycle path will be completed this week. Pavement vinyls will also help people make their way from East Croydon Station to Fairfield Halls. When the final project is delivered, the materials for these temporary activities will be reused and recycled across the borough.
Councillor Paul Scott, cabinet lead for planning and regeneration, said: “When the public space is completed, it will be a destination in itself as well as the perfect setting for Croydon’s newly-refurbished Fairfield Halls.
“I was impressed by how the design team’s bid features a sustainable water feature within a landmark space creating a fantastic energy, lots of activity and somewhere for people to enjoy themselves. That sort of place feels at home in Croydon.
“We want this space to be brought back to life – and I’m sure the final designs will invoke the spirit of Croydon’s historic, medieval fairs that used to be held here, reflecting the variety, energy and excitement now seen along the South Bank in central London.”
The winning team includes MICA Architects, OOZE, Charles Holland Architects, Adam Nathaniel Furman, eHRW, and DHA Design Services Ltd, Gardiner & Theobald and Wasser Werkstatt.
Stuart Cade, MICA Director, said: “We are delighted that the team has been selected to design and deliver the new Fair Field public realm. The brief, context and ambition for the new space is unique and our group is relishing the opportunity to co-produce a high quality and diverse urban landscape for Croydon.”
The announcement today comes just days before the council raises the curtain on a major milestone in the town centre’s ongoing regeneration, Fairfield Halls. Throughout next week, the building will be open to the public with free entertainment in the Arnhem Foyer, and a series of tours. A number of special events, including the opening of the Ashcroft Playhouse by Dame Judi Dench and a celebratory gala opening concert from Croydon’s resident orchestra London Mozart Players, are also taking place. It will also host free tours as part of Open House weekend later this month.
Photo credit: MICA Architects.