Reimagining Mayfair

London's next cultural quarter?

Published 12 September 2014

Owen Hopkins reports on the culmination of a project that invited design teams to propose new and speculative ideas of what Mayfair could look like in the future.

  • The part of Mayfair to the immediate north of the RA’s Burlington Gardens building is an area to a large degree defined by the intersections of culture and commerce. Laid out by Lord Burlington in the early eighteenth century, it has had an enduring association with tailoring, private art galleries and, latterly, luxury shopping. Currently, the area is subject to major transformations with the arrival of Crossrail at Bond Street and the RA’s renovation of its Burlington Gardens building, beginning on-site in mid-2015.

    In April, in partnership with the Architects’ Journal, we launched an open call for architect-led, multidisciplinary teams to put forward ideas for reimagining this area of Mayfair. We asked teams to think about physical interventions to the public realm – such as managing pedestrian and traffic flow, or perhaps public art commissions – but also the more ephemeral – festivals, markets or performances – that can enhance the character of the area without necessarily altering it physically. How might these interventions help encourage cross-pollination between the area’s cultural and commercial sides? Drawing from the area’s rich history but also looking to its future, how might it become London’s next cultural quarter?

    The teams:
    • DK-CM and Pablo Bronstein
    • Andrew Phillips, Vogt and Henry Coleman
    • EPR Architects with Rick Wheal, Kate Malone and James Ulph (Cork Flowers Gallery)
    • Yinka Shonibare MBE RA, Weston Williamson Architects and (uncommon) landscape

    As their ideas have developed over the last few months, each of the teams has approached the project from a distinctive position, which has fed into both the scale and nature of what they propose. True to the intention of the project for being a platform for new and speculative thinking, the ideas the teams have put forward are bold and imaginative, but also grounded in a thoughtful consideration of the area’s history and the complex interactions between culture and commerce at play within it.

  • Reimagining Mayfair

    Reimagining Mayfair

    © Weston Williamson + Partners/(uncommon) landscape/Yinka Shonibare MBE RA

  • The proposals will be presented at an event on 19 September, and will be on show in a pop-up exhibition at the RA as part of Open House London over 20–21 September. We hope that together and individually the proposals will act as a vital spur to a debate not just about the future of this particular area, but about London as a whole.

    A public presentation of the teams’ proposals will be held in Burlington Gardens on 19 September, 6.30 - 8.30pm.
    A Pop-up exhibition will take place as part of Open House London from 20 - 21 September, 10am - 6pm.
    Reimagining Mayfair was organised as part of the RA’s Architecture Programme in association with the Architects’ Journal.

    Owen Hopkins is the RA’s Architecture Programme Manager.