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The great design challenge: 'Busy Space' by Arney Fender Katsalidis (AFK)

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The Great Design Challenge run by Property Week, asked AFK to take a fresh look at the iconic former Topshop flagship store on Oxford Street, and come up with inventive ways to breathe new life into this important landmark.

Our concept explores the idea of 'Busy Space' reinvents and transforms the building into a 21st century platform, blurring the boundaries between life, work and leisure and condensing these uses into a single hub, or 'busy space'. This hub intensifies the uses within the building to create a compact, high-functioning multi-purpose 24-hour space, which connects to an elevated modular walkway running the length of Oxford Street – dubbed the ‘W1 Connector’.

The W1 Connector offers a slower, more peaceful route through the West End, bursting with plants, and with numerous vantage points to take in spectacular views across the city. It also takes the pressure off the notoriously congested Oxford Street pavements and Oxford Circus Underground station.

The multi-purpose 24-hour space connects to an elevated modular walkway running the length of Oxford Street – dubbed the ‘W1 Connector

The W1 Connector will also be populated with small bars, pop-ups and cinemas, and will also re-establish the famous AIR Studios (the independent recording studio complex founded in 1969) for a new generation.

Below the walkway, the first, ground and lower-ground floors of the building are interconnected to provide dense, flexible and relevant shopping spaces, which can be curated to create immersive experiences, alongside a vibrant mix of food and beverage outlets. Short-term leases and affordable rents will make this premier retail location energetic, vital and relevant.

At lower levels, the building links into existing transport infrastructure, with a new access created which leads straight from the tube to the building, reminiscent of the ‘ekinaka’ shopping experience – a Japanese concept meaning shops inside railway stations. The ekinaka experience is based on the idea of ensuring a more fluid and efficient connection between the city’s transport infrastructure and retailers, while reducing congestion on at street level.

The 'busy space' hub is reminiscent of ’ekinaka’ - the Japanese concept of shops inside railway stations

From the second floor upwards of the building, bijou residential apartments are added, offering residents the chance to live in the centre of the city and be a part of Oxford Street’s renaissance as a new cultural district.
There will also be student accommodation, which can become affordable hotel rooms during the holidays, making the most efficient use of the building and creating an affordable and convenient central location for tourists to stay. It also boosts the night-time economy by bringing a greater diversity of people to the centre, with a short and safe trip back to their accommodation at the end of the evening.

The final published piece in Property Week can be seen here