There are many good things to be said for Oxford Street. It’s useful to cross over when accessing Soho from Fitzrovia. The alleyway where The Photographers’ Gallery lives is right next to it. For some reason it has about six American candy shops. What nobody’s ever praised Oxford Street for is its joyful, colourful vibe. Because it’s a bit drab.
Well, that may change if public-art supremo (remember Leyton Parade?) Camille Walala gets her way. Bored during lockdown – and inspired by an empty city – she drew up plans for what a new, pedestrianised Oxford Street could look like. Is it green? It is! Does it have tons of retina-thrashing stripes? You betcha! Is it a darn sight more lively than the rain-stained concrete gauntlet we currently suffer every time we need to visit the big Foot Locker? It sure is.
‘What might it be like if there were no cars but more greenery?’ said Walala. ‘What if there were spaces and structures that people could interact with however they liked? What if Oxford Street made you happy? This project is my what-if portrait of the city of tomorrow, and my own projection of what the London I love might one day look like. In times such as these, when the future is uncertain, strain on mental health is high, and many of us are facing tough challenges in our lives, I believe it’s crucial to hang on to what hope we can for the future, and to spread joy in the present.’
Impatient to actually experience Walala’s Mondrian-meets-Minecraft vision of a fun Oxford Street? You’re in luck: a free AR app due to be released later this week will allow you to kind of look around the 3D images from your phone.
Next: bring back the big HMV. The people demand it.