To achieve two of the Oxford Street District’s objectives, namely, to better connect retail, leisure and culture in order to improve the experience for visitors and to deliver a greener, more pleasant and accessible public realm, Westminster City Council has transformed the area around Ramillies Street into a recreated and reinvigorated Soho Photography Quarter.
The Soho Photography Quarter now offers more attractive, accessible and pedestrian-friendly public space, better connecting the critically acclaimed Photographers’ Gallery to Oxford Street and offering a programme of engaging public art. This has redesigned the area into an attraction in its own right.
The Soho Photography Quarter is the first permanent project to have been delivered as part of Westminster City Council’s programme to improve the Oxford Street District over the coming years.
The changes exemplify the unique character and heritage of the Quarter.
The project was delivered in consultation with local stakeholders and in collaboration with The Photographers’ Gallery.
The area, which sits to the south-east of Oxford Circus, and consists of Ramillies Street, Ramillies Place and Hills Place, was used as a cut-through for pedestrians and vehicles and suffered from poor lighting and anti-social behaviour.
A cultural hotspot
Westminster City Council has worked in collaboration with The Photographers’ Gallery to develop plans for this new cultural destination. The improvements delivered include:
• a light projection and street banners (to be installed) that line the streets and introduce a sense of vibrancy to this area, better connecting Oxford Street to the cultural experience offered by The Photographers’ Gallery as well as offering an improved connection to Soho.
• a contemporary art frieze, curated by The Photographers’ Gallery, that showcases the area as a new cultural destination through the medium of photography.
Improving public spaces
The Soho Photography Quarter construction works were completed on 31st March 2022 and the new space can already be enjoyed by the public.
New seating, greenery and a regular public arts programme have been introduced to encourage people to enjoy the area and its unique character. Together with the new cultural offer, a more peaceful and relaxing place has been created for people to take time away from the hustle and bustle of Oxford Street.
The introduction of a modern lighting scheme creates a brighter and safer area to encourage more people to pass through, or simply enjoy the atmosphere, artistic animation and sounds of the district to experience it fully.
Why the changes were necessary
The area was previously dominated by servicing and waste presentation for local businesses creating the atmosphere of an unloved back alley, which led to the area struggling with anti-social behaviour as a result.
The lack of access control resulted in rat running through the area resulting in traffic concerns for pedestrians. The poor lighting presented safety concerns, especially for those walking from Soho to Oxford Street station late at night.
The Photographers’ Gallery was a hidden gem that was usually approached from the Soho side. The new scheme both reveals and celebrates the gallery and better connects it to Oxford Street delivering on the Oxford Street District Framework’s objective of improving the cultural experience, thereby extending visitor dwell time in the area.