The Award Winning Boxpark Croydon
— 10 Jul 2017
This summer, Boxpark Croydon scooped up two of the most revered awards in British design and architecture; further cementing itself as one of the country's top multi-purpose entertainment hubs. First up, the Royal Institute of British Architects (that's RIBA to you and me) honoured Boxpark Croydon with the prestigious London Award 2017 - "This brilliantly extroverted take on the traditional indoor market, brings a lively energy to the entrance of East Croydon Station; a stopping point on the path to the new developments along the railway".
And, if that wasn't enough, the celebrations were quickly followed by another win from the New London Awards 'Meanwhile' category, which sets out to recognise developments that embrace the city as a work in progress.
Naturally, this meant we had to get Boxpark Croydon's esteemed architect, Gavin Elliott, in for a sit down and a chance to discuss the recent successes and his thoughts on this celebrated site.
How did it feel to take home both the Meanwhile award and the London Award 2017 this summer for Boxpark Croydon?
It’s very satisfying! We don’t design our buildings specifically to win awards but it’s very pleasing when you do, as it’s recognition from your peers that you’ve done something noteworthy, and above the norm. Designing buildings is a complicated business with a whole load of different requirements to satisfy, so it’s easy to get distracted and end up with something that ‘works’ but doesn’t innovate, excite, or lift the spirits. So when, at the end of a project, you win an award, it’s an affirmation that you rose above the complications, and delivered something outstanding.
The Meanwhile award honours designs that embrace the city as a work in progress. Do you envision spaces like Boxpark Croydon to play a bigger role in the evolution of major cities?
Absolutely! There are so many amazing sites in cities around the world where you look at them and you think, ‘this would be a great location for…X, Y and Z’ but, for whatever reason, the economics don’t work, so the site’s just standing there...empty. That’s where Meanwhile's uses come in; the ability to create an instant buzz and sense of place ‘straight out of the box’ offers those sites (and places) a future, without having to wait around for years for something bigger to happen – which benefits everyone. Boxpark Croydon is a great illustration of that point, and it’s a very portable concept.
RIBA commented on the 'energy' that Boxpark has brought to Croydon. Did you anticipate this kind of response when it launched last year?
I think anyone who knows Roger Wade (Boxpark's creator and CEO) and knows the passion and enthusiasm he has for both design and for life in general, would not be surprised by the success. So, I think I always knew it was going to be special - which is why I wanted to be involved but, I have to say, it has surpassed my expectations. I think the first moment we knew we had created something genuinely amazing was the Eskimo Dance event – when there was so much energy it was almost overwhelming.
How much of a collaborative effort is it to bring a site like Boxpark Croydon to life?
It’s a huge team effort! Clearly, we’re particularly focused on the design side of things but the project as a whole is much bigger still. While we, naturally, like to think our bit is by far the most important and most creative, in truth, its really only a small part of a multi-stage process, which starts with finding the site and getting all the funding and legalities in place, and then ends with the building in operation; plus all the event and promotional activities that make Boxpark so special. So, yeah, it’s a huge collective effort and, in truth, Boxpark’s success is a testament to the success of the bigger collaboration, not just our little bit.
How does it feel to see how much Boxpark Croydon has developed since it launched?
There’s an old architectural saying that your buildings are a bit like your kids; you know, when they’re first born, they require a lot of nurturing and love but, in the end, you have to let go a bit and let them go their own way. Boxpark is a bit like that. When we first handed it over, everything was just so but now it’s a lot more lived-in – which is inevitable. But what I know is that Boxpark has a real passion for the place, and everything ‘new’ that has appeared since we handed it over, has been done with a real design eye – from signage, to the big graphic banners, to artwork panels in the event space, to the branded deck chairs – so I’m very relaxed about its evolution. In fact, I think it’s getting better…
What does the rest of 2017 hold in store for you?
Well. Obviously. Continuing to milk the success of Boxpark Croydon for all its worth! Collecting more awards. Going to more great events. Dining out on my success. But, more seriously, building on the success of Croydon to design and deliver a few more Boxpark's around the country. There’s been plenty of interest both in the UK and elsewhere. So watch this space…