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Architect wants to transform ‘gloomy’ canal path into urban park

Crowdfunding campaign could get the Westway scheme off the ground

14 July, 2017 — By The Xtra Diary

Under the Westway

AN architect has launched a crowdfunding campaign, with the hopes of transforming the “gloomy and unloved” part of the Grand Union Canal under the Westway into a welcoming “urban park”.

Sophie Nguyen, who lives in Ladbroke Grove and regularly walks down the canal towpath, noted how “hostile” the part of the canal under the Westway, between Great Western Road and Harrow Road was.

“As I reached that part, I was shocked at how neglected it was. Nothing grows under the Westway. It was dark and it was flagged by a brick wall with razor wire on it. I felt as a woman that it was very hostile and unpleasant. There is no reason for it to feel so hostile when just five minutes before I was walking by the canal through a nice area.

“We have got to change it,” she said.

Sophie Nguyen

She already started a study as a project for the London Festival of Architecture, with her company Sophie Nguyen Architects.

“We sat there for two days with a big banner asking people what they think about this space. A lot of people suggested work-out stations, a fitness trail, calisthenics. The Westway protects it from the rain, so what I saw as a bad thing could be seen as an advantage. We discussed it with boaters as their community is increasing in the area, and they wanted taps. They said if you add a tap, we are all there.”

Others mentioned lighting, a playground and more plants. Anything that brought more people to the area was a good thing in Sophie’s eyes, as it would bring in “passive surveillance”, making it feel safer.

She is now trying to raise funds through Spacehive to carry out a feasibility study, with the ultimate goal of transforming the area – and is hoping the Mayor of London will pledge his support.

“When I started studying this I realised how complex it is. This stretch of the canal was owned by the Canal and River Trust, the wall is owned by Network Rail, Crossrail is being built behind it.

“There are a lot of stakeholders to talk to. I realised I need to get some funds to carry on doing this as it is a lot of work. I thought crowdfunding may be the right way to go as the mayor is interested in helping local projects. I am realising it is a very difficult process, particularly for a public space.”

She wants to create a design, work out how much it will all cost, and then hopes to get the council and the Canal and River Trust on board to take things further.

For more details visit www.spacehive.com/grand -union-canal-urban-park

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