With Lewisham shopping centre’s days numbered and the town a sea of construction for various towers and new-builds, what better time than a cold, overcast January day to capture some of its splendour.
And so that’s what I did, with plans to redevelop Lewisham shopping centre knocking around for some time now with owner Landsec running a consultation into plans late last year. Another edifice that lasted around 30-40 years and is now little but a distant memory is perhaps an apt site, as two blocks sit in the heart of the shopping centre.
The centre opened in 1977 and saw comprehensive refurbishment in the 2000s, losing some iconic features in the process. Memories of visiting as a child are of tiles. Lots of tiles. On floors and walls in every inch of the place. Always dimly lit. And C&A. It left its mark in the memory. C&A less so. It’s now much like any other mall, but back then it seemed vastly different to, say, Bexleyheath, which was also atmospheric in its own way and very much of its time. Both are now sanitised and pretty forgettable. Or maybe I’m just older, and to local children this place will linger long beyond the time it comes down.
It’s certainly brighter now with more natural light and lighter materials used on ceilings, walls and flooring.
While little is clear in a public consultation on future plans from the centre’s owner Landsec, the company’s financial results last year did reveal plans for 2,500 homes. And this got me thinking – much like in Woolwich – that now would be a good time to start to document a bit more of it before it comes down.
The Centre is an edifice built above and around older buildings with entrances on Lewisham High Street as well as to the “rear” that paid little acknowledgment to its surroundings.
Why would it? When built a bloody great roundabout existed on that side. Things, though, are rather changing.
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All the new homes rising to that side of the centre will see a central thoroughfare from Lewisham station to the town centre, and currently people are presented with a brick wall when meeting the shopping centre.
This image shows the pedestrian route running through 650 homes and shops, and the crossing that already exists opposite the shopping centre:
The shopping centre also includes the Citibank tower, which for many years was Lewisham’s tallest tower and a local landmark. It’s a place where a number of residential conversion plans have come and gone since Citibank disposed of the site.
With yet another application last year, presumably the idea still remains. They’ll need to fix the exterior as those concrete panels are not in great shape..
There’s a certain simplistic elegance to the building, which is made apparent when faced with the cluttered, somewhat messy façade of a tower rising over the road.
It was built in a time when London’s population was declining, car use was king and people were expected to drive in as the local population declined. The opposite of today.
Thus there’s a multi-storey car park, which is a timewarp of design with decades-old signage and now accessible on foot – if not for cars on upper floors. The desolation didn’t exactly appear inviting and I half expected a security guard to start barking at me, but no one did.
With the Get Carter theme reverberating in my ears as I wandered around glimpsing elevated walkways, I wandered around a couple of now-vacant floors of parking at the top.
There wasn’t a soul around as construction abounded beyond:
Head down the ramp and another empty floor of parking spaces lie waiting.
Decades-old signs remain up here. Bold typeface and faded yellow lights still work beckoning nobody:
More recent branding hangs nearby. Both designs are now surpassed. Note the 1990s sign to the rear:
One ramp suggests additional floors were planned at the car park, as it meets a solid wall.
Views up here show skyscrapers and changes all around from most sides.
Various Lewisham towers – new and old – can be spotted:
Walkways from the car park to Citibank tower offer a striking image:
A view looking directly up linking the car park and former Citibank tower which would have seen workers dashing from the car park to the tower.
Turn around and views of servicing roads and delivery bays abound. This is the rear end of Lewisham High Street, with decades of buildings of various hues weaving and merging together:
The concept of shopping centres such as this may be on life support, but the service bays on the roof does greatly help at street level:
One single lump of a building will be replaced by a number of structures with permeable walking areas upon redevelopment.
Another office to flat conversion can be seen:
Towers across the site are a given if 2,500 homes are the target. The trend of shopping centres is now well past, and open-air streets are back. Much like Woolwich Exchange which offers a glimpse of what to expect:
And so it won’t be long until this is gone:
It won’t be next month or even next year, but in five years this area could all look radically different.
One given is the main route from the station passing through Lewisham Central will continue into some sort of square, with a link then extending to the High Street.
Heights will possibly top out at around 30 floors given precedents both with the 170s tower and those now rising a short distance away.
One day in a not too distant future simple things like having a muffin will be fondly remembered by many, though as ever, change is a constant – and never more so than in London.