Posted Wednesday 22 March 2023
Students from across Kingston University proposed a range of creative solutions to help revitalise Kingston town centre in a hackathon with Kingston Council’s place making team.
The event saw geography, engineering, business and design students work together in groups to come up with solutions to transform different parts of the town centre.
Hosted at the university’s award-winning Town House, the hackathon resulted in a number of ideas being put forward to improve current areas or solve identified issues. These included the installation of lights and mosaics in the alleyways down to the riverside, the construction of a community pavilion in Fairfield Recreation Ground, and the greening of Eden Street. At the end of the event a panel of council officers, councillors, and key local stakeholders reviewed the proposals for their creativity, sustainability and viability in response to the challenge.
Third year geography student Ben Hayward, part of the winning hackathon team, was delighted to have been given the opportunity to contribute ideas that could improve the town centre in the future. “Our idea was focused around redeveloping the changing rooms in Fairfield Recreation Ground into a pavilion,” he said. “The new building would provide a place for families with children to feel invited and included a new café. The opportunity to present our ideas, learn more about town planning and get more experience in public speaking was really valuable.”
The Hackathon was organised by head of the department of geography, geology and the environment at Kingston University Dr Pete Garside, HackCentre manager Amanda Baker and senior urban designer at the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames Todor Kuznetsov, as well as being supported by a number of colleagues from both organisations.
Dr Garside said the hackathon had provided an opportunity for students to put some of the skills they have been learning into practice as well as to share their views and ideas around the future of Kingston town centre. “It was great to see students from geography, business, engineering and art and design disciplines taking part and presenting ideas ranging from redesigning the approach from the railway station to the town centre, making the high street more inclusive and redeveloping Fairfield Park and the Cattle Market,” he said.
“The students had a chance to use and develop skills including working in groups across different subject areas, presenting, as well as getting hands on experience of how local authorities operate and learning more about the variety of career areas they encompass. It was also really beneficial for students to interact with key local stakeholders on the judging panel and get feedback from their area of expertise.”
During the past year, the council has been actively engaging with students, a Citizens’ Panel local communities, businesses and landowners to better understand their aspirations for the future of Kingston town centre. A draft vision for the town centre area has now been published for public consultation.
Councillor Roger Hayes, Kingston Council’s portfolio holder for planning policy and community engagement, praised the efforts of students who took part in the hackathon. “It has been fantastic to have this contribution of inspirational ideas from Kingston University students to this important plan for the future of the Kingston Town Centre Area,” he said. “We’re keen to hear from all members of the community about what they cherish the most and where improvements can be made to make sure Kingston town centre is a vibrant, attractive and inclusive place for everyone to enjoy.”