Aylesbury Vale District Council, Bradley Murphy Design and Durkan have officially opened The Exchange in Aylesbury. This is the first phase of a major £18m mixed-use regeneration scheme in Aylesbury town centre.
The Exchange, a £3.3m, a 2,515 sqm public realm at the heart of Aylesbury Vale District Council’s (AVDC) multi-million-pound town centre masterplan, officially opened to the public on Friday 8 March. The scheme – which incorporates residential, leisure and commercial space – has been supported by Local Growth funding from the South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership.
Led by landscape architecture firm Bradley Murphy Design (BMD) and delivered by developer Durkan, the public space will boost connectivity in the town centre, linking key destinations including the Waterside Theatre, Buckinghamshire New University and the area’s canal basin.
Following consultations with Buckinghamshire County Council, Buckinghamshire Disability Service, local businesses, community organisations and representatives from the 2012 Paralympic Flame Festival, the high-spec space is fully accessible, with sloped access routes for pushchairs, wheelchairs and other mobility aids, also providing formal and informal seating – complete with inbuilt power-supplies and versatile street furniture.
Richard Waddell, Senior Associate at BMD and project lead for The Exchange said: “At The Exchange, we were keen to create a top-quality piece of public realm, with a distinct character and sense of place. We are especially proud of the strong community engagement informing our design, with feedback from stakeholders shaping access options across the space to ensure disabled members can remain with their groups when moving through the square, provision of ample cycle parking and a range of seated areas for people to rest and enjoy the space.”
Beyond access, BMD prioritised sustainability, creating a drainage system for the scheme, channelling site run-off into two 9,500-litre harvesting tanks, with the drainage water then used to irrigate the square, including 17 large semi-mature trees.
The Exchange also benefits from energy-efficient infrastructure, providing phone charging points within seating, computer controlled lighting to reduce energy levels beyond closing hours and a range of pop-up power supplies, making the space a prime location for future events.
BMD and AVDC worked closely to develop an art brief for the space, intended specifically to ensure a strong sense of local character. Artists bidding for the commission, were asked to in particular reflect the town’s unique links to Stoke Mandeville, the birthplace of the Paralympics. The concept of ‘I am’ was devised by artist Colin Spofforth, expressed through three large sculptures that serve as focal points within the square. Each sculpture seeks to examine personal achievement and human endeavour.
The concept was extended to encompass the personal identity and self-expression of the Aylesbury community, with local residents, children and community groups providing quotes around what ‘I am’ means to them. These messages were then incorporated into the bespoke street furniture, paving and tree grilles designed by leading metalwork artist and blacksmith Chris Brammall.
Teresa Lane, Assistant Director, Commercial Property and Regeneration at AVDC, said: “AVDC, BMD and Durkan have joined forces with the aim of honouring Aylesbury’s market town heritage with a high-profile, distinctive, and innovative space, and The Exchange is evidence that this collaboration is a success. The Exchange will function as a centre for entertainment and the arts, bolstered by top-quality facilities – from stylish street-furniture to in-built USB charging points.”
BMD specialises in creating spaces that prioritise how people occupy, interact with and share environments.
The Exchange project draws on the firm’s placemaking and public realm expertise – with recent successes including the redevelopment of Bell Court in the historic town of Stratford-upon-Avon, the new development of Gabriel Square in St Albans and extensive areas of green infrastructure being implemented as part of strategic developments at Waterbeach, Rugby Sustainable Urban Extension and Alconbury Weald.
For more information about The Exchange, visit https://www.aylesburyvaledc.gov.uk/exchange.