Placemaking for Stratford

London Borough of Newham and Stratford Original


Creative Wayfinding and Interpretation

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London Borough of Newham and the Business Improvement District ‘Stratford Original’ are working to make Stratford town centre a better place for businesses to thrive and prosper. Thomas Matthews were asked to “make the town centre more welcoming” through the delivery of a design strategy and creative wayfinding scheme to help raise the profile of the local businesses and cultural offer.

The main objectives were to:
— Promote Stratford Town Centre’s unique identity
— Encourage visitors to explore and spend time in the local area
— Help unify the Town Centre and make it a destination in itself

London Borough of Newham and Stratford Original BID funded the delivery of our proposals which ranged from temporary wayfinding and large scale murals to postcards and totebags.

We looked to the ‘original’ Stratford to guide our creative work – to it’s history and people. Our graphic approach was inspired by the grid-like aesthetic of Stratford’s Victorian shop fronts, where advertising and information were stacked above the crammed windows creating a riot of visual information. We also spent time with the poetry group in Stratford Library talking and listening to locals which helped define our written language approach. We then got stuck into the print – letterpress printing original Victorian advertising woodblocks. Alongside the tactile printed elements, we developed bright and crisp geometric patterns, delivering a communications approach that is contemporary, engaging and optimistic.

Working closely with Stratford locals we developed three key projects that knitted together. A ‘breadcrumb’ trail of temporary, on-street signage that helps to guide pedestrian traffic from the station into the busy High Street, Broadway and Theatre Square. Keeping wayfinding activity at a human scale in a landscape as urban and rapidly rising as Stratford.

As part of the borough’s two-year commitment to public realm improvements we have recently completed (so recent the scaffold’s not down!) a series of façade treatments on Stratford’s Broadway. These interventions are designed to create focal points of interest and operate as highlighters for the shops below, bringing a sense of worth to the area. We collaborated with Corin Kennington and his team to hand paint all the elements so as to echo the historical traces of the concept – this attention to detail and physical craftsmanship invests the project with deeper meaning and value, and created a sense of theatre.

There is more to come that will add further layers in exploring the area: cultural trails, colourful crossings and other public realm improvements.

“The public realm enhancements for Stratford Town Centre, designed by Thomas.Matthews, have had a very positive impact on the local businesses and community spirit. The area is diverse and rich with history, and TM’s research and understanding of the value of this has directly influenced their design outcomes in a way that has created inclusive and sensitive design interventions. A key section of the Broadway has been lifted and brightened by large-scale, hand painted, artworks spanning over 55 metres, and this is supported by practical and attractive breadcrumb signage and around the High Street and local area. Through these interventions, and other supporting collateral, local workers, residents and visitors public are encouraged to look up, explore and take in the surroundings, and make the most of their unique local amenities with the overall aim of enhancing their experience and connection to Stratford.  
Gianluca RizzoStratford Original Manager

Mural Painting: Corin Kennington
Breadcrumb trail installation: LTD LTD
Photography: Dashti Jahfar / Peter Clarkson