“Doctor Who” made London’s police boxes famous. Can this redesign make


Throughout the U.Ok., police stations have been closing as a result of finances cuts. It’s no totally different in London, as stations are being consolidated right into a extra centralized power. However with fewer stations, the place can the general public discover a police officer once they need to?

To reply this query, the Metropolis of London Police is bringing again an previous thought: the police field. After internet hosting an open competition, inviting architects to submit new designs for the field, it has simply topped a winner. The London structure studio Unknown Works led the design of the London Stones, a imaginative and prescient for a tiny police workplace and neighborhood middle in a single, clad in pure rock as a fixture meant to final 200 years.

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[Photo: Flickr user shining.darkness]

“They needed to reinvent the police field for the twenty first century,” says Theo Video games Petrohilos, a founding director at Unknown Works. “Most individuals exterior the U.Ok. know the police field by Physician Who. . . . This can be a reinvention of that for the twenty first century, however paired with a totally new means of engagement with town police.”

Certainly, the blue police field is an icon acknowledged world wide. First constructed within the Nineteen Twenties, these boxes had been primarily phone cubicles that permit residents or road police report crimes. Their very design was closed off with panels relatively than home windows, like a secret room sitting proper on the road. (No surprise Physician Who ran with this thought and imagined a time-traveling spaceship contained in the blue field.) As cellphones have made telephones out of date, police boxes throughout the U.Ok. have since been eliminated. These nonetheless standing are there for the heritage of town, not for his or her operate.


Whereas it’s a design icon, the classic police field additionally encapsulates a now-criticized view of policing. It’s an emergency system that means we require officers to be a militaristic power to answer crime and enact justice, relatively than to function a primary, empathetic contact level to a broader suite of social providers. (Although you would possibly nonetheless ask whether or not police ought to be a primary neighborhood contact level in any respect.)

“A part of the design temporary was to create these small outposts, to get the Bobby on the beat,” says Petrohilos. “[They want] police strolling round participating communities.”

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[Image: courtesy Unknown Works]

The design of London Stones is the antithesis of the traditional police field. Despite the fact that it’s designed to seem like an enormous rock, its home windows and partitions open as an alternative of being caught closed, so it’s meant to be a spot the place the neighborhood feels free to assemble, relatively than dash to in an emergency. The brand new design has roughly two and a half instances the footprint of the unique field.

When in use by an officer, the rock opens up. Its steel-framed panels fold out to disclose one thing that appears much more like a bus cease than a police station, full with shared seating for the general public to chitchat even once they’re not particularly reporting a criminal offense. Guests needn’t even interact with an officer in the event that they don’t need to; touchscreens invite residents and vacationers alike to search out metropolis data (this UX is being designed by Seymourpowell, identified for designing the Virgin Galactic spaceship cabin).

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Undated picture of a London police constable and the London Stone [Photo: Flickr user Leonard Bentley]

When it’s not in use, London Stones sits like an enormous boulder, full with a face of pure stone (impressed by the London Stone, a mysterious wayfinding artifact of town). The pure floor just isn’t meant to be energy washed, however is designed to harbor lichen—to make it actually a part of the London ecosystem, embracing nature at its core and alluring native scientists to pattern it and observe biodiversity. In the meantime, at evening you would possibly discover its colourful floor projections, designed to host items from native artists.

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The London Stone, circa 2020 [Photo: /Wiki Commons]

“When it’s closed, it doesn’t really feel closed,” Petrohilos says. “That was a key for us. You’re used to seeing [rooms] caught on the road that look closed and unused.” As a substitute, he says these buildings ought to all the time “hum with vitality.”


London’s police power has been doing public outreach with advert hoc tents arrange on the road. London Stones takes that concept and makes it everlasting, so somebody all the time is aware of the place they will go to achieve an officer. Other than all that, nevertheless, London Stones serves as an workplace for a police officer. (Sure, it may be completely closed off if an officer must do heads-down work. In idea, such privateness might enable somebody to report a criminal offense barely extra anonymously, too.)

“One thing attention-grabbing we heard after we had been speaking to numerous policemen: Should you’re out on a beat at evening, you don’t have an workplace,” Petrohilos says. “But it surely turns into a pleasant place to FaceTime your child earlier than mattress.”

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[Image: courtesy Unknown Works]

Past its day-to-day use, the London Stones would additionally present area to retailer gadgets the neighborhood would possibly want in an emergency, like a defibrillator, fireplace extinguishing tools, and police tape. In idea, a few of these emergency gadgets could be accessible to the general public, even with out the presence of a police officer. It’s all a part of the imaginative and prescient for the London Stones, that these could be “shared territory” between the general public and police, relatively than a mere beacon of authority.

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[Image: courtesy Unknown Works]

So what’s subsequent for the mission? Reality be instructed, whereas Unknown Works gained the competitors, it nonetheless hasn’t acquired direct suggestions on its closing design from town or its police division. The subsequent step, nevertheless, could be to include their particular suggestions and work towards constructing a prototype to check.

“It’s the character of architectural competitions,” says Ben Hayes, founding director of Unknown Works. “You enter blind with a fundamental temporary. The engagement [with the client] comes after.”