Kingston University students pitch urban design concepts ‘Dragon’s Den style

A group of third-year geography students recently impressed judges from Kingstonfirst and John Lewis when they took part in a ‘Dragon’s Den’ style pitch on Monday 23 March, presenting their designs for improving access from the Thames river to the town centre.

The pitch was the final stage of the Urban Geographies module that saw Kingstonfirst acting as a client seeking designs for a new river gateway into Kingston upon Thames.

The winning concept was a sustainable living garden and riverside café within John Lewis’ river-facing store.  Called ‘aquaponics’ it would rely on the self-sufficient use of fish farming and plant growth to create green walls and flora. The garden would also supply fish to the café, as well as the town’s ancient market and local restaurants. The five winning team members each received John Lewis vouchers for their idea.

The runner-up spot was taken by an idea that focused on pop-up shops and an art gallery and won its four team members Bentalls vouchers.

Kat Downing, a geography student and member of the winning team, said: “We were taken out of the classroom and given a real work scenario to reinforce our classroom learning. We have gained valuable skills from the project – from presenting to a group of professional people, to thinking about how to consider community stakeholders in redevelopment projects in order to create inclusive communities.”

Dr Peter Garside, associate professor in the School of Geography, said: “Since starting this type of real world teaching more than eight years ago, we have contributed a great deal to the design of Kingston’s Town Centre. The standard this year was by far and away the highest I have seen – the students really engaged with every aspect of the challenge and it was virtually impossible to pick a winner – I am proud of them all.

“My thanks go to the students and to everyone who contributed to this process, including Kingstonfirst, John Lewis, Royal Borough of Kingston Council, Metropolitan Police Service, Kingston Racial Equality Council, Canadian and Portland, and Howarth Tompkins.”

The judging panel included Faye Stevenson, Property Portfolio Manager, John Lewis; Andy Collins, Operations Manager, John Lewis Kingston; and Robin Hibbert, Head of Place Management, Kingstonfirst.

Andy Collins, operations manager, John Lewis Kingston, said: “I was impressed with the creativity and innovation on show. The standards displayed by the students were really very high – particularly the creative solutions they came up with and their presentations. John Lewis is delighted to be associated with this project.”

Ros Morgan, chief executive, Kingstonfirst, said: “We are delighted to work with Kingston University on what has become one of our annual highlights as it produces incredibly refreshing ideas. The students take a ‘no holds barred’ approach and offer invaluable insight – presenting creative and innovative concepts – they are a massive asset to our town. We look forward to continuing working in partnership with the University for the benefit of Kingston’s Town Centre, its residents and visitors.”

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