Greenwich’s Peninsula Square: From ‘vibrant space’ to holding pen
“Equivalent in size to Leicester Square, Peninsula Square is designed to be a new leisure destination for Londoners and tourists alike. Geysers set in the square will bubble and mist and then create plumes up to 10 metres high, with vibrant lighting accentuating the square’s exciting architecture by day and by night. There will be cafes, restaurants and shops as well as a venue for special events.” – World Architecture News
Five years on…
Peninsula Square, outside the O2, before a recent show (Beyonce on 29 April, since you ask). Not exactly buzzing. The strange lump in the middle is a chunk of the Kreod exhibition – which was supposed to go on tour last year – repurposed as an advertising hoarding.
One of the most perplexing aspects of the strange developments on the peninsula is the fate of Peninsula Square. Before the Dome reopened as the O2 five years ago next week, we were promised it’d be a new entertainment hub – something to draw people in from far and wide.
“There will be cafes, restaurants and shops and a venue for special events and performances around the Square, making it a buzzing, exciting place to visit.” – architects Barr Gazetas
To be fair, it took a couple of years and the arrival of Ravensbourne for the square to show any signs of life. And the development around the Dome is a long way from being completed. But those promises seem a long, long way off at the moment.
Yes, it’s somewhere people pass through on their way to the O2, or to Ravensbourne, Tesco or the TfL offices – but that’s all Peninsula Square is. I can only think of a handful of occasions when the square itself has been a destination – when fans flocked there after Michael Jackson’s death in summer 2009; and during the Olympics, when entertainment was put on in the square. But don’t expect many spontaneous happenings – this is all private property with eager security guards.
Save for the odd crummy food stall, or fairground ride, that’s been about it. The big screen is wasted on advertisements, the little platform beneath it empty, the wide open space in front unused. No entertainment, nothing to see, do, or buy. It’d be a great market place, or venue for street entertainers.
Instead, it seems to have become a glorified holding pen for O2 arena customers – seen above queueing after The Who on Saturday night. Crowd control measures seem to have got tighter after the Olympics, and we’re unlikely to see this change unless people have reasons to linger after shows (and they can be confident there’s transport to take them home) – but the poor offer inside the O2 doesn’t really provide that, and there’s not a lot outside either.
There’s still plenty of development yet to take place around the square, but this is private property – it’s not in landowner AEG’s interests to have people lingering outside the O2 rather than going inside and spending money on it. And we know from AEG’s support of the Silvertown Tunnel that it really isn’t bothered about the community around its venue. Unless this situation changes, it feels like Peninsula Square is shaping up to be yet another dud by the Dome.
(Speaking of the peninsula, next Tuesday’s Greenwich Council planning board will consider plans for the socially-cleansed Peninsula Quays development at the top of Tunnel Avenue, a plan to build a gym in unused retail space at the mostly-empty 6 Mitre Passage building, and alterations to the 21-storey hotel and 23-storey flats due to go up just west of the Dome.)
Wednesday update: Maybe some change is on its way – as mentioned in the comments, planning application is in for “marketing suites” as well as shops, restaurants/cafes and offices where the “green wall” is now.