Camille Walala reimagines Oxford Street: pedestrianised, plant-filled and people-focused


Full of colourful, bold architectural structures and 3D surfaces, the images present a vision of an urban thoroughfare that exists for more than practical purposes, inviting numerous forms of interaction. It’s a place for gathering and meeting, resting and rambling – evoking the multiple community functions of the agora, or public square, in ancient Greece. Walala imagines the space as somewhere the natural and the human-made can coexist and complement each other, weaving water and verdant plant life into her speculative streetscape.

This new Oxford Street is unpredictable and eccentric, full of unexpected nooks and hidden crannies, dotted with architectural islands where 3D shapes and 2D surfaces intersect at different scales, volumes segueing into surfaces – not unlike the way in which the physical and digital dimensions of modern life merge into one another.

A freely available AR app allows viewers to experience the images from their smartphones. The buildings and streets of Oxford Street are shown in a three dimensional view, with a scaling option allowing people to see the series in different sizes through their screen set against the backdrop of their own home.

As a project conceived and delivered in lockdown, the Oxford Street series comes at a time when mental health is also an important strand in the national discourse. With many people suffering, struggling and under unprecedented pressure, Camille argues that now is the time to think seriously about how we want to live in future, and to discuss how our urban environments can contribute to – or detract from – our own happiness.

The pedestrianisation of Oxford Street is, of course, a hot topic in city-planning circles and plans have gone back and forth for years. Camille Walala’s contribution to the debate serves as a reminder that the imaginations of artists should be taken seriously when it comes to planning urban landscapes and discussing how we live and work.