A tale of "two streets" : changing land-uses and media contexts on Oxford Street, 1970 and 2019 compared

Bakeshloo, Afshar and Griffiths, Sam; (2022) A tale of "two streets" : changing land-uses and media contexts on Oxford Street, 1970 and 2019 compared. In: Annual Conference Proceedings of the XXVIII International Seminar on Urban Form. University of Strathclyde Publishing, Glasgow, pp. 146-153. ISBN 9781914241161

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One of the indications of social change in a city is the shift in the character of its central shopping street, particularly the dominant pattern of land-use. This paper focuses on the shifts in the function of Oxford Street, during the historical transition of London from a late-twentieth-century 'modern' city, to a twenty-first-century 'digital' city, in order to better understand the broader socio-economic and media contexts of this change. The research presented contrasts the mapped land-use profiles of Oxford Street in 1970 and 2019 at the building scale to identify shifts in the socio-economic and cultural image of this street. It examines the land-use data of the street at three levels of analysis: 1) Group level (nine general types), 2) Category level (52 category types), 3) Class level (over 600 detailed types). Statistical exploration of these three levels enables the research to highlight precisely how Oxford Street functioned as a centre of retail and arbiter of cultural taste in these two eras and the balance of change and continuity over the intervening period. In particular, the research shows how mapped land-use data can help to inform our understanding of the spatial outcome of changes in the broader cultural and media environment, particularly those associated with the rise of social media since the 2010s. This shift, it is argued, affects how Oxford Street space is perceived by citizens as a social space. In seeking to understand it, we can reflect on how the past of Oxford Street can help us to understand its future.

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