Silicon Roundabout is one of contemporary London’s great success stories. This East London intersection has been one of Europe’s primary start-up germinators since the 1990s, and Google, Facebook, and Amazon’s U.K. offices are all nearby. By night, the sidewalks overflow with crowds en route to new restaurants, bars, and clubs in the neighborhood. This transformation is remarkable given the area’s primary reputation as a godforsaken traffic junction just 20 years ago. But, as a plan approved this week to give the intersection a major overhaul reveals: prestigious or not, Silicon Roundabout is still a massive dump.
If you don’t believe me, then look at the place on Street View. The buildings are largely hideous and they’re all mismatched, even if there is some decent public housing in the back streets. Traffic roars around the roundabout constantly, and the junction is notorious for traffic accidents, 80 percent of which involve pedestrians and cyclists. As for actual attractions, the only places to eat around the intersection itself are two kebab shops that are—whisper it—not really very good. Most cities have banal spots like this, but this is now one of London’s focal points, a 21st-century Piccadilly Circus. That such a place is now considered aspirational to live near says more about London’s insane property market than contemporary aesthetics.