Tag Archives: infrastructure

City-making and Sadiq

 

 

Writing for Make, New London Architecture chairman Peter Murray gives us his view on how London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, might deliver the “good growth” he has promised.

 

Make partner Jason Parker recently gave a talk in the City of London’s Guildhall about development in the Square Mile and why its cluster of tall buildings is the way it is. He talked about the protected view corridors of St Paul’s Cathedral, the restrictions on building heights, the conservation areas and the composition of the towers – the maximum height of which is defined by the requirements of the Civil Aviation Authority and flight paths rather than urban planners.

How will Sadiq Khan set about shaping the capital as he sits down to write new his plan?

The London Jason described is one shaped by pragmatism – a system of creating pieces of city that come about as a result of argument, enquiry, and a response to geographical, commercial and electoral pressures, rather than from a grand vision of a desirable city. In light of the growing debate about tall buildings and density in London, how will Sadiq Khan set about shaping the capital as he sits down to write new his plan?

The mayor has said that he supports the idea of London accommodating as much of its economic growth as possible, and at the same time he wants to do that without impinging on the Green Belt. Thus he will need to intensify development across the city, particularly in locations with good transport capacity. This means higher-density development and, in some cases, additional taller buildings.

In the current London Plan, large-scale development is proposed to take place in Opportunity Areas. Some of these come under a single development entity, like King’s Cross and Earls Court. Others have multiple ownership, like Nine Elms and South Quay on the Isle of Dogs. The two mayoral development corporations, for the Olympic Legacy and Old Oak Common, create masterplans with developers delivering individual sites.

As of March 2015. Opportunity Areas are London’s major source of brownfield land with development potential (eg commercial or residential) and varying levels of public transport access. Typically they can accommodate at least 5,000 jobs and 2,500 new homes, along with other supporting facilities and infrastructure. Image courtesy Mayor of London website.

King’s Cross is a good example of how masterplanning can work. The developers and their consultants produced a clear layout for the site, retaining areas of key heritage and providing locations and size of buildings with a mix of uses around the site. The plan was flexible enough to change as the economic situation changed; based on a series of sound rules, it retained a level of coherence in scale and detail. The architects of individual buildings were given freedom in developing their own palette of materials in order to create variety and interest.

By contrast, South Quay, not far from Canary Wharf on the DLR, is in multiple ownership. Each landowner jockeys for taller and taller buildings, with guidance arriving late in the day from the authorities when it seemed that the density of the area could exceed even that of Central Hong Kong. Although a masterplan has now been developed, it gives no hint as to the overall form, the townscape, of this key part of the capital.

Next door at Canary Wharf, today’s development is still recognisable in drawings made as far back as 1984. The architecture has changed over time, but the shape of the development is pretty much as planned.

In addition to Opportunity Areas, the mayor will look to develop more public land, particularly some of the 5,700 acres owned by Transport for London. Since many of the sites will be around and above stations, one can expect to see denser developments taking place in town centres across the capital. One can expect plenty of debate about whether this means more clusters of towers or lower-rise but denser developments.

How do other cities do it? Vancouver’s towers are more consistent in height and less clustered than London’s, although the location of tall buildings is similarly determined by views, in this instance of the natural landscape and geography that surround the coastal city. The strategy of creating “intense, dense neighbourhoods with short commutes” was developed by city planner Larry Beasley and dubbed Vancouverism – a key element of which is the podium block, providing an animated street scene with mixed use, green space and family homes at the base and smaller apartments in the towers.

In 1977 Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, then president of France, upset by the impact of the 210m-high Montparnasse Tower, introduced a law that banned any buildings over 10 storeys high in the centre of Paris, which has over the years become increasingly museum-like, with low economic growth. In response, mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo has adopted a policy of permitting taller buildings in select locations within the central area, the first being the 180m Tour Triangle by Herzog & de Meuron. The Central Sydney Planning Strategy, meanwhile, has come up with an envelope of maximum heights created to protect the views and light of parks and places.

With the extreme pressures that London is facing to accommodate growth within a limited footprint, Khan needs to shift away from the current reactive and regulatory planning system to one that is more proactive, positive and creative if he is to provide the “good growth” he is promising in his planning consultation document A City for All Londoners. A proactive plan will give a better idea of the 3D shape of the future city than the current 2D local plans, which leave it to developers to fill in the gaps.

London’s population has grown every year since 1988, and in the last five years has grown much faster than anticipated in the 2011 London Plan. The population projections of the 2016 plan show London growing from 8.2 million in 2011 to 10.1 million in 2036. Image courtesy Mayor of London website.

Providing a clearer idea of the shape of the future city will give greater certainty to developers and communities alike; it will reassure local people about what is going up in their backyard, reduce land speculation and make development less of a gamble. The London Plan sets out where development happens and what density it might be, but gives little thought to what it is going to look like or what form it might take.

As the mayor writes his own version of the London Plan, he has the opportunity to not just say what the London of the future will contain, how many people it can accommodate and what sort of jobs they will do, but also give us an idea of what it is actually going to be like.

 

Peter Murray is the chairman of New London Architecture and The London Society, and president of the creative agency Wordsearch. A trained architect, he founded Blueprint Magazine and the London Festival of Architecture.

Article extracted from Make Annual 13.

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The future of architecture – David Patterson

We asked ten architects – each of whom joined Make in a different year since 2004 – to write about how they see architecture and the built environment changing over the next ten years. Here is the second instalment.

 

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David Patterson
Make Partner since 2005

By 2024 the population of London will have increased to an unprecedented level. While this is representative of London’s success globally, it also places significant pressure on the city’s already overstrained infrastructure – in particular our streets, which have lost their sense of purpose. Over the next ten years we will need to fundamentally rethink how our streets are used.

London is world-famous for its green parks and squares, which make a significant contribution to the unique qualities of the urban environment. Unfortunately the same cannot be said of the city’s streets. Clogged with traffic, they are hostile to pedestrians and cyclists. This has not always been the case; in the recent past our streets had a real sense of purpose – they were destinations in themselves, places to go to rather than go through. They were elaborately balanced in order to meet a variety of different needs. Today they have lost that sense of purpose – the balance is firmly in favour of the car, above all else. Our streets provide a significant opportunity to improve the quality of life of the people who use them; they should be an integral part of our built environment rather than a separate entity.

We urgently need to rediscover our streets’ sense of purpose, in order for them to become destinations rather than routes to other destinations. I see our role as architects becoming more significant in creating streets which address this. If we are to successfully meet the needs of our increasing population, this transformation will become critical over the next decade.

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Safer streets for all

In just one two-week period late last year, six people lost their lives while cycling through London’s streets. In addition to the inevitable questions about safety and the calls for quick, preventative action, there is also a need to ask how we plan to support moves towards more sustainable transport options in the long term.

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The networks that connect communities underpin the work that we, as architects, do to create buildings, streets and spaces that are fit for tomorrow. People should feel as if they can move through a city with ease and comfort and an holistic approach to infrastructure planning is needed to bring this ambition to life.

Through good design we can remove the need for vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians to jostle for position on our roads and make getting from A to B much less challenging that it often is now. After decades spent accommodating more and more motor vehicles, we’re now returning to a time of putting people first.

London’s complex mix of the old and the new gives us the ideal opportunity to achieve this. High streets that have been redesigned to force cars to move more slowly and allow pedestrians to move around safely attract shoppers and visitors and create places for people to meet. Oxford Circus, for example, has been transformed through the removal of clutter from the pavements and by introducing clear routes and crossings for people.

Regeneration schemes, such as the Heygate Estate at Elephant & Castle, promise wider reaching benefits. The scheme aims to reconnect communities that have suffered because of past errors which left them isolated from their surroundings, and shift the balance away from a dependence on vehicles. Instead, the focus is on the benefits that can be derived from having easy access to an integrated public transport network and open spaces that encourage social interaction. Walking and cycling are promoted through the provision of appropriate facilities and safe, family-friendly cycling lanes.

There are no easy answers to the challenges we face as we move towards more sustainable transport options and the infrastructure needed to support them. And of course, we’ll only find solutions if we work with local communities to understand the issues. However, I believe the one area that requires consistency is our collective commitment to high quality design. This is something that Sir Terry Farrell is looking into as part of his review of architecture and the built environment in England. His findings are expected shortly and I would welcome any recommendations that help us break down barriers in communities and connect people quickly, safely and sustainably.

Originally posted on Ken Shuttleworth's Building magazine column.

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Images: Rebecca Morrison and David Hunter
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Electricity Pylon Competition

The Royal Institute of British Architects on behalf of the Department of Energy and Climate Change and National Grid set the challenge: design a pylon that has the potential to deliver for future generations, whilst balancing the needs of local communities and preserving the beauty of the countryside.

There are more than 88,000 pylons in the UK but the familiar steel lattice tower has barely changed since the 1920s. So the competition called for designs for a new generation of pylon.

Taking inspiration from the spaces between pylons, we created a series of beautiful, ornate structures which offer an elegant, attractive alternative to conventional pylon design. Influenced by gentle flowing forms such as spiders’ webs, ribbons or Celtic calligraphy, our simple design is sturdy and functional while appearing delicate and fragile.

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