Three capital ideas for London 2050
The developing city exhibition designs sustainable future concepts out of past traditions
Overcrowded and stressful: that’s the everyday experience of the capital for some Londoners. And looking ahead, things could get worse. London’s population is forecast to grow from its current 7.8 million to more than 9 million within eight years. Employment levels in the City are forecast to rise by 17 percent from 373,000 to 435,000 within two decades. Old infrastructure is under pressure while new services like the forthcoming Crossrail are changing the capital dramatically. Global economic instability is having both negative and positive impacts on the dynamics of the City and the broader capital.
Three visions of London in 2050 present a picture of how the City could adapt and thrive through such challenges. They are featured in a new exhibition, The developing city, at The Walbrook Building in London, which also showcases 40 scale models of recent and proposed developments in the City. For the 2050 visions, show curator Peter Murray, chairman of London architecture centre NLA, set three teams the challenge of responding to a number of diverse drivers for change including governance, climate change and banking regulation.
Murray says that the visions’ optimism is drawn from the capital’s past: “Over centuries the Square Mile has changed from a busy port to the financial capital of the world; it has been destroyed and rebuilt; redundant buildings have been replaced and new ways of working accommodated. It continually reinvents itself and will continue to do so.”
Which vision has got it right? Read and judge.
The only global City
This vision could strike a chord with London mayor Boris Johnson. Not only does it put a strong emphasis on commerce, it also foresees an airport in the Thames Estuary, albeit with terminals in the City.
It presents the capital as a new global free trade zone with a series of exchanges for high-tech media and life sciences, as well as a subterranean transport and utility network. There is an extended cultural and residential community in the Barbican, where resident numbers are increased to 30,000 through the development of more high rise apartments.
The City is no longer a place for the car, freeing land for the creation of new public open space in the form of a series of linear parks providing an inner city greenbelt. The old River Fleet is restored to create a park running from the Thames to Hampstead, connecting five regenerated districts. New infrastructure includes Crossrail lines linking Liverpool Street with London Bridge and Moorgate with Waterloo.
Ian Mulcahey, managing director at Gensler London says, “Not only will the predicted improvements and modernisation of transport systems and infrastructure facilitate wider changes in business, it will also lead to the creation of new public and cultural spaces, further enhancing the experience of locals and visitors for generations to come.”
Design team: Gensler with Eric Parry Architects, Happold Consulting, Buro Happold, London School of Economics, Royal College of Art, Siemens and RWDI.
The de-carbonised City
Science is applied to this vision, as John Robertson Architects' design concepts are based on Arup’s drivers of change methodology, which helps identify factors that will affect tomorrow’s world.
From that methodology, sustainability emerges as a prominent feature of this vision, alongside new ways of working. The City core is de-carbonised with pedestrianised streets, while a river eco-park with cycle and pedestrian bridges is added to allow for more sustainable living and travel.
The City’s workforce is less tied to offices and desks and so 50 percent more workers can be accommodated in 25 percent less space. Aldgate becomes a new financial centre with a cluster of low and zero carbon buildings, incorporating such features as green roofs, photovoltaics and photobioreactive facades and low carbon concrete. An elevated park provides a biodiverse natural habitat and reduces the environmental impact of the new development.
The City grows up
The clue to this vision is in the name. The City needs around 12 million sq ft of new office space in the next 15 years to keep pace with future employment growth so the only solution is to build high.
Policy dictates that most of that space will be in the east of the City, where green areas are already in short supply. But building tall and sustainable placemaking are not incompatible in this vision, as public realm in the east of the City is more than doubled. In this vision of the 2050 City the office buildings are narrow (allowing greater daylight penetration at street level), have low energy all-glazed facades and green roofs. Building’s energy demands and heat gains are reduced through the use of cloud computing, while a new district cooling network uses water from the River Thames to remove surplus heat from offices. Electricity is provided by a decarbonised smart grid or by localised combined heat and power.
The issue of what to do with the City’s waste is also taken into account in this vision. Food and kitchen waste is either composted for use in the green areas or for used anaerobic digestion to create biogas. Remaining waste is pyrolised or incinerated within the greater London area to recover chemical energy from the materials.
Design team: Woods Bagot with Brookfield, Hilson Moran and Cornwell