London must build outwards or upwards

But we are too scared to do either

kosmograd
kosmograd
Mar 10, 2014 · 9 min read

Scared of heights.

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Ronan Point
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Fear of sprawl.

If London doesn’t want to build upwards, it is unable to build outwards. The poor may be pushed further and further out, but there is only so far you can go. This isn’t due to a lack of space, after all, according to this research, there’s more space given to golf courses than housing in England. It’s because London is constricted by a legislative tourniquet.

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The Green Belt is a 70-year old idea

London expansion zones

The expansion of London is not a unique problem, it is something that many cities have looked to address, though usually with more foresight. London’s overcrowding problem is one that planners should have started to tackle 15 years ago. But it requires addressing an uncomfortable truth — we will need to concrete over some countryside. Both Paris and Moscow have announced plans for large expansion zones. The Grand Paris proposal announced in 2007 by President Sarkozy sought new visions from 10 leading architectural and urban thinkers to help guide the growth of Paris over the next 20-30 years. The plans unveiled in 2009 from architects including French architects Jean Nouvel and Christian de Portzamparc as well as overseas firms including Richard Rogers’ RSH+P and MVRDV, include a number of smaller scale urban ‘interventions’ as well as wider reaching ‘visions’. However, these ideas were largely ignored by Sarkozy, who instead unveiled plans for 10 new urban cluster ‘poles’ around Paris, an increase in house building to 70,000 home as year, and a new high-speed rail network to link up the new urban ‘poles’. As much political manoeuvring as metropolitan vision, the Grand Paris scheme is now locked in a byzantine French municipal administrative tangle. By contrast the Moscow Expansion plans are devastatingly simple, with an extensive area to south west of the existing city now zoned to be part of the metropolitan area. It’s a move that effectively doubles the size of Moscow and could allow it to double in population to 22 million people over the next 20-30 years. The first urban master planning proposal announced for this new region of greater Moscow is the winning entry of an international competition, by Capital Cities Planning Group. The proposal, called the ‘City in the Forest’, emphasises the preservation and enhancement of green space, and provides housing for 1.7 million people, with the creation of over 800,000 jobs, including a new federal district. This in turn would relieve much of the traffic congestion in the historic centre of Moscow which could then be redeveloped to be more pedestrian friendly and more reflective of its UNESCO World Heritage site status. Does London have the ambition to move forwards on such a scale, and with a guiding vision? I believe it is inevitable that London will eventually expand eastwards, to create a zone of continuous urbanism along the north Thames bank across Essex as far as Southend, and along the south Bank in Kent as far as the Isle of Sheppey, or beyond. But plans that had been drawn up for such a project, called the London Gateway, were shelved by the Conservative government, and no there is no coherent strategy in place for the eastwards expansion of London. The London Gateway Parklands master plan put forward by Terry Farrell back in 2008 remain the only articulated plan for eastwards development of London. Farrell was nobody’s fool, he realised that the only way to win support for the urban expansion of London was to focus on the provision and preservation of greenery — parkland, wetlands, woodlands, that exist along the Thames Estuary. In many ways Farrell’s proposal harked back to the Garden City movement, promising that the ‘magnets’ of the town and country can be united.

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London Gateway Parklands masterplan

Augmented landscapes

Infrastructure networks, city visions, urban/rural futures.

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