The Language of Cities

The Design Museum’s Deyan Sudjic dissects what’s really going on beneath the bricks and mortar of every major global metropolis

Bucminster Fuller dreamt of building a vast dome over Manhattan

Following on from The Language of Things, Deyan Sudjic’s The Language of Cities decodes the underlying forces that shape the urban spaces around us. From their buildings to their names, Sudjic asks why being a Londoner, New Yorker or Muscovite can offer a sense of identity greater than any other. And what better place to ask such questions than at Second Home in the heart of London’s ever changing East End…


Rohan Silva, co-founder of Second Home: In The Language of Cities you talk about the challenge of defining a city, and also how to create a city. Just talk to us a bit about this tension, perhaps, between top-down planning, and the bottom-up emergence of cities, how does that tension play out?
 
Deyan Sudjic, Director of the Design Museum: You could start with thinking about ‘what is London?’. Is London the Greater London Authority? Is it Bournemouth to Ipswich, which you could say is a big part of it? Is it people who sound like Londoners?

If you look at property prices, you could argue that London actually encompasses more like 20 million people in that wider catchment area.

People who work and move or where property prices are affected by London, yes, it’s a huge, endless area. So given that endlessness, what actually makes cohesion in that? Is it a mayor? Well, the mayor’s authority actually stops at the boundary of the GLA. Is it people who feel part of the same thing? London is an identity which has strength which might even be stronger than Englishness at the moment. London has certainly existed longer than England has, and it seems to be a more welcoming identity — an urban identity is rather different from a national identity. You can choose to be a Londoner. It’s a lot harder these days to choose to be English.

“You can choose to be a Londoner. It’s a lot harder these days to choose to be English.”

How strong do you think the relationship is between the built environment and the specific design of a city and a culture that builds up?

I was always struck by a writer from 19th century who suggest that a city is not a work of art because it’s never finished. So it can’t be a series of exquisite buildings which stay as a permanent view. So if you compare London with central Paris, central Paris was rebuilt by Napoleon III and Haussmann — actually they got the idea from Regent’s Park and went back to Paris and rebuilt it — but there is this image of Paris as being the most perfect European city of density and boulevards and being finished, whereas London actually is not finished, which is a rather more appealing idea to me.

How do you actually make that happen? Who shapes London and who controls London? Nobody voted for London to become a high-rise city, which it has done in the last 15 years. It happened for a number of complicated reasons, partly it was that Mrs Thatcher abolished the Greater London Council, so for 15 years there was no centralised authority, and during that period Canary Wharf suddenly erupted completely by accident.

“Who shapes London and who controls London? Nobody voted for London to become a high-rise city, which it has done in the last 15 years. It happened for a number of complicated reasons, partly it was that Mrs Thatcher abolished the Greater London Council. During that period Canary Wharf suddenly erupted completely by accident.”

Canary Wharf was meant to be a place in which, once the docks closed, was desperate to attract investment of any kind. It was a tax-free zone, planning permissions were granted very readily, the idea was that would actually encourage light industrial sheds to take place.

There was a day when the chairman of the Credit Suisse First Boston bank was taken down to Canary Wharf by one of his clients — it happened to be the Roux brothers — who wanted to build a warehouse for their restaurant business. They thought they could do it cheaply. And this guy was pretty shrewd because he said, ‘Well these regulations could also be used to build high-rise offices. Why don’t we do that?’.

Out of nowhere, Canary Wharf erupted

So without anybody expecting it, without a transport system being in place, suddenly Canary Wharf erupted. That had the effect of the City of London, who are pretty smart and have been around for 2,000 years, are not going to see themselves taken for a ride by provincials, said, ‘Right, we’re going to change our rules about what you can do in the City square mile’. Having been a protected enclave of construction, suddenly it’s a free fire zone. That’s why [you] look at London and you see the Walkie-Talkie, that’s why you see the cheese grater, it’s also why you see whole areas along the river erupting with residential properties.

We are now in a situation in which local government depends on the investment for shared services coming from the property companies who build these things. So another 10 stories and you might get a playground, another 20 stories on 10 buildings and you actually might get an extension to the Northern Line, which is what’s going on in Battersea.

“We are now in a situation in which local government depends on the investment for shared services coming from the property companies who build these things. So another 10 stories and you might get a playground, another 20 stories on 10 buildings and you actually might get an extension to the Northern Line.”

A lot of that would seem to go against what Jane Jacobs would set out as a kind of model of a good environment — human scale, diverse, different uses, not just sort of monocultural flats and offices, but everything in between, restaurants and bookshops. How relevant do you think her ideas are?

Jane Jacobs was a fantastic force, because she actually had the power in the ’60s and ’70s to challenge Robert Moses. He was the man who rebuilt Manhattan, for forty decades never ran for elected office, and he was the man who wanted to drive freeways through Greenwich Village, he created the Lincoln Center, he got the United Nations building to New York, he was a man of big plans in which small people didn’t count.

Jane Jacobs
“Jane Jacobs was the person who led the revolt to say that cities are not created by people uptown, but they actually also depend on what’s in the street.”

Jane Jacobs, that woman who stopped him, he was at the end of his career anyway, but she was the person who led the revolt to say that cities are not created by people uptown, but they actually also depend on what’s in the street. I suppose maybe the sadness is that her view of the city — in London at least — has been eclipsed by what’s happened to us in the last 20 years.

We don’t see Jane Jacobs’ city; you see lip service paid to her. So it’s fascinating in New York, the World Financial Center, the blocks at the bottom of Manhattan Island were once called — in that very American way — one World Trade Center, two World Trade Center. They’re now called street addresses because they’re now owned by another property who realise that our view of cities has been shifted. So there’s now a cosmetic relief that if you change the address in tribute to her view of streets and street addresses, you can achieve something, but of course you can’t.

Jane Jacobs fought to protect Greenwich Village, which she loved in New York, and what’s really interesting is that she was seen as sort of anti-progress at the time, protecting these cobbled streets, and if you look at property prices, actually that seems to be where people really want to live — like the Marais in Paris. Do you think that view’s going to catch on?

Another thing about her was her book was called The Life and Death of Great American Cities, and she wrote at a time when America and Britain were terrified of the idea of the slum. There was a sense that urban tissue was so fragile that the least bit of infection could turn it into a rotting, suppurating horror that the middle classes would be horrified by what would happen to them. In America, of course, it was driven by redlining and racial discrimination of the Donald Trump type, in Britain there were similar things going on, but it was that sense that the slum was always with us and below the surface.

Maybe the idea of the slum has shifted since then and going out of Europe completely in some of the new writing that urbanism has been looking: Latin America, India and Africa, and trying to understand that the slum, which were once seen as terrible things to be wiped out, actually have in them things which are important and interesting. In the same way as the 19th century, people looked at American and European cities with that same sense of the slum being something terrible, something to turn your back on. I think our generation has begun to understand it in a different way.

Jane Jacobs said that the public wealth of all cities comes from the small change of random interactions on the sidewalk, i.e. people bumping into each other on the street and so on

But she also talked about the eyes that guard the street, and there was also a certain sense of paranoia in her writing. Her view was that strangers could be trouble and that you needed to keep an eye on things, which of course is partly true, but also can be taken in different ways.

The proposed roof gardens for Battersea’s new high rise

She’s American, how influential do you think her work ought to be here in London? When you look at, say, the Battersea development, or the Shard?

It’s a different planet. I suppose that’s also another extraordinary phenomena — how is it that — her ideas were very powerful here in the ’70s, so Covent Garden was heading for the motorway treatment, and it was stopped at the last moment by a group of architects at the Architectural Association. But that view of planning in London has now completely changed. We thought that at that time to build a crop of thousand-foot-high buildings in London was madness, not what we wanted. Suddenly it now seems normal and accepted. How does this process happen, what is it that changes it?

I suppose you’d have to go back to how government works, and you might think about Ken Livingston coming to power on this extraordinary platform for someone who is a self-avowed left winger. He’d come to power with a plan for London written with the help of the City of London Corporation, which was to make London the world capital for the financial industries, which was about regulation, and about primary concerns, but also in his mind it was quite an atavistic, primitive idea that the world’s financial capital should look like it.

How do you define a city?

How do you found a city? How political are cities? A city has to be a place in which you are free to do what you want. Is it a city like Brasilia, which is based on having no pavements, and the most wonderful address system which doesn’t have streets, it has three different numbers in a code which is somehow to show how modern it is.

I think the point about cities is you should not take to them your initial prejudices. One of my great heroes, Irena Bauman, wrote about Los Angeles at a time when the rest of the world — except Los Angelenos, who liked it — felt that Los Angeles was the great pit, a place which the motor car came first. Irena Bauman went there and charmingly said here to drive so he could read Los Angeles in the original. And he observed that what people said was horrible. It was actually fascinating and interesting. A city that works is somewhere you can look and find things you hadn’t expected.

“A city that works is somewhere you can look and find things you hadn’t expected.”

This is Google’s new HQ, it’s being built on the Nasa Ames base and it’s being co-designed by Thomas Heatherwick and Bjarke Ingels — two different architects — and they’re attempting to bring some of the principles of Jane Jacobs-ism into campus thinking.

So the idea is all of this is going to become impermeable so that the public can come in. They’re going to have shops and they’re going to essentially create a new sort of town. And [they’ll have] plants and trees and all the rest. So they’re attempting to not be inward facing, but be outward facing. It’s interesting. This is the first attempt to not be a walled garden in Silicon Valley.

Nobody dies in Disney World, and nobody grows old working for Google, I suspect, and nobody lives in Google, except they fall asleep at their desk. Of course it’s a wonderful extraordinary environment, and to dis it is foolish. We need to go and learn from it in the same way that Engels went to Manchester in the 19th century to understand what was happening to the world. As a protester outside you might say it’s infantilising its employees — they can get their bike repaired, they can buy a pizza, they can get a massage, they can do yoga, but they can’t stop working and there’s no dorm room.

“As a Google protester outside you might say it’s infantilising its employees — they can get their bike repaired, they can buy a pizza, they can get a massage, they can do yoga, but they can’t stop working and there’s no dorm room.”

Do you think it’s significant that the new wave of companies in Silicon Valley –Dropbox, Uber, Twitter, Airbnb — are all in San Francisco? It used to be [that] you started in that kind of garret there, and when you got big you went out to the ‘burbs. Now they’re staying in the city. Is that significant?

San Francisco is a very interesting place, and again it goes back to how you define a city. Its population is less than a million, but if you take the whole area from San José to the other side of the bay, it’s about seven million. So that’s enough to be a world city, it’s enough to justify an Internaional airport.

It is boring though.

It’s interesting, people say that they’re moving to Europe because of that. I was in San Francisco two years ago when the local baseball team just won a huge match, and the streets were crammed with people because all these guys living out in the areas which you describe where there are no crowds, was desperate for a crowd. So you come in three or four times a year in search of that sense of what a city is about — crowds and the random interconnection. It’s unlikely you’ll get a crowd there that’s not under control.

How do you think the mayoralty since 2000 has worked? In a sense, London didn’t sort of have a government since the abolition of the GLC in the in the ’80s, and yet it sort of got along kind of fine.

If you look at what Transport for London has done in the last 15 years, it’s remarkable. The overground didn’t happen by accident, it was knitting together whole bits of abandoned 19th century infrastructure and suddenly making the city a different place. Transport for London was a very early adopter of open source for its data. So it produced things like CityApp, which completely changed the way even people who’ve spent their whole lives in London understand the city. So on that level having a centralised authority did a lot of interesting things. Couldn’t get housing right…

On something like housing the mayor doesn’t have a vast amount of power. It’s a funny situation, the mayor of London, because you’ve got the first 33 boroughs which have a huge amount of power but aren’t really big enough necessarily to really drive strategic change.

There’s a series of checks and balances, but it’s a less divided city than New York for example, where Mike Bloomberg had extraordinarily little power — he couldn’t even get congestion charging through. So we’re now at a movement where mayors are seen as being an idea to play. Maybe that’s a reflection of how few ideas there are about how we deal with cities. So once somebody has an idea, like Boris Bikes, whatever they are, like mayors, like tax rezones, they spread like wildfire around the world.

If you had to peer into your crystal ball and think about how technology might shape our cities, Airbnb, autonomous cars, drones etc, which of these could have the biggest impact?

I think it’s already happening, and in some ways the point about a city is its anonymity. There’s an idea that rural life is somehow idyllic and blissful, deeply steeped in the British sensibility. We had the first industrial revolution, we were horrified about what happened, so we want to go back to the rural past. Actually, cities are a much better place to live if you are in a minority, if you are different, if you want to live the way you want your life to be. They’re about privacy. But the digital explosion has actually killed off privacy if you think about it. There is no privacy in the contemporary city — everyone knows exactly where everybody is. Where’s the challenge? How do you actually inject the [29.36] that anonymity gave a city into the digital world?

“Actually, cities are a much better place to live if you are in a minority, if you are different, if you want to live the way you want your life to be. They’re about privacy. But the digital explosion has actually killed off privacy if you think about it. There is no privacy in the contemporary city — everyone knows exactly where everybody is.”

By all accounts, as we move towards a cashless economy, more of transactions could theoretically be tracked and logged. Do you think that’s something then that the leadership in cities ought to protect in some ways?

Is it the leadership or is it citizens? Cities are shaped by citizens, that’s what they’re about. How do we actually insist on those things? How do we deal with that system? Political decision-making is never really about particularly subtle issues, it’s about whether we like someone or not, it’s about what they promise to do about the price of the tube. More complex things are harder to actually shape democratically.

Is this language of cities and the framework that you’re talking about, still transferrable to some of these Chinese megacities that have grown from zero to 8 million/10 million people in the space of 20 years?

I think that’s replicating what happened to Europe cities in the 19th century, faster, but Manchester was doubling its population every 10 years. People went there and were horrified by what they saw. What binds a city is fascinating. If you think about European megacities, Holland has the Randstad, the round city, which is an empty heart, but Rotterdam and The Hague and Amsterdam touch each other, and even though half the population — I’m exaggerating, but — a major part of the population in Rotterdam goes off to work in Amsterdam and vice versa. And yet both of those cities know that they are anything but the other.

There is a physical connection more or less, they share the same airport, but they still believe themselves to be utterly different. It’s the language they have, it’s where they go to school, it’s the sports they watch, and what are these things that actually create a shared sense? They are the landmarks they recognise, they are how people sound and their accents. Can you create one from scratch? People keep trying. The developers in this country produced the idea of the quarter some years ago, and now we have quarters everywhere, which are allegedly about fellow feeling…

There’s an argument in nerdy urbanism studies between, say, Richard Florida who thinks that it’s — bohemians, he’s got a gay, bohemian index to try and guess which cities are going to develop. [But] someone like Ed Glaeser would say it’s clean streets and parks that spark regeneration. Do you have a view about which of those…?

I am deeply suspicious of instant solutions. There was an instant solution that you bought a Guggenheim by Frank Gehry again and suddenly you would turn your dereliction into something that was not derelict, or you actually staged the Olympics, or you’d introduce tax-free zones, or you’d build an art centre. None of these are enough on their own — they’re incredibly thin, but they are shaped by political timetables, which is you need results within three to five years. So, ‘Let’s have one of those, let’s have one of those’. I don’t think they work usually.

The Guggenheim museum by Frank Gehry

Have you noticed any good civic duties that have looked to mitigate things like that as we urbanise more and more?

Are cities driving us mad? You do ask yourself about Shenzhen, which is a place which did not exist 25 years ago, and now is probably larger than London, and that is the rate of change so fast that it’s not been in human experience before. I remember being very moved to see the construction of Beijing’s airport.

You don’t see graffiti much in China, but around the gates [of] the construction site you’d see these strings of numbers and one Chinese character — it was explained to me that this is actually migrant workers looking for work. So their only identity is their phone number and what they can do. If they’re lucky they get work, which means staying in a barracks for three months and then they’re shipped back to where they came from. But that’s not so different from the experience of the Irish who built Britain’s railways and canals.

It sounds like [I’m saying] things are fine, it’s always been like this, [but that’s] not what I’m saying, but certain aspects of the human condition which seem to go on repeating themselves so that we go through periods of what appear to be enormous change and somehow we get through it.

I think you could compare the experience of being a Russian to being English. Thanks to the czars and Stalin and what happened since, Russia has had permanent insecurity. Whole populations have been shoved from one side of the country to another. Of course that creates a very different mind-set from the stability that Britain once had of generations of people staying in the same place. Of course, that creates a different sense…

How important do you think biodiversity is?

We should think about these things, and we should also look at possessions differently so that we shouldn’t throw things away. Of course these things are right, a high-density city actually probably is a much greener environment than a low-density suburb.

With the continuing refugee crisis, how do you think it’s going to affect our cities — particularly European ones — as people seem to move around more, and how do you think cities can adapt to refugees, and how can we learn from them as much as they learn from us?

The fear and the reaction to what happened in Cologne last Christmas does challenge our values as an urban culture in which we create a sense of a shared city which people of many backgrounds can live in together. The fear that comes from an insurge (sic) of otherness is of course a threat to urbanism. There aren’t any easy answers to that.

It’s about creating that sense of civic values, and I was so relieved and delighted that Sadiq Khan became our mayor despite the most appalling campaign against him. I think individuals like him show the leadership that can give us some sense of hope in the future. If you look back further in history, it does seem that there’s a correlation between cities that show tolerance and their success and future and those that don’t.

“I was so relieved and delighted that Sadiq Khan became our mayor despite the most appalling campaign against him. I think individuals like him show the leadership that can give us some sense of hope in the future.”

Towers in one sense [are] a very efficient use of space. Because we build so much, we’re able to fit so many more workers in much less land. If you think about London and the way that it’s growing, how do you reflect on perhaps a need to build a little bit taller than Jane Jacobs might want us to build?

Very tall is not a logical thing to do. Very tall is either about hit-and-run profit-taking, or it’s about the idea that you need a logo type for a city. I do remember very well talking to George Iacobescu, who is the man who built most of Canary Wharf, and he was brought here by the Reichmann brothers who started the whole project off.

They put him up to stay in a hotel, he was flown in from Canada, and he told me that the first thing he did the morning after was to actually walk from [the hotel] to Canary Wharf just to see exactly how far it is. Because the Reichmanns had built the World Financial Center, and they had in their minds the idea that the distance from there to Wall Street was somehow the same as Canary Wharf. And it’s not.

So of course having made that walk and realised how far it was, the first thing they did was to build the tallest building they could get away with, as a ‘look, here we are’ sign. This is not logic, it’s actually entirely a symbolic, atavistic thing. In the same way that I describe Ken Livingstone going to Shanghai and saying, ‘Let’s have one of these here’.

There was a kind of key moment when English Heritage chairman Neil Cossons was fighting Gerald Ronson — who was building the Ronson tower, which was the first really tall building east of Liverpool Street Station. That was the last time that there was a concerted attempt to stop this happening. Livingston actually said that English Heritage were the ‘heritage Taliban’ trying to stop London’s future development. It was a very strange moment, and of course he won the case.

Developer Paul Reichmann (right) and Brian Mulroney look at a proposed model of Canary Wharf

Renzo Piano, who built the Shard, drew on the analogy of Notre Dame to say that back in the day there were tenement buildings clustering right up to Notre Dame, and great cities had that sense of drama between big and small. Is there a case there for some buildings being big for that sense of drama and juxtaposition?

The question is, ‘Who is in command of this process and what are their objectives?’. So the architect is probably the Robert Redford star who might get signed up to get the money going, but there’ll be a scriptwriter who’ll keep changing the script, which will in the end become shaped by producer.

So Renzo was the person that managed to get planning consent for a project which was started by Irvine Sellars, but which was actually paid for by a wide range of Quatari money. What was the original outcome and what was the actual outcome? The actual outcome is that London has not just got one cluster of high rises, it’s got multiple ones. And for a whole range of reasons involving cheap money, London’s moment as the world financial centre is probably going to be over now thanks to the referendum, which was obviously a punishment vote against London by the rest of Britain. That might change, but in a very, very short time London tipped from being recognised as the city it once was to something entirely different.

“London’s moment as the world financial centre is probably going to be over now thanks to the referendum, which was obviously a punishment vote against London by the rest of Britain. That might change, but in a very, very short time London tipped from being recognised as the city it once was to something entirely different.”

Do you think cities can be too big? If not, what’s your answer to places like Birmingham or even Wakefield that feel that talent is sucked, particularly to a place like London, and it’s very difficult to compete?

That is one of the great worries about not just Britain but the sense that a few places are sucking everything into fewer and fewer places. So there was a time if you wanted to make movies you had to go to Los Angeles, if you wanted to be a banker you come to London, it’s not quite so true now. It’s interesting that Norway has a film industry, and that Berlin has become quite an interesting competitor to Silicon Roundabout. Can a city be too big? Can you stop a city growing? People have been trying to stop London growing ever since the middle ages, and London has resolutely resisted this impulse which is probably a healthy thing.

Planning, which is about trying to stop bad things from happening, is probably less achievable than trying to share an idea of good things being made to happen by lots of people wanting it.

Given that London’s due to hit — with current trends and pre-Brexit — 10 million people, that sense of imbalance through one perspective of the rest of the country — of course, London and the wider area generates a third of all UK tax revenue. So we do our fair share. But do you think the sort of risk of imbalance with the rest of the country could grow?

We used to have a very directed planning system, which stopped people building factories until they’d actually built the houses. You had to have permission to create jobs anywhere, there was a government office which — it was called The Location of Offices Bureau, and its specific purpose was to get people out of London. That idea of very directed planning belongs to a moment which I think is unlikely we can go back to. We are also deeply sceptical of big ideas in planning. We don’t want Heathrow to grow, we don’t want to build HS2, except we do want to fly around the world and we also want to get to Berlin more quickly. So I guess political leadership is about trying to resolve those tensions.

“We are also deeply sceptical of big ideas in planning. We don’t want Heathrow to grow, we don’t want to build HS2, except we do want to fly around the world and we also want to get to Berlin more quickly. So I guess political leadership is about trying to resolve those tensions.”

Do you think one of the main reasons why cities have formed the common threat could be because of opportunity?

I think cities grow by attracting people who feel they can have a better life there than they can somewhere else. A successful city is one which actually offers those opportunities, even in the smallest way. So if you are from rural Mexico, life even on the pavement in Mexico City selling imported goods from China is still better than living at the mercy of narco-terrorists in a rural settlement. Cities will attract people because they offer something different and something new, and I suppose the job of those who run cities is to try and provide the infrastructure which makes the transition work.

Over half of the people on the planet today live in towns and cities for the first time in human history. According to the UN, 70% of the human population will be living in urban areas by 2050. Which are cities you think we should be looking out for as places where particularly interesting things might be happening?

Different kinds of urbanism are happening. Saying that we are living in an urban majority world is covering a lot of very different sorts of places. Some of these things are not cities, they’re urban, but they’re not cities in the sense that we understand, that we’ve been talking today about — places that offer choice or freedom or ability to change. In Africa there are settlements that have never really industrialised. So a non-industrialised city in which a large percentage of the population get by by market gardening is interesting. There are positive aspects to that, there are also negative ones to it.

“In Africa there are settlements that have never really industrialised. So a non-industrialised city in which a large percentage of the population get by by market gardening is interesting. There are positive aspects to that, there are also negative ones to it.”

Latin America has managed to create some very interesting examples [that] the rest of the world has tried to follow, before Brazil had its most recent implosion it was really suggesting a few really interesting ideas about how you might do low-cost interventions into making the city work better. So I’d look at Latin America, I’d look at Africa, and I’m also still fascinated by what’s going on around San Francisco and what that’s going to become. Will those mega-buildings be abandoned like Egyptian pyramids, or will they actually be the kind of nucleus which grows something new?

It’s quite hard soil in a sense, there’s not a lot of organic life there

[Silicon Valley] does not import labour — well, it does import labour but it doesn’t import low-cost labour or low-skilled labour. There is no working class in Silicon Valley.

Can you keep some value that gentrification brings in the community which was there to start with?

In America [it] used to be called Tax Increment Financing, which was that you would actually — the city would allow certain things to happen, but they freezed (sic) value, and anything above that actually went back into the city’s coffers as taxes. Nicholas Serota talks not bitterly but wryly about if only the Tate had actually managed to take a percentage of the increase in land values from all the area around it when it went there — it could have built its new building entirely by that.

If you look at London, some of the most successful areas are — I hate to say it — the old landed estates the states, Westminster, the Bedford estate, who’d be making a fortune generation after generation after generation. But they have the kind of historical sweep to see what they do as more like farming, so that you actually lay fallow for a bit and you actually do have a rotation of crops, and you have some kind of diversity rather than the kind of relentless chain store, chain store, chain store.

I suppose you could see Second Home as a microcosm of what we think of as a city, which is a place in which accidental things can happen, where you can find the things that you need, where you can get away from things if you want to, or energise if you don’t want to. I suppose there’s a few things missing, though, if this was a real bit of city — somewhere to sleep, maybe the slums, is there a class system in here? Are there some postcode areas in here which are different to other postcode areas?

Our members who are here can answer that question (laughs)

But what you have done here is to actually inject life into a city, diversity into a city, and that’s really rather hard, because most cities have a tendency to become overcome either by failure or affluence. So London is now separating out into areas which are overwhelmed by buy-to-forget homes or areas which are perhaps forgotten in the city. So making somewhere special is really important.


This talk took place st Second Home, a creative workspace and cultural venue, bringing together diverse industries, disciplines and social businesses. Click here to find out who’s speaking next.