Citymakers Magazine

Animated publication

Yolande Barnes Selina Mason Robert Evans Roger Madelin Ricky Burdett Oliver Wainwright Paul Finch Paul Appleton Patricia Brown Jeremy Melvin Jason Prior Helen Goodwin Elizabeth Rapoport Eleanor Kelly Deyan Sudjic Ben Rogers Artur Carulla Alfredo Caraballo


exploring models of urban development catalytic

organic curated


exploring models of urban development catalytic

organic curated


To understand how new pieces of city emerge (or how existing ones evolve), we must consider a few issues. First, what are the primary catalysts driving urban development? Second, to what extent do neighbourhoods emerge organically, of their own accord? Finally, is it possible to curate and control the quality of such places in the long-term through planning and design? Each of these questions imply distinct yet interrelated approaches to city making. We have identified these as the catalytic, organic and curated models of urban development, exemplified by the Olympic Park, Bankside and King’s Cross respectively. These three distinct examples across London also illustrate that in each case, the process of urban change is unique. No two masterplans are the same. Different forces are at play. Different actors. Different conditions. These questions were explored over three evenings at our studios in Southwark in the autumn of 2019. This publication is the product of those lively debates and discussions.


contents/ credits

ABOUT CITYMAKERS Organised by Allies and Morrison’s Masterplanning Group, led by Antje Saunders and Emad Sleiby, Citymakers was a series of three evening discussions exploring alternative models of urban development. We invited a selection of key ‘citymakers’ to explore the values, concerns and principles that guide our approach to urbanism. Each year, the Citymakers series will bring together developers, planners, academics, journalists and collaborators to look beyond the boundaries between practitioners and the public; between a site and the city; between spaces and society.

editor Daniel Elsea

citymakers team Antje Saunders

Daniel Elsea Emad Sleiby Lionel Eid


EVENT support Anthony Silverstone Chris Hughes-Copping

Gareth Verbiest Laura Brimson Will Clayton





how are cities shaped?



debate The Catalytic Olympic legacy recollection An extraordinary day perspectives Responsive rather than radical Open and messy What will catalyse the 21 st century city? observations

the catalytic olympic legacy




debate Bankside’s organic evolution perspectives Yearning for continuum Fitting in Even serendipity needs a framework observations

Bankside’s organic evolution




debate The curated nature of King’s Cross perspectives Curation and patience Curating London: where the power lies The new entertainers observations

The curated nature of king’s cross







RICKY BURDETT Ricky is a renowned urban specialist. He is professor of urban studies at LSE Cities, leading a global centre of research and teaching, and consults national and city governments, private companies and philanthropic agencies. He has been chief adviser for the 2012 Olympic Games, a member of the Airport Commission and adviser to the Mayor of London, and director of the 2010 Venice Biennale of Architecture. He is a juror for the Royal Academy of Arts Architecture Prize and Dorfman Awards, was chair of the Mies Crown Hall Americas Prize and is an honorary fellow of the Royal College of Art. Ricky was awarded a CBE for services to urban planning and design in 2017. OLIVER WAINWRIGHT Olly is the architecture and design critic of The Guardian. He has won awards for his in-depth reporting on the housing crisis and the planning system, has served as curatorial advisor to The Architecture Foundation and is a regular visiting critic and lecturer at a number of architecture schools. His first book, Inside North Korea, was published by Taschen in 2018. He trained as an architect at the University of Cambridge and the Royal College of Art and previously worked for OMA in Rotterdam and the Architecture and Urbanism Unit of the Greater London Authority. PAUL APPLETON Paul is a partner at Allies and Morrison, having played an instrumental role in the practice’s teams working at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. He is a regular lecturer in the fields of the arts, higher education, conservation and masterplanning. Paul is currently a member of the Design Council Cabe Design Review Panel and the South Downs National Park Design Review Panel. He sits on the London Advisory Committee for Historic England and is an examiner for the University of East London. He joined the practice in 1984, the year it was founded.

PAUL FINCH With unique insight into the ins and-outs of London, architecture and development, Paul was a natural fit to be the inaugural host director of the World Architecture Festival, deputy chair of the Design Council and editorial director of The Architectural Review and The Architects’ Journal. He was deputy editor of Estates Times (now Property Week) from 1976 1983; editor of Building Design, 1983-1994; editor of The Architects’ Journal, 1994-1999; editor of The Architectural Review from 2006 2009; and joint editor of Planning in London since 1992. He has been a commissioner and deputy chair at the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (Cabe) from 1999-2006 and its chair from 2009-2011. And in the runup to the Olympic Games, he chaired Cabe’s Olympic Design Review Panel. Paul received an honorary FRIBA in 1994; an honorary doctorate from the University of Westminster in 2004; and an honorary fellowship from University College London 2006. He is an honorary fellow of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland, an honorary member of the Royal Society of Architects in Wales, and an honorary member of the British Council of Offices. He was awarded an OBE for services to architecture in 2002. commentator on UK and global real estate markets and world cities. Her areas of expertise have been residential markets, regeneration, land, urbanism and mixed-use neighbourhoods. She is Professor of Real Estate at the Bartlett Real Estate Institute, UCL, where she is exploring how real estate contributes to society, the environment and economy. She was previously director of world research at Savills, providing evidence-based advice to clients and thought leadership in real estate. She set up the company’s UK residential research department, pioneering new techniques for measuring place potential, land value and sustainable urbanism. of the Citymakers series. He is currently programme YOLANDE BARNES Yolande is a scholar and

ROBERT EVANS Robert is an executive director at Argent and CEO of the King’s Cross development. He has been instrumental in the planning work at King’s Cross since 2001 and sits on the King’s Cross Central Limited Partnership Board. He is a member of the King’s Cross Academy Trust and chair of its Governors. Before joining Argent, Robert worked in planning and environmental consultancy and gained experience in a wide range of public and private sector development and infrastructure projects in the UK, Canada and Norway. He is also a fellow of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). before this, she was responsible for the delivery of the London 2012 Masterplan and the design and delivery of the post-games transformation masterplan for the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) and London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC). Prior to her Olympic work, she was director of architecture and design review at the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (Cabe). ROGER MADELIN Roger is joint head of the 21-hectare Canada Water Development at British Land. Previously with Argent from 1988-2016, he was responsible for the delivery of projects including Brindleyplace in Birmingham, Thames Valley Park in Reading and major office projects in central London and the City. The company was a FTSE 250 emerging major from 1993 until it left the stock market in 1997 when Roger then became CEO. He led the company to be selected and then to take forward the development of the 23 hectares of railway land between and to the north of King’s Cross and St Pancras Stations – today’s King’s Cross Central development. SELINA MASON Selina is a masterplanner and architect with experience delivering complex urban masterplans. She is currently director of masterplanning at Lendlease, working across the UK and Europe urban regeneration portfolio. She previously led LDA Design’s urban regeneration masterplanning team. And


HELEN GOODWIN Helen is placements manager at Public Practice, working with local authorities across London, the south east and east of England to bring built environment expertise in-house to support the planning and delivery of well designed, sustainable and inclusive places. She was previously design advisor at Design South East, to lead the masterplan team at bid stage through to legacy. He led the transformation of Manchester city centre and is currently leading masterplans for Euston, Birmingham Smithfield and Silvertown in the UK, as well as a new campus for Google in California. at the Royal Academy of Arts and The Bartlett and was previously director of the Architecture Foundation. Jeremy is also the author of several books including and a frequent contributor to The Guardian and Architectural Review. JASON PRIOR A landscape architect, urban designer and masterplanner, Jason established Prior + Partners to specialise in large complex city projects. Formerly, he was chief executive of the Buildings + Places division at AECOM and president of EDAW. Jason was instrumental in the successful design and delivery of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, helping JEREMY MELVIN Jeremy is a curator, scholar and writer on a wide range of architectural topics. He is a senior lecturer in history of architecture at the South Bank University and a visiting lecturer at Cambridge University and ETH Zurich. He is currently curator of the World Architecture Festival and has developed public programmes Committee, an adviser to the Times Square Alliance (New York) and a consultant to Columbia University’s Centre for Urban Real Estate. PATRICIA BROWN Patricia is director of Central, a niche consultancy largely centred on the dynamics of cities and the process of achieving change. She was formerly CEO of Central London Partnership, leading the development of the first Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) the Legible London scheme, as well as lobbying for the pedestrianisation of Trafalgar Square. She is currently chair of London Festival of Architecture, vice chair of the British Property Federation’s Development

working with local authorities across Surrey, Kent and south London, engaging with both public and private sector stakeholders to promote good urban practice. She has a diverse professional

BEN ROGERS An urbanist, researcher, writer and speaker, Ben founded Centre for London in 2011. He was previously an associate director at the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) and subsequently led strategy teams at LB Haringey, the Department for Local Government and Communities and the Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit. An experienced journalist and broadcaster, Ben has written several books on philosophy, history and democracy. He has been a contributing editor to Prospect, a visiting fellow at the Royal Society of Arts, a member of the London Finance Commission and is a trustee of The Yard Theatre. ARTUR CARULLA Artur is a partner at Allies and Morrison where he leads the strategic direction of projects across the entire range of the practice’s work with a focus on large urban regeneration masterplans. Artur ALFREDO CARABALLO Alfredo is a partner at Allies and Morrison, joining the practice in 2004. He lectures internationally on architecture and the urban public realm and has led many of the practice’s international masterplans, in the Middle East, North America and continental Europe. Since 2017, he has represented Allies and Morrison on the International Council of the Van Alen Institute in New York, and since June 2018 assumed the role of Council co-chair. He studied architecture at the Universidad Central de Venezuela, Caracas and London Metropolitan University, receiving commendations for his studies at both. in New York, following studies at The Architectural Association in London and the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (ETSAB) in Barcelona, where he grew up. has also led the expansion of Allies and Morrison’s studios and a residential tower in its Bankside neighbourhood, projects where the practice acted both as architect and developer. Prior to joining Allies and Morrison, Artur gained professional experience

background, having worked in architectural practice, as a

university lecturer in architecture and landscape architecture, and as an academic.

DEYAN SUDJIC Deyan is director emeritus at the Design Museum and distinguished professor of architecture and design studies at Lancaster University. His most recent book, The Language of Cities is published by Penguin. Deyan’s career has spanned journalism, teaching and writing. He was director of Glasgow UK City of Architecture 1999 and director of the Venice Biennale of Architecture in 2002. He was editor of Domus Magazine from 2000 to 2004 and was founding editor of Blueprint Magazine from 1983 to 1996. ELEANOR KELLY Eleanor is chief executive of the London Borough of Southwark. She started working in local government in 1974 and has worked at every level from junior trainee accountant to chief executive. She has undertaken the chief executive role in three London boroughs: Tower Hamlets, Merton (as a job share) and Southwark. She also has senior executive level experience in the private sector, having spent five years at KPMG. Eleanor has acted as a national specialist examiner in accountancy for the final year professional exams, has been a trustee of Tomorrow’s People charitable trust and is currently on the board of the Whitehall and Industry Group. ELIZABETH RAPOPORT Elizabeth is an urban planner, strategist and researcher with nearly two decades experience in planning, policy and governance in cities around the world. Currently, she is strategy delivery manager for Meridian Water, LB Enfield’s flagship £7bn regeneration programme of an 85-hectare site. A published author on issues of urban and regional planning, governance, sustainability and climate change, she was previously research director at the Urban Land Institute Europe. She holds a Doctorate in Urban Sustainability and Resilience from University College London and an MSc in Regional and Urban Planning from the London School of Economics.




London has witnessed significant growth in recent decades, evolving incrementally in some areas and changing beyond recognition in others. Vast sites that were once out of bounds, out of sight or out of mind for the ordinary Londoner have now been regenerated, made accessible and brought back into the fold of city life. Today, the task that faces London – like many post-industrial cities – is one of reclamation, of bringing back into the city areas that were previously allocated to infrastructure: transport, industry, energy production, docks and waste handling, but which are no longer required for that purpose. In responding to this challenge, there are two approaches that may be taken. The first is to treat a prospective development as something completely new, a discrete urban proposition unrelated to its surroundings. The second is to understand it as part of a physical continuum, an extension of the city’s existing fabric, which is the approach that Allies and Morrison takes. By reflecting on our involvement in many of London’s most significant and transformational masterplans, we have identified three models of urban development which have recurred throughout the city’s history. These are the catalytic, organic and curated models of urban development, exemplified by the Olympic Park, Bankside and King’s Cross respectively. Now that these masterplans are maturing into tangible, thriving neighbourhoods, we would like to reflect on how these places have been planned, designed and developed – and what each model can tell us about the wider project of city making.


CATALYTIC urban development This is a part of the city where a primary, identifiable cause has triggered large-scale development. This could be a planned catalyst – such as the Great Exhibition; or it could be unplanned, such as the Great Fire of 1666 or the Blitz. The cause may be intrinsic to the site, or extrinsic such as the Olympic Games and the decision to place it in east London. Events often act as urban catalysts with reverberations that last well beyond their initial occurrence. The Festival of Britain is a prime example of an enduring catalyst which has shaped the South Bank. Policy changes can function as urban catalysts. The Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 1530s led to the large-scale acquisition of urban land by great aristocratic estates, shaping the character of London’s expansion and the nature of housing tenure, delivery and construction. Equally, new infrastructure can function as a catalyst. Crossrail is certain to unleash all manner of urban change, offering the city multiple sites of regeneration while, at a wider scale, its shrinking of travel distances will ignite as yet unknown impacts. An urban catalyst generates investment, accelerates development, consolidates land ownership and may produce new models of governance. The often-temporary nature of catalysts, however, raises questions about the legacy of such places.

ORGANIC urban development The second model is the result of multiple, interdependent causes. This kind of growth often occurs in the absence of an overarching masterplan and is the result of strong local networks (whether commercial, social, political, or all three). In London, we see this in the clustering of uses or people. Harley Street and its numerous doctor’s surgeries, laboratories, clinics and hospitals are, in effect, an informal medical campus. Or Clubland on Pall Mall; or Brick Lane, which has over centuries attracted new waves of London’s latest arrivals from overseas – today home to a vibrant Bengali community. We could see many sites of gentrification in this way. There is Shoreditch and its evolution into Tech City and centre for hipster culture, or Bankside, where multiple actors – from cultural institutions such as the Tate to individual developers such as Land Securities – have participated in a seemingly iterative process of regeneration. In these cases, there often is no single source of investment, land ownership is fractured, governance is based on coalition, development is incremental and opportunistic. Planning is often, but not always, reactive. Our perception and recognition of these places tends to be retrospective, after sizeable changes have occurred, rather than projective and through design.

CURATED urban development This is the evolution of a piece of city carefully guided by an overarching plan. Often, the physical character – buildings, spaces, edges, materiality – is defined and managed through design coding. A historic precedent can be seen in many of London’s Great Estates. The Georgian rhythm of the Bedford Estate, the Marylebone mansion blocks of the Howard de Walden Estate or John Nash’s Regent Street come to mind. A post-war example can be seen in the Barbican Centre and its highly prescriptive character - though it came to be because of the catalyst of the Blitz and post-war reconstruction, demonstrating the interrelatedness of the different models. Often in curated developments, the socio-economic character is choreographed with a degree of management in the mix and selection of tenants, distribution and nature of uses and events. This may have implications on an area’s demography. Strong planning control is evident in these developments, defined by their singular land ownership and governance regime. Such places are defined by long-term stewardship with the developer acting as property manager whereby growth in land value is captured and re-invested into the estate. Somewhat in this tradition, King’s Cross, developed by Argent, can be considered a contemporary curated development.






OLYMPIC LEGACY London’s 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games provided a catalyst for the long-term regeneration of London’s Lower Lea Valley and East End. Guided by the legacy masterplan, thousands of new homes and jobs are being created in and around the new Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, transforming a contaminated, under-used landscape into a new metropolitan quarter of London. And the park will soon host East Bank, the most significant collection of cultural and educational buildings to be built in Britain since the Victorian era.


Model of the 2012 Olympics masterplan





The first evening of the tripartite autumn conference explored the catalytic effect of events such as the 2012 Olympics on the transformation of cities. The speakers, Paul Appleton of Allies and Morrison, Professor Ricky Burdett and the economist Yolande Barnes, were joined by panellists Oliver Wainwright of the Guardian, urbanist Patricia Brown and Selina Mason, now with Lendlease but previously working on the Olympics, for a conversation reminiscing on the changing dynamics of catalytic urban change. Having been part of the Olympic selection panel for Cabe, moderator Paul Finch opened the evening with a first-hand account of the hurdles London faced in a time pressured environment in the search for a team that would provide a masterplan not just for the Games itself, but for the long term legacy of the site in east London. Using the Olympic Legacy as a case study, Paul Appleton described its masterplan as responsive, rather than radical, using the establishment of a new park as a connective tool for both games and legacy. The relatively compact scale of the concourse (when compared to other Olympic cities such as Beijing or Athens) allowed gradual development of neighbouring areas to connect and overlap with the boundaries of the park, therefore allowing for multiple new connections that have helped to stitch together a divide that had long defined this piece of London. ‘There were only things built which had a purpose, and looking at it from the air, you can see these huge buildings whichwere simply taken away from the site. They then became places, which could be used in legacy to make the future rather than to use the buildings of the Olympic Games itself’. Paul Appleton

The Legacy’s resilience has been rooted in its respect for a particular part of the city’s DNA, which is London’s quality as an ever evolving organic city, said Ricky Burdett of LSE Cities, which allows for incidental growth spurts and experiments along the edges. The simple gesture of connecting across the site has over time sparked the imagination of where this project could go. Historically, mega events have acted as catalysts for change. But they have not by default produced a legacy. Yolande Barnes, of the Bartlett Real Estate Institute, urged the audience to consider the shape of urban catalysts, and their very relevance in a digital economy which values a more fine grain urban form and flexible buildings. ‘Now the other thing we have to recognise is that we are part of a global circuit of power, of finance, of investment, which make all this thing happen through the circulation of money. So questions of power, questions of land ownership, are fundamental, and how that influences change and becomes catalytic can and has to be part of the story’. Ricky Burdett and finance to come together in a farsighted and socially generous way that allows landowners to make decisions in the public good. Yet the model of the Olympics introduced an institutional vehicle – the Mayoral Development Corporation – which owns the land, has planning powers and invites partners to drive change. Guardian architecture critic Oliver Wainwright speculated what would have been if the resources spent on staging the Games had been spent on delivering housing and social goods in east London, without the need for the venues and associated In the ensuing panel discussion, Jeremy Melvin noted that in London there had been no model for planning

infrastructure around the edges of the park. Selina Mason, of Lendlease, questioned whether the scale of the roads and their accessibility were quite right, while Patricia Brown, of Central, observed that part of the achievement of the Olympic legacy is that it reaches beyond the spatial or the physical, to act as a unifying force for the host boroughs to bring about much needed renewal. ‘THE OLYMPIC LEGACY HAS BEEN a lesson in urbanism, a pretty extraordinary masterplanning project, which certainly has HAD its ups and downs, and its dramas during the course of itS EVOLUTION’. Paul Finch The lesson of the Olympic legacy for London, and for cities around the world, could be an example of what is possible to other public sector bodies who are in control of land and who have planning powers. It also underscores how planning in this country is always a conversation, rather than an imposition, a theme which certainly continued in the future sessions of the conference. ‘In a sense the legacy itself became something which was responsive rather than radical. The games were radical and exciting, and they come and go, but what they leave behind is something which is integrated and interactive with the city around it. And when one sees the map of the city as it begins to encroach on and engage with its park, you can see that’s clear’. Paul Appleton


jeremy melvin

selina mason

paul finch

oliver wainwright


ricky burdett

paul appleton

yolande barnes

patricia brown




The story of London’s 2012 Olympic bid is rather extraordinary. Most may not remember, but the whole of the masterplanning for the Olympics took place under the umbrella of a previous masterplan designed by Arup, BDP and Fletcher Priest for Stuart Lipton and Nigel Hugill from developers Stanhope and a collection of other landowners. From about the turn of the century, they were hard at work producing a major mixed-use project on the railway lands around Stratford station, which had been a subject for land purchase, a focus of speculation and mixed ownership negotiations since the end of the 1980s. Their masterplan application was submitted in 2003 after two years of consultation, and in that very same year, it was decided that London would formally make a bid to host the Olympics. We were a year behind several other cities that had decided to bid and had to make up some lost ground. The person without whom nothing would have happened was Barbara Cassani. It fell to her to get us going to try to catch up that year. The first thing she had to do was to find a masterplanning team. Interviews of a series of distinguished practices took


place, and I was on the selection panel as a representative of Cabe, which had decided it should proactively support this bid.

I remember the day very well. It was in Saint Katharine House, east of the Tower of London. We started before breakfast with a briefing and Barbara made it very clear that we were not going to mess about on this. First up was David Mackay. It was he who coincidentally had just realised a large study for the London Borough of Newham on the future of the whole of the Lower Lea Valley. His practice had won the masterplan for the Barcelona Olympics, which was most certainly a new and fresh model for Olympic development, involving regeneration. Barcelona had specifically made the rethinking of the city part and parcel of its Olympic bid, and the same was expected of bidders for the 2012 games. That is certainly what London wanted to do, particularly in the context of Richard Rogers’ Urban Renaissance report. With Ricky Burdett running the architecture, Ken Livingstone saw the Olympic bid as the catalyst for his long dream of regenerating the entire east side of London, which symbolically is why City Hall was located a bit to the east and not somewhere slightly more fashionable. Unfortunately, David’s presentation went down in flames. There were many presentations by megastars that day. But there was one team that shined and pretty much won unanimous support: the team that included Allies and Morrison. Formally the team was led by EDAW, which eventually became part of AECOM, vanishing as an independent brand. Intellectual stimulation was provided by Foreign Office Architects, with Alejandro Zaera-Polo reading out a prepared statement from foolscap paper in his presentation, which was rather good. But of course, FOA parted company during the course of the whole Olympic masterplan, and HOK Sport became Populous. So Allies and Morrison has provided continuity both as an organisation and in respect of what we see today. I don’t think it is a surprise that it was Allies and Morrison that the Olympic Delivery Authority turned to when it came to the question of legacy, which has been a huge part of the ongoing masterplanning story, which is determining the successful or otherwise outcome of this extraordinary mixed development at what is now called Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, with its cultural centre, East Bank, at its heart.




Our Olympics in London was different. Two crucial conditions were present which caused the Games to act as a catalyst, in much the same way a classical catalyst works in a chemical reaction. One was that, for all the change it heralded, it was in reality simply speeding up a reaction that was already going to happen. The second was that it effected that change without changing itself. When the Olympics comes to a new country, it very rarely changes. The Olympic rings are the same, the events, the ceremonies and so on. Like a chemical catalyst, the Olympics don’t really change at all. They are an agent for positive change, rather than a direct participant in that change. But this is not always guaranteed. In Athens, where the Games themselves were as sturdy as ever, they produced almost nothing for the city. In fact, worse than the field in northern France, they left a legacy of dereliction. And so, although the Olympics were largely the same in 2004 and in 2012, why did they act as an agent for change in London? site, poised between neglect and opportunity. It was full of the toxic wastes of industrial processes; home, for example, to the largest collection of decommissioned refrigerators in Europe. Yet it was also a place with an enduring and evolving character. Characterised by mostly obsolescent industry, the Lea Valley had become a ‘tear’ in the fabric of London, a tear already visible to Patrick Abercrombie in 1943, and recognised in his iconic The answer lies partly in the condition of the east London

social and functional map of the city. This made the land cheap, but it also made it difficult. There were huge barriers to connectivity. There were waterways, railway lines, roads. There was a challenging topography, the valley itself. There were overhead pylons which would have to be undergrounded. There was a history of industrial use, which meant the ground was contaminated. There were also 300 businesses to move from this place. However, importantly, the Olympics continued a process rather than starting a new one. For the preceding decade, things had been happening. The Borough of Newham had campaigned for the Channel Tunnel link as early as the early 1990s, and by 1996 the Channel Tunnel Rail Link Act had confirmed the line’s position, followed by the retail development south of Stratford International. London’s Olympic legacy was a beneficiary of these earlier plans. The existing valley landscape was itself instrumental in how the site was approached; the simple idea that a park could become the focus for both the games and the legacy. During the games, that Olympic Park was a dramatic backdrop to a public concourse which negotiated the complex topography at an upper level, connected by bridges. This concourse was as small as it could feasibly be, with the effect that it concentrated the impact of the event. It was only just as big as it needed to be on the busiest day; in comparison, the previous Olympics’ site in Beijing occupied more than four times the area.

Beijing 2008


The Field of the Cloth of Gold was a metaphor we used in the run up to the Olympics. This was a site in the Pas-de-Calais that hosted a great international tournament in 1520. It embodies the bold idea that countries can remain friends while trying to outshine one another, which sums up the Olympian ideal and seems particularly pertinent today. Yet it would be hard to say that it left a legacy. If you go there today, you will only see a little monument, a tiny stone on the side of the road. A powerful event, involving the kings of countries, does not necessarily in itself produce a physical legacy.


This compact concourse acted as a connective armature, providing the springing point for a series of bridges, of which Allies and Morrison designed 35. Today, the landscape has metaphorically grown over the concourse and, renamed the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, has become the focus of subsequent legacy development. While the scope and character of each component part of this legacy is constantly evolving and changing, the most important stimulus has remained constant: connectivity. If the concourse was to be as small as possible, another guiding principle was that whatever had no planned legacy use must be reusable. The Park only had four permanent venues – the Aquatics Centre, the Stadium, the Copper Box Arena and the Velodrome – and these all had pre-planned legacy uses. The rest of the venues were designed as temporary structures, taken away after the games and used somewhere else. This protected London from the Olympic white elephants of an Athens or a Montréal, while also releasing plots for altogether different uses in legacy. In a sense, while the Olympic Games themselves needed to be explosive and exciting, their legacy had to burn with a longer flame. The Olympics came and went; what they left behind was something responsive, integrated with and affected by the city around it.





Richard Sennett has written eloquently of the difference between an open city and a closed city. The first is permeable, porous, connected. The second is not. Broadly speaking, cities are becoming more fragmented, more segregated and less open. An open city is more susceptible to gradual change and intervention: it is more repairable. The London Olympics provided the city with an opportunity to repair itself; to become more rather than less open, especially in the more fragile, under serviced parts of east London. While the process of investment and regeneration started about fifty years ago – once the docks began to close – the 2012 Olympics accelerated the process considerably. At the heart of the debate about open and inclusive cities is the notion of public space and connectivity. Three hundred years after its publication, the Nolli plan of Rome accurately captures the connectivity and openness of its urban structure. Buildings, institutions, piazzas, courtyards and alleyways are interwoven in a dense, rich and complex matrix accumulated over millennial time. Like other fast-growing cities of the 19th century, Barcelona invented a new model to accommodate urban growth. Ildefonso Cerdà, who invented the term urbanismo, created the open, flexible, two dimensional grid of streets, avenues and blocks that has served the city well over the last 150 years. Barcelona has grown, adapted and

without becoming more closed or inaccessible.

Rogers, and adopted by Mayor Ken Livingstone in his first London Plan of 2004 (just when the Olympic bid for 2012 was being assembled). When London unexpectedly won the bid in 2005, the city found itself with Europe’s largest regeneration project, completely in public hands. One of the most convincing arguments for London (against Paris, Tokyo and New York) had been the urban regeneration case put forward by central government and the Mayor alike. The legacy of the 2012 Olympics Games was conceived to be a catalyst for long term change in east London as a political aspiration. The adopted slogan was one of ‘convergence’, to give people in the Olympic boroughs the same life opportunities as other (more affluent) Londoners. Spatially, this was translated into a masterplan that attempted to integrate the future Olympic site with its surroundings, maximising connectivity and – without using the terminology – implementing a model of the open city. Unlike Canary Wharf or New York’s Hudson Yards, the Olympic site has a stronger potential of becoming, over time, a part of the city rather that turn its back to it. In typical London fashion, this required multiple levels of negotiation, transaction and compromise. The results are not perfect. The commercial interests of a large corporate development (‘Stratford City’) were quickly folded into the government’s vision for the wider urban operation. The marriage between private interests and public good – which has shaped London for

London has also had to adapt to urban change. However, it faced a period of decline with a sharp and enduring imbalance between a more affluent west and a more deprived east, as indicated by the graphic Index of Multiple Deprivation – a brain scan of London’s inequality today. More than a century ago, Charles Booth was the first urban sociologist to document economic inequality. His macro findings about London still lie behind the city’s current social map, which post World War II planners have tackled for the last 60 years. Located at the epicentre of some of the city’s most deprived and disconnected communities, the London Olympics site is the last and largest piece of a complex urban jigsaw. Behind the urban approach adopted by the Olympics’ planners was a recognition that the redevelopment of a large site in Stratford – that straddles four borough boundaries – should build on London’s urban DNA. Rather than duplicate the insensitive, mono-functional interventions of the 1980s, greater emphasis was placed on open space, public transport, connectivity, higher densities and mix of activities. Compared to its global peers, London is a relatively low-density city, with significant potential for intensification, especially around well-connected hubs like Stratford. At the spatial and social level, the project became a test-bed of the ideas promoted by the Urban Task Force, chaired by Richard

intensified over time. Its urban model has sustained change


hundreds of years – facilitated the creation of a multi-faceted, slightly awkward, organic plan that has driven the project for the last decade. The public owners of the site – the London Legacy Development Corporation – are now entrusted to adhere to the spatial and planning principles of the original ‘legacy scheme’ that prioritised openness over segregation and flexibility over determinism. To some extent, this strategy has paid off. The connections, routes, cycle-ways, bridges, walkways, parks and open spaces create a matrix of connectivity for the emerging London quarter. The phasing of the development is intentionally distributed, allowing land values to accrue in some of the more remote locations and not just around the well-connected transport hub at Stratford. Many of the functions and uses have become more intense and complex than originally imagined, adding schools, health facilities, universities, museums, innovation centres, cafes, restaurants and performance spaces to the original plan for housing, sports facilities and a massive shopping centre. Urban regeneration is a complex and long-term process. The benefits of substantial public investment were never designed to be delivered overnight. It was always intended as a long-term game, over a 20-30 year period. Eight years on from the 2012 Olympics, the jury is still out. The new housing is popular, especially amongst families with children; Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is well used by locals and other Londoners.


Property values have gone up, and like elsewhere in London, have contributed to some displacement and gentrification. Deprivation in the local area has been reduced, but health indicators have not improved as anticipated. Jobs have been created and investment continues on the site and in neighbouring boroughs. Much will change over the next decades, but the initial strategy of an open city is likely to contribute – rather than frustrate – its potential to become a piece of city.




Founded probably before 8000 BC, Jericho is perhaps the world’s oldest city. It was founded at a time when we were still hunter-gatherers, it predates even farming. The city’s catalyst was a religious festival and a social gathering on the banks of the River Jordan and a temporary city arose every year. Eventually, a permanent city emerged. This early city formation is echoed today by another human festival, Burning Man. Every year, a city is created in the Nevada desert, but the whole point is that nothing is left behind and the desert is left pristine. There is a catalyst. There is a temporary city. But there is no legacy. The same might be said for many a former Olympic site around the world (though the land may be far from pristine afterwards). Happily this is far from the case for London’s Olympic Park, partly because the site was already planned and in the first stages of development as ‘Stratford City’. It also enjoys a position on top of a phenomenal transport interchange. Stratford is somewhere that should look increasingly urban – yet it is typical of a sort of ‘non-city’ building that we have done in the late twentieth century and the early part of this century: big buildings, big roads, big infrastructure. In the coming century we face change: financial, social and digital. Financial capital may not behave in the same way in the future because the late twentieth century was abnormal. In finance terms, it was a period of high inflation and high

interest rates. Previously, the average base rate for two and a half centuries was 4%, which is the kind of return most investors would have expected on most investments, whatever they were. But in the mid to late twentieth century, we first had a period of post war inflation pushing interest rates up (which also increased asset prices including real estate). Then, in the 1990s, interest rates started to fall. Falling interest rates also mean asset prices rise, including real estate. As interest rates go down, yields follow and asset prices go up. So, we have become used to our recent history of almost continuous capital growth, whether through inflation or through ‘yield shift’. This accounts for a large amount of the house price growth that some enjoy and the rest envy. Today, in the 21st century, we are facing a situation where interest rates cannot go any lower, so there is no more ‘yield shift’ to come. We only get capital growth if there is rental growth. At the same time, we are undergoing social and demographic change. The nature of global money has fundamentally changed, because back in the 1960s, the new emerging middle classes of the Baby Boomer companies. Those institutions had to deploy those investments for capital growth. So, they rode that inflationary and yield shift wave on behalf of this generation which has now come to retire. They are now having to pay out the pensions that the baby generation started saving large amounts of money into the big pension funds and insurance

boomer generation were saving up for. The big financial institutions that invest in our cities globally now need income to do this. The name of the game has shifted from capital growth and the deployment of large amounts of capital to demand for income-generating assets. This creates a different set of investment conditions, which impinge on the built environment. Capital used to be concentrated on big grids, in big single-use buildings and managed using modern portfolio theory. Infrastructure was provided by governmental catalysts and the money was made by the serial trading of land. Form followed finance. Now, what is needed is management for income. So different goals mean a different type of built environment will be needed to appeal to tomorrow’s investors. A long-term consistent income stream can best be generated through flexible places and buildings with complex uses that don’t conform to a standard planning use class. This changes the form of place that is needed by investors in the 21st century. It is much more important that real estate attracts people and adds value to rents over time to generate long lived, sustainable income streams. So, land stewardship has become of great importance. Meanwhile, we also face digital change. We are all accessing anything anywhere using our handheld devices. Yet this has had perhaps a slightly unexpected consequence: rather than eschewing



1929 The Wall Street Crash and the Great Depression 5%

1939-45 The Second World War 2%

1694 The Bank of England founded 6%

1979 rates peak at 17%

1846 Repeal of the Corn Laws 3%



2007 The Global Financial Crisis 5.5%

1914-18 The First World War 5%

















the city and escaping to the countryside or beach where we can all work on our laptops, urban life has actually become much more important. The one thing we cannot do using a handheld device is have a face-to-face chance encounter with another human being. We can’t get the juxtaposition of real-world happenstance that leads to our next big project or business venture. We can’t bump accidentally into our next life partner (who might otherwise have swiped left on an app). The serendipity, the chaos of the city has become more important in an age where everything else can be neatly arranged by an algorithm. The out-of

and movement of global capital. But London now has more people working in tech than it does in finance. We are entering an age of the digital city where once again we seek proximity to other people. So, when we assess the legacy of a catalytic impetus, we have to watch out for the shape of that catalyst. Is it going to be an Olympic committee who insist on a 20th-century shaped catalyst? Or could it be a 21st century catalyst that recognises once again how important people are?

town business park and the out-of town shopping centre dies in the face of this need. People want real places, and these places are messy. All these trends together are making for a new type of city, a 21st-century city. 21st century cities in a sense revert to the origins of our first cities, where what mattered was proximity to other people. Those drawn to Jericho were coming together to be in proximity with other human beings (to worship, to trade, to cooperate, to form families, to govern and so on). We have, in modernity, gone through an industrial revolution including the financial city with its concentration




in the story; the attrition between the GLA and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS); the attrition between the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) and the legacy body. All these players were motivated differently, which in a way, became physically embodied in the infrastructure and buildings. For example, standing today on some of the roads around the park, I remember the fierce debates I had with Westfield and the ODA’s project sponsor for the highways. We had to consider how to facilitate the needs of the shopping centre and the games whilst keeping legacy in mind. Yet the loop road around the edge of the park will always reflect more how the athletes and press were ferried followed later by the Greater London Plan (1944) - so the word ‘plan’ was there. Meanwhile, Friedrich Hayek wrote a controversial yet influential book, ‘The Road to Serfdom’, which is essentially an attack on the whole notion of planning. According to Hayek, planning requires a central authority, which in turn is detached from the reality it is trying to address. Yet the only way to understand reality is through monitoring and analysing all sorts of micro-transactions, such as market trading and other economic and personal transactions, which is very difficult to do.

around the park over those few weeks of the Olympics and Paralympics than longer term need for connectedness. But whilst the outcomes varied in their purpose, the masterplan itself was always drafted as a step on the journey to a completeness. On a drawing, one can always see a plan as finished, but messiness is something we really need to consider. How can one shift from that big picture thinking of a plan to a more granular way of thinking that deals with ambiguity and complexity? This suggests that a successful masterplan is a process that facilitates a myriad of smaller players to influence a wider outcome, and not just those with greater financial muscle. It is in the answer to this question where we can find the DNA of a resilient place. This sort of haphazard planning is obviously risky but it avoids the dictatorial attempt to develop a ‘plan’. I think to some extent the history of the Lower Lea Valley demonstrates, perhaps in the Olympics, the fact that plans and planning can at least be partially successful, but also the previous attempts – the David Mackie plan of 2002, the various plans under the GLC and its predecessor, the London County Council going back to Abercrombie. I even seem to remember one of these areas was earmarked for Cedric Price’s Fun Palace. All these failed bits of planning in a sense catalysed to come together with the Olympics.

The idea of catalysts, their big vision, the idealised picture as a starting point begs the question, ‘what should a city be like?’ But what we often value in a city is its granularity and its messiness. But how can we introduce messiness into a process that is essentially driving towards something very pristine? It is one of the inherent challenges of masterplanning. A plan demands precision, even more so now that drawings are digitally drafted. My recollection of all those years working on the Olympic Park is that the process itself was very messy and perhaps that is where the clue lies: in the attrition of the various actors One of the interesting things about this part of the Lower Lea Valley is that the catalyst seems to have been the failed legacies of previous plans that go back at least to Abercrombie. He was very concerned about the east because it was clear that it had suffered most of the bomb damage and it was deprived, as shown by the Booth maps which were almost entirely black over east London. Abercrombie tried to address this in the County of London Plan (1943), WHAT DO WE MEAN BY ‘PLAN’? JEREMY MELVIN


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