2015 saw a surge in new property development across the capital, and London’s low-rise skyline is embarking on a dramatic transformation as developers scramble to meet demand. But what effect does all this change have on the way that we will experience the London of the future?
Research from think tank New London Architecture (NLA) states that 263 buildings over 20 storeys have been given the go-ahead (compared to 70 buildings under construction in 2015), and with huge investment being poured into transport to support the vision of a 24hr city, we wait in anticipation as global market forces threaten to transform our capital like never before.
We are now very familiar with the Gherkin and the Walkie Talkie defining the continual rise of the financial district, but with new residential towers being built everywhere from Chelsea Harbour to the M4 corridor, what measures are in place to preserve the unique personality of the London neighbourhoods that define the city’s culture as we know it?
Many welcome growth, seeing innovation and change as progress, but some might say that a balance needs to be struck in order to maintain a connection, not only with what creates London’s charm, but with what keeps the grand ‘machine’ thriving. Like many major cities across the world, gentrification can seem to dilute the essence, heritage and character, which in our minds we associate with our favourite cities. Only last year, restauranteurs of Chinatown, the oriental poster-child for London’s early claims to being a global city, claimed the district’s future is in jeopardy should rents continue to rise. As an example of the diversity that has become synonymous with the city culture, it would be a shame for London’s more emotive qualities to be compromised by cold hard economic forces.
Also visually, whilst the London brand may be recognised overseas for its icons, even these are now evolving. The Underground has just announced the new Elizabeth Line (Crossrail’s new identity), the London bus now has a ‘Boris’ version, and the black taxis will be all electric within ten years.
We have certainly found it easy to embrace new icons such as the Shard that help to simultaneously supply demand whilst helping to re-assert London’s global brand ambitions. And to the politicians, a high-rise city is the ultimate compliment; a highly visible statement that demand exceeds supply and that progress and scarcity of land demands that the only way is up.
However for those of us that define a brand by its personality and culture, perhaps the arrival of multi-occupational towers moves London’s brand ever further away from the cockney chimney pots romanticised by Disney’s Mary Poppins and nearer to the futuristic world visions of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner.
In our sixteen-year history, Underscore has helped landlords everywhere from the Carnaby Estate to London’s riverside community to embrace progress and market their vision whilst ensuring the things that are loved have been treasured and regenerated. London has certainly seen many changes during this period, but we know this to be the most culturally sensitive and commercially effective way to manage change and build a future reality for our sparkling City that matches its grand vision.