As part of The Developing City Exhibition 2012, Woods Bagot, Brookfield, Hilson Moran and Cornwell have joined forces to showcase their vision of the City of London in 2050. Woods Bagot Senior Associate, David Craven, discusses why London, looking towards 2050, must 'grow up'.
As London has evolved over the centuries, one constant has been its title of being the financial capital of the world. Indeed, over the next twenty years, total employment in the city is predicted to rise by 17% from 373,000 to around 435,000 in 20311. But, the City of London’s footprint isn’t getting any bigger.
Offices remain the single largest use of space in the city2, accounting for around 70% of all floorspace. In order to keep pace with the demand created by continued employment growth, the city must Grow-Up by around 12 million square feet of new office space in the next 15 years alone. The bulk of that space will be created through the development of tall buildings in the Eastern Cluster3.
The overall area of public open space in the city is insufficient to cope as the number of people grows. In the Eastern Cluster, which has even less public realm than the city average, creating new space must be prioritised if regular congestion and overcrowding is to be avoided. The city’s network of over 150 small public spaces will therefore also need to Grow-Up.
In the Eastern Cluster, where the level of redevelopment will be most intense, historical street patterns will be retained but the traditional approach of perimeter block planning will be replaced by a scenario where smaller, irregular land parcels typical of the urban grain of the city are consolidated into larger sites that can comfortably accommodate the development of taller buildings.
Typically these taller, thinner, more sustainable buildings will create significant opportunity for new public open space at street level by moving the building line inboard from the site boundary.
The mix of tenants in the city will also evolve. While the financial services sector will continue to dominate the overall leasing profile into the foreseeable future, the growth of the knowledge economy will cause the range of other tenant types to broaden, as premium technology, media and data analytics businesses increasingly seek space within the city.
A range of different workplace configurations will be required to meet the varied workstyles of these different tenant groups, while also reducing their energy and water use and waste production. In addition, ongoing advances in technology will allow people to work productively from anywhere within the city that they choose.
As business and leisure converge, organisations will increasingly use their city presence to leverage high-level, face-to-face interaction, driving demand for more destination venues servicing both business and leisure clientele.
Looking towards 2050, the City of London will retain its title of being the financial capital of the world.
Contemporary development and the modernisation of listed and historical buildings will create a city with stunning, low-energy sustainable design, focused on best-in-class office space coupled to a wide range of amenities required to satisfy burgeoning Bleisure activity.
Leading corporations from all over the globe will seek to maintain a presence in the city. This evolution, fostered by the demands of business owners and their employees, small and steady growth in the residential population, and a boom in the hotel & tourism sector, will deliver major improvements in the urban fabric, vibrancy and culture of the city, and demonstrate that it can, indeed must, Grow-Up.
 Working Paper 39. Borough employment projections to 2031, GLA Economics, November 2009 The City Prospectus: City of London Economic Assessment 2010, City of London Corporation, January 2011 Local Development Framework. Core Strategy. Development Plan Document, City of London, September 2011
ABOUT THIS INITIATIVE Grow Up London is a collaboration between Brookfield, Cornwell, Hilson Moran and Woods Bagot, as part of The Developing City exhibition being curated by New London Architecture.