nla news

Crossrail: Delivering better public spaces - 23/7/2014


Moorgate  John Robertson Architects
Crossrail will have a transformational regeneration effect on London’s public realm even in places the new rail line does not touch as other areas are forced to ‘up their game’ to keep pace.

That was one of the key points made this morning at the NLA’s breakfast talk ‘Crossrail – delivering better public spaces’, which included presentations from architects involved in designing areas around stations both in inner and outer London.

The observation came from GVA associate Martyn Saunders, presenting some of the findings from a follow-up report to the firm’s original investigation into the uplift Crossrail areas might expect when the line is open in 2018.

Saunders said that Crossrail is much more than ‘an expensive train set for London’ and is already having an effect on the quantum and type of developments coming through along the line. As it becomes more visible, people will ‘start believing in it more.’ But as areas like Whitechapel will be ‘brought back into central London in a much more real way’ through Crossrail helping it to become an attractive place and Hayes and Harlington has become ‘a whole new economic story’, it will also influence places it won’t touch directly. Saunders said a good example of this is the Golden Mile near Hounslow, which has been forced to ‘sit up’, and ‘raise its game’ because of the better transport connections available elsewhere.

Crossrail chief executive Andrew Wolstenholme OBE said that the line is now 55% complete, with 80% of the tunneling finished, and is on time and on budget, ready to open in 2018. Although it has a ‘huge second half to go’ it was a ‘huge one-off opportunity for London’, he said, featuring exciting public realm schemes such as that around Tottenham Court Road by Gillespies. Wolstenholme added that there would be lots of opportunities to transfer the learning on what does and doesn’t work to other projects including Crossrail 2 and HS2.

‘This isn’t a pipe dream’, he said. ‘But it’s not limited to central stations – we’re equally excited about working with local communities in outlying districts.’

Andrew Tindsley, Director of Urbanism, BDP is one who is working on such projects, at public realm schemes around stations at Maryland, Forest Gate, Manor Park and Ilford. ‘Just because these are tiny stations, it doesn’t mean that the challenge is anything less’, he said, adding that funding projects will be difficult, so would be funneled into making small but significant changes. These include measures to improve wayfinding, the creation of new entrances and plazas, the use of better materials, new paving, and surfaces, improving retail forecourts, forging better connections to local shopping centres, as in Ilford, and creating new green areas and markets. ‘We’re trying to use the public realm as a device for new development’, he said.

In the centre, John Robertson of John Robertson Architects detailed his practice’s work at Moorgate and Farringdon, the former involving a huge opportunity for public space in the Moorfields area becoming like a public plaza, and a 88,000 sq ft building of stepped pavilions in green, red, and light green subtle faience. The JRA Farringdon work is based on the extra footfall the area will receive – some 250,000 people will pass through the interchange every day, 62,000 at the morning peak – through a new integrated ticket hall onto Cowcross Street. ‘Our work is about relating to the context of the site’ said Robertson. ‘We were keen to do an urban infill building and create urban repair’.

David Taylor, Editor, New London Quarterly

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Heathrow City - new urban visions - 16/7/2014


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Rick Mather ArchitectsHawkinsBrownMaccreanor Lavington
The three architects commissioned to come up with proposals for Heathrow City – the space created if the airport were to move east – were at the NLA this morning to outline their visions.

Gavin Miller, Partner, Rick Mather Architects, Darryl Chen, Partner, HawkinsBrown and Gerard Maccreanor, Director, Maccreanor Lavington talked through their schemes following an introduction to the topic by Richard Blakeway, Deputy Mayor for Housing, Land & Property, GLA.

Heathrow, said Blakeway, was ‘an accident in history’, that had a long history of public objections to its creation or indeed its expansion. But it was ‘set up by a government willing to be interventionist and ruthless in its objectives’ – perhaps there were lessons for London today, he suggested. Moving the airport to a new site in the estuary could also help make a considerable impact on London’s housing deficit crisis. Blakeway said that the Heathrow site is around the same size as Kensington and Chelsea and could provide 150,000 homes for 300,000 residents, whereas the 38 Opportunity Areas across the whole of London are projected to provide 300,000.

RMA’s proposal gives the opportunity to stitch Heathrow and its landscape back into its immediate context and wider London, said Miller. The scheme uses the former runways to define the structure of this ‘city’, connecting 10 different character areas with linear parks, terminal buildings redeveloped and meanwhile’ uses to aid the transition from airport to new piece of city.

Chen said the HawkinsBrown proposition was all about three big ideas required by a big site, and the ‘romance of the sky’.  These focused on creating UK’s first airship port to bring a boost to the way freight is distributed in the UK; a factory for homes, with 17% of the houses available to be delivered by self-builders, ‘putting power back into the hands of the people’, and ‘a green belt in the green belt’ – a continuous 9km long linear strip of green space at the centre of the site.

And finally, Maccreanor said his practice’s ‘liveable landscape’ ideas were about creating ‘a mixed use city within the city’, boosted by new rail infrastructure, including a new technology campus, civic centre and international conference centre, based on transforming what is an ‘ecologically inert landscape’ through bioremediation and forest planting. The Davies report on aviation is expected to make its recommendations in September.

A free exhibition of the proposals is on display at NLA until 9 August.

Visit www.heathrow-city.com for further detail on the proposals.
#HeathrowCity   

David Taylor, Editor, New London Quarterly 

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New London Awards 2014 honour Roger Madelin and key schemes in regeneration, housing and public spaces - 10/7/2014


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Peter Murray  -  Agnese Sanvito Agnese Sanvito
•   Argent’s joint CEO Roger Madelin named ʻNew Londoner of the Yearʼ

•    King’s Cross Central masterplan wins top ʻOverall Winnerʼ award

•    19 winners announced across 15 categories representing all sectors of the built environment, including built and unbuilt projects from education to healthcare; office buildings to homes, and the temporary to civic, culture & sport.

NLA today honoured the capitalʼs very best architecture, planning and development as they announced the winners of the New London Awards at a lunchtime ceremony at the Guildhall in the City. 


The New London Awards celebrate the best schemes in the capital, both built and on the drawing board, temporary and permanent – giving recognition to the impact projects have on their surroundings and their contribution to London as well as to their architectural quality.

King's Cross Central, by Allies and Morrison & Porphyrios Associates for King’s Cross Central Limited Partnership, was awarded the prestigious ‘Overall Winner’ accolade: deemed by the judges to be succeeding in forging a new unique character and sense of place whilst utilising the area's rich industrial heritage. King's Cross Central's win was symptomatic of an overall theme this year - a push to sensitively revitalise a historic environment [such as the Old Vinyl Factory site, and Battersea Power Station]. Record numbers of entries were submitted to the Conservation & Retrofit category, showing a real appetite for this area. 


NLA Chairman and Chair of the jury Peter Murray, announcing the awards to some 680 guests at NLAʼs sell-out Annual Lunch, said: I like to think that the Awards celebrate the best in the capital whether winners or not but our international jury was particularly impressed by the no-nonsense approach adopted by the project teams responsible for Hayes Primary School and Tybalds Estate Regeneration. Amid a period when design in education is facing myriad pressures, not the least of them political, we are seeing perhaps the last vestiges of the good design that comes from proper education building funding. Likewise, in these straitened times, the imperative to conserve what you’ve got rather than spend on the new is a logical and sustainable one, exemplified by the sensitive regeneration of Tybalds Estate.”

There was acclaim, too, for Roger Madelin CBE, joint chief executive of Argent, who scooped the ‘New Londoner of the Year’ award in recognition of his role in the ambitious King's Cross Central scheme – the largest regeneration project in Europe, widely considered a resounding success. With many elements completed, London is looking to the example set by this development, a lesson in creating a robust dialogue between a site's new and historic buildings that is key for our developing capital.

Across the Awards, a total of 33 prizes were handed out in 15 categories – 19 winners, one special award and 13 commendations. These were selected from over 320 built and unbuilt entries that together demonstrate the quality and innovation evident in projects being delivered across the capital, with 23 of London’s 33 boroughs featured on the shortlist.

Winners range from the 'A-list favourite' Chiltern Firehouse, to homes created in difficult infill sites, supporting the densification of the city, such as The Junction by Autor Architecture for Sunny Popat, Number 23 by MATT architecture LLP, and Mint Street in Bethnal Green by Pitman Tozer Architects for Peabody. The rewards of the 2012 Games are evident, with three schemes awarded, including the newly opened Tumbling Bay Play and Timber Lodge, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park by erect architecture & LUC for LLDC, further proving the eficacy of the legacy.

Entries were once again judged by a panel of international experts in the fields of architecture and urban design, lending the process an objective view. The panel included David J Burney, Commissioner of New York Cityʼs Department of Design and Construction; Dominique Alba, Director of the Urban Planning Agency in Paris (APUR); Monica von Schmalensee, CEO/ VD, Partner of Swedish architectural firm White, and Riccardo Marini, City Design Leader of Edinburgh City Council and Senior Consultant for Gehl Architects in Copenhagen.

All shortlisted and winning projects will be on show in the NLA galleries at The Building Centre in central London in a year-round exhibition from August 2014 and are featured in a special publication available now.

The New London Awards 2014 are supported by the Mayor of London and sponsored by Broadgate Estates, The Cadogan Estate, Indigo Public Affairs, Luxonic Lighting, Pipers Design, Turley and Urban Space Management.

Photos of the event can be found here. Please credit Agnese Sanvito.

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FITzrovia and Bloomsbury: Store Street Sports Day - 8/7/2014


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Agnese SanvitoAgnese Sanvito
On Saturday 28 June, FitLondon opened to the public with a community sports day. Despite the summer showers, everyone joined in the activity on Store Street South Crescent. There was croquet with Fletcher Priest and ping pong with Ryder Architecture, while NLA chairman Peter Murray led groups on an exploration of local public realm improvements on tokyobikes.

The exhibition, borrowed from the American Institute of Architects in New York, identifies strategies from London and the US that make the built environment more conductive to healthier lifestyles. 

In response to this theme of creating a fitter city, NLA and The Building Centre, in association with Ramboll and RIBA London’s Great Tichfield Street Festival Committee, created an engaging environment, one which invites people to use the space in a variety of ways – illustrating the crescent’s potential as a new public realm in Fitzrovia.

NLA and The Building Centre will continue to activate the space with fitness classes, talks and other events, keep an eye on the NLA website for further details.

Lucie Murray, Programme Coordinator, NLA



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The Human Scale - 4/7/2014


Popcorn and placemaking were the order of the day at the NLA on Tuesday as a select group of invited urban planners and architects discussed how some of the principles espoused in Jan Gehl’s film, ‘The Human Scale’ could apply to London.

The group, which included Riccardo Marini and Helle Søholt from Gehl Architects, Ben Plowden, Director for Planning and Surface Transport at TfL, Crown Estate chief executive Alison Nimmo and Tristram Carfrae, Deputy Chairman at Arup settled down to watch the film and then debate London’s public realm.

The group made a number of points:
·      Clearing clutter can be an effective aid to creating good spaces
·      Effective leadership, vision and bravery – as happened with Bloomberg and Gehl’s work in New York – are key to getting changes implemented
·      London has in fact made great strides in repairing and improving its public realm since 2001 and these should be celebrated more
·      Crossrail is a good opportunity to attend to London’s public realm and reclaim the streets
·      Temporary projects are a useful and cheap way to implement change and signal that development is coming, as with New York’s Broadway
·      Projects like the diagonals on Oxford Street proved to be good for business with nearby retailers
·      It is in the boroughs’ gift to transform their area, creating a better balance between cyclists, pedestrians and motor cars
·      London needs to improve its air quality
·      The city needs to get better at measuring how people use spaces
·      There is scope to use technology more to get the most out of current transport systems
·      Altering the public realm for the better is all about an incremental approach, rather than a grand masterplan

David Taylor, Editor, New London Quarterly 

Participants
Pat Brown, Director, Central
Tristram Carfrae, Deputy Chairman, Arup
Richard Dickinson, Chief Executive, New West End Company
Peter Heath, Design Director – Public Realm, Atkins
Graham King, Head of Strategic Planning and Transportation, Westminster City Council  
Lorraine Landels, Director of Strategic Relationships, Buro Happold
Simon Loomes, Strategic Project Director, Portman Estate
Riccardo Andrea Marini, Senior Consultant, Gehl Architects
Peter Murray, Chairman, NLA
Alison Nimmo, Chief Executive, Crown Estate
Tom Platt, London Manager, Living Streets
Ben Plowden, Director for Planning and Surface Transport, TfL
Tim Rettler, Senior Project Officer-Regeneration, GLA
Helle Søholt, Founding Partner, Gehl Architects
Cllr Vincent Stops, LB Hackney

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Fit London: Designing a healthier city - 3/7/2014


London must do more to create healthier environments if a worrying rise in childhood obesity and a string of adult diseases and disorders can be reversed

That was one of the key findings to emerge from a special half-day conference at the NLA on ‘FIT London – designing a healthier city’ on Tuesday 1 July, which looked at how effective placemaking and the creation of attractive workplaces can contribute to happier people and better environments.

Gehl Architects director Riccardo Marini said the practice was involved in placemaking – ‘about turning a place you don’t want to be in to a place you never want to leave’, helping people ‘re-conquer cities’, and always building on an extensive evidence base. But one of the key problems was the way economics work, said Marini, where we start with buildings and end up often with ‘dysfunctional spaces’. Velocity was a dangerous thing for cities, he went on, and the best environments are those which take on board the human’s average speed. ‘If you design places around the notion of people moving at 5km/h you create de facto healthier spaces’, he said.

People needed ‘invitations’ to cycle or walk more, we need to ‘move away from burning oil to burning calories’, and, as with the work Gehl Architects did so successfully in New York, the creation of temporary projects can be an effective way of bringing about change, ‘sucking life into a space’ overnight. and providing a way to get past the ‘folded arms’ of doubting traffic engineers and others in officialdom.

Yvonne Doyle, director of Public Health England said that the UK doesn’t do at all well in terms of ‘healthy lives’ indicators, with only the US having a worse record. We have been ‘obsessed’ in this country about the NHS, rather than health, need to acknowledge and cope better with the health risks of living in London, but must also take action to try and reverse a worrying rise in childhood obesity, with 37% of children aged 10-11 now obese in the capital. Measures to do this, she said, include better utilising London’s key green spaces – some 38% of land in London is occupied by green space – and ‘reorientate’ the market for healthy food.

Lucy Saunders, Public Health Specialist, GLA said healthy streets are essential to healthy cities, and the GLA uses 10 indicators to judge them, including whether there is clean air, whether they are easy to cross, too noisy, safe, and even whether people feel relaxed. She added that a tool to help quantify and monetize health aspects of transport schemes could help, along with an online tool at www.heatwalkingcycling.org

In terms of specific London areas, Hackney, said the authority’s health legacy programme manager Jane Connor, has devised special planning guidance akin to that in Barking and Dagenham aimed at cutting the proliferation of hot food takeaways and has a healthy urban planning checklist. But vision and political leadership have been key reasons why its cycling policy – Hackney wanted an 80% increase in cycling levels by 2010 – has been such a success, said Connor.

In the private sector, Derwent London is putting healthy policies into action, with development manager Benjamin Lesser explaining how the White Collar Factory project at Old Street will include extensive cycle provision with 276 spaces, storage and showers to respond to the ‘stratospheric’ rise in bike usage in London. The scheme also features a running track on the roof, openable windows, and a programme of signage to encourage people to use the prominent stairs in preference to the lifts.

The conference also heard from LLDC chief of design Kathryn Firth, who detailed the design of the Olympic Park, sports facilities and under-construction Chobham Manor, whose residential blocks encourage people to walk and whose housing all has safe cycle parking integrated. Jordana Malik, meanwhile, director of communications at Renewal, took the audience through the developer’s project to create 2,500 new homes, a hotel, jobs, leisure and sports facilities at the Surrey Canal around Millwall FC. David J Burney, Professor of Planning and Placemaking, Pratt Institute School of Architecture, New York City said via a video link that New York and London were very similar, with a strong link between health equity and social equity, but that real change happens when political sides align.

And finally Marylis Ramos, associate director at PRP, said building design needs to cut through our sedentary lifestyles and encourage people to keep fit. Good practice includes designing fun, different environments which encourage movement as at places like Google’s Zurich office, complete with slide, treadmill- and even cycling desks, wobble chairs, dynamic walkways, and rooftop gardens. But there were also larger design moves to make to encourage a fitter London. ‘Don’t make the elevator lobby the event’, said Ramos, ‘make it the staircase.’

David Taylor, Editor, New London Quarterly 

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NLA Showcase: Three Cultural Buildings - 27/6/2014


Rambert Studios - Allies and Morrison - (c)Nick Guttridge
Rambert Studios - Allies and Morrison

The architects behind three major London cultural projects which all aim to open up the work of their respective client institutions to the public were at the NLA this morning to give their insights on the schemes.

Patrick Lynch of Lynch Architects spoke about his practice’s work with the National Youth Theatre, a complex ‘mini-masterplan’ of a mixture of uses at 443-449 Holloway Road which seeks to create new connections through a site isolated by zoning policy, a wall and industrial sheds over the years, via a series of courtyard spaces. The project combines new build and refurbishment with a performance space, artist workshops, studios and small shops at ground floor with flats above, and aims to become an ‘integrated part of the city’. In a sense the whole site is a stage set, added Lynch, with an undercroft designed to be used as an external performance space, and there are plans to host works of sculpture created by young people in the area too. ‘I hate to use the term ‘cultural quarter’’, said Lynch, ‘but I think that is what we have to create’.

Allies and Morrison project director Nick Peri took the audience through the practice’s project to create a new ‘HQ’ for the Rambert Dance Company on the South Bank. The dance company was originally based in Chiswick, but in premises which were ‘cobbled together’ and even included unstable floors on which the dancers were advised not to jump. Now, after discussions with Coin Street and a masterplan by Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands, it has built a new facility on a long, thin, rectangular site where its first year’s rent is a pair of ballet shoes. The competition-winning scheme has a number of sustainable features and includes three large double-height dance studios, the largest of which includes Bleacher seating to allow the public to watch rehearsals, public changing facilities, open-plan offices and, critically, three-quarters of the ground floor plan dominated by technical storage and an entranceway for trucks. Peri said the practice wanted to create a strong connection between ground floor and a stair (with oak handrails matching those in the studios) bringing people and light down into a reading room, while another feature is the new ability Rambert now has to store all their archive material in one place, and even stage public events in the scheme for the first time. ‘It has been a transformation for them’, said Peri. ‘Rambert are absolutely thrilled with the building.’

Finally, Haworth Tompkins associate director Paddy Dillon described how the practice is aiming to bring the National Theatre up to date and open it up to more of the public by way of creating a new entrance pavilion, ‘injecting life and dynamism’ into the foyers, a new bar to replace a service yard on the riverfront, and adding a new garden for theatre-goers and the local community on the ‘quite forbidding’ and ‘off-putting’ terraces. Dillon said the practice is also revitalising the Cottesloe Theatre, which was always too cramped and small and, he felt, something of an afterthought. It will re-open as the Dorfman Theatre, said Dillon, with better, more comfortable conditions and acoustics with a new, highly visible education and participation alongside. The Shed, the Haworth Tompkins-designed temporary theatre at the South Bank site while work is ongoing with the Cottesloe, will be removed in 2017, added Dillon. The final part of the complex jigsaw of improvements to reduce the ‘fortress-like’ appearance of the building is a new standalone building to the south using aluminium – Lasdun’s second material on the National Theatre – which contains new paint studios with screen windows allowing the public to see the set design going on inside. ‘One of the astonishing things about the National Theatre is that everything happens in one place’, said Dillon. ‘It’s probably the largest factory left in central London.’

David Taylor, Editor, New London Quarterly 

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Is London providing the higher education campuses that we need to compete globally? - 26/6/2014


The ability of London’s Higher Education establishments to compete on the world stage is being hampered by the capital’s housing crisis. But they can continue to draw the best students from around the globe if HE bodies concentrate on placemaking, creating a buzz and marketing the total picture of studying in such a diverse world city.

Those were some of the key points to arise from an NLA think tank co-hosted by Nicholas Hare Architects, whose partner Carol Lelliott began with the notion that social media is now opening up the whole education experience, allowing students a more accurate picture of where they might study. The emphasis is now much more on environments, said Lelliott, not just about the ‘shiny new laboratories’ or the excellence of institutions, but about the ability students might have to interact with their peers both in the learning environment and into their prospective living accommodation. There was no coincidence, Lelliott went on, that Julian Robinson, director of estates at the LSE, had invested so much in the new Saw Swee Hock Student Centre at the school’s Aldwych campus, and London’s diversity was a key draw to the 50% of students here who come from abroad. But there are key threats around the corner, with China spending heavily on its top universities in a bid to take the lead, and, closer to home, the key problem of affordability when it comes to accommodation. This may mean London attracts the richest rather than the most talented students, she said.

Robinson said that it was interesting to note that the London effect had drawn many other universities to set up campuses in the capital, and that people come to the LSE because it is in London. But while the LSE aimed to create a sense of place, the concept of a campus was perhaps alien to London.

The London Metropolitan University’s head of estates development Bill Hunt said it attracted a high number of mature students who are more demanding and sophisticated in how they approach where they will study – estates have become more important as students value a place that looks right, does the right job and has the right support spaces, with flexibility another plus point. For Ian Caldwell, director of estates at Kings College London, the great things about London are the things that aren’t universities, such as the world-class cultural assets Kings partners with. But one of the issues it is debating with its Canada Water outpost is how one gets over the fact that it is two stops on the underground, and how to ‘put heritage and history into it’ in order to attract students.

Kathryn Firth, chief of design, London Legacy Development Corporation raised the need to strike a balance between an inward-looking institution and one which is just another piece of city where it happens that education is going on. Stephen Wells, director, estates and facilities at Queen Mary, University of London suggested that one attractor was the idea of a campus close to learning buildings so that students can ‘roll out of bed’ to a lecture. But students are now very price-sensitive about the cost of accommodation; a cost for today as opposed to the course costs which are a debt for tomorrow. Cambridge shares similar problems, said Ravinder Dhillon, Head of Projects, University of Cambridge – although it has a strong brand of its own it is only 45 minutes from London. ‘We’re part of this issue’, he said. Cambridge is a small City with complex planning issues and similar construction costs that has a significant programme for research facilities and housing. It is also working to introduce layers of greater permeability for public access into some of its more historically landlocked sites.

Third party providers of student housing are seeing something of a boom, with guaranteed 6.5% yields and still a huge demand for beds. So, suggested Steve Howe, director of estates, University of the Arts, whatever planning authorities could do to assist universities to build their own halls or to restrict developers on rents would be appreciated. Howe’s institution is about to apply for permission to build a hall in Camberwell, but this was ‘a drop in the ocean’ compared to what is needed. With 15 sites ranging from its Kings Cross campus to Victorian schools it also has the real challenge of creating any sort of campus identity, but learning does not just happen in academic buildings now, he said. One of his challenges is to rationalise the estate.

Another in that same boat of making the most of its existing estate is Bill Hunt of the Met, who added that affordability was a key problem – an architecture course will now cost £100,000 and costs had forced one of his own children to attend university from home; the other to rule it out completely. Robinson said he wished that local authorities recognised that universities had a wider social mission and that they were effectively providing affordable housing. It was also regrettable, he said, that the GLA had dropped its proposed policy of a presumption in favour of university development at the last minute.

The UCL has the opposite problem of being too much like a campus, said Alex Lifschutz, director, Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands, and there was a problem in store in terms of the quality of the student housing being built today. One lesson from the past is provided by UCL’s stock – the best buildings were the oldest and most flexible; the worst the newest, built very often for a single use.

Higher education establishments are a big driver of the economy and creating a place, said Colin Wilson, strategic planning manager at the GLA, something Argent grasped in the masterplanning of its King’s Cross site, and the GLA is now writing in such elements into opportunity area plans as a result. But the GLA’s challenge, said Stephen Wells, is to help create ‘synergies’ across London because of the affordability problem, to ease a situation where private developers can bid 50% more for a site in Whitechapel than the HE body, and where finding sites is so difficult. The link between the academic and the residential is a ‘huge missed opportunity in London’ said Rupert Cook, director, Architecture PLB. It is of course not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ picture, but universities should be part of the city, and play a civic role – thankfully, he said, the ‘obsession’ with gated communities is ‘unwrapping in a positive way.’

Other points made at the session included:
·      The marketing of universities is still ‘woefully’ behind the opportunities
·      The collaboration that goes in on in teaching could usefully be matched by attending more to accommodation matters in groups of HE institutions, ‘to break the stranglehold of the private developer’
·      The challenge for new sites like Canada Water is to give them ‘identity’

David Taylor, Editor, New London Quarterly


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Tottenham Court Road strategic visioning group - 23/6/2014


Crossrail will act as a ‘catalyst for change’ in the areas around Tottenham Court Road, but the aftermath of its transformation will require new funding mechanisms to emerge in order to maintain the rejuvenated public realm.

That was one of the key thoughts to emerge from a special Tottenham Court Road strategic visioning group think tank run by NLA and co-hosted by Crossrail, which aimed to draw out the main issues for the area following the arrival of the new station in 2018.

Colin Smith, Head of Over Site Development, Crossrail introduced the session, noting that the new line will bring a 10% boost to capacity, a relief for existing tube lines and a new kind of accessibility for Tottenham Court Road, with Canary Wharf just 12 minutes away in future. Usage of the station will rise by some 50% from 118,000 to 180,000 in and out daily, but Crossrail is also dealing with the oversite development, Derwent London adding an eight-storey scheme with a theatre which promises to add more vibrancy to the area.

Crossrail’s Land & Property Director Ian Lindsay said one of the line’s unique USPs is that ‘we are the first rail project in the UK that has designed the stations, the oversite development and the surrounding urban realm as an integrated package so we have a much greater impact on placemaking and the future shape of areas than other rail projects that have gone before.’ Crossrail is also contributing £3 million to a £9 million scheme to upgrade St Giles, with the overall objective being ‘enabling and benefiting from growth’, said Sam Monck, Assistant Director Environment and Transport, LB Camden. But it is important to deal with the placemaking issues including a new park alongside improved transport measures without sacrificing those in other areas, he added, while an aim for the council is to maintain the 30% drop in traffic brought about by the current hole in the ground where works are going on. Monck said that consultation on the creation of two-way working for Tottenham Court Road is ongoing – it was important to hear from other businesses and groups, via http://www.wearecamden.org/westendproject/  

It was instructive to look at the changing picture of work and demographics as they attach to the area. The total number of people commuting to central London, said Arup director Alexander Jan, is broadly constant – around 1.1m in 1979 and around that figure now. But the real change has been a shift in modes, with 200,000 doing the journey by car in 1979 at the morning peak falling to around 90,000 today. And, he added, the big increases in growth have been in the off-peak hours, with the nine major mainline stations around the West End experiencing an 80-90% growth, but most of that beyond the morning peak. This is mirrored to a large extent in Lower Manhattan where they are also trying to establish whether this has been caused by leisure, tourism, or work patterns which have moved away from the traditional 9-5 regime.

The area, said Graham King, is a 24/7, mixed use zone, with the growth in the West End all about the rise in ‘offpeak’, and shopping. Although Crossrail has been on the books as a potential project since 1989 and Crossrail has had developments planned above the stations for many years, it was only a GVA report in 2012 that kick-started the notion of developing around the line. But the amount of extra development does not seem great, said director of LSE London Tony Travers. While planners can only deal with what is submitted to them, said King, and manage a system which is ‘fundamentally flawed for the growth agenda’, the problem is that developers are not coming forward with enough plans to densify the area.

In a sense, the area is in need of being re-imagined, said Deborah Saunt, director of DSDHA, telling the story of how when she first began public realm work and presented to London First there was a ‘palpable intake of breath amongst the business community’ when they were shown the amount of ‘excellence’ in terms of institutions there are in the area. Perhaps, she added, Tottenham Court Road needs to concentrate on being less of a route, and more of a place, like the West End, with the area’s wealth of ‘exhibition-ism’ (those institutions) potentially being a more active part of the public realm in future.

The public’s notion of the station and proximity to Soho and other areas will also need to be recast if it can come to the aid of people wanting to get to, say, Covent Garden – whose station has been unable to cope with its numbers for decades primarily because of its lifts. This would need to be accompanied by an uplift in maps, apps and wayfinding.

But in providing a new area of high quality public realm around the station, we need new financial models to make the management of that space work, said Monck, given a drop in government funding to Camden of 50% over 2010-2018. ‘We know that transport infrastructure and public realm helps deliver extra value but we don’t capture that’, he said. ‘We need to not do marvellous things in London and then watch them degrade.’ There is no silver bullet on this but one answer might come from BIDs, multiple streams or, suggested Travers, from a service charge the like of which Westfield imposes. ‘The thing is that Westminster and Camden are the richest two boroughs in the country with, in effect, no access to their resources beyond parking’, said Travers, adding that the tourist industry may be faced with a bleak choice – to either pay a levy or face ‘degradation’.

What kind of place might Tottenham Court Road become? The run of its electrical shops have not embraced the ‘experience’ or the ‘destination’ retail in the way that Selfridges or Apple Store have done to bring in more footfall to Regent Street and elsewhere, so perhaps, said Patrick Richard of Stanton Williams, who are designing the entrance pavilions for the Tottenham Court Road underground station, there is a demand for a kind of place where people can meet and be entertained. Or it could include a cultural quarter that could revitalise the old base of the music industry, and the eastern edge of Oxford Street. Philip Turner, Associate Director at AHMM, designing the 61 Oxford Street scheme for Dukelease, said that the new mixed use building will contain a flagship Zara store. Although Zara have several other stores in the West End, retail agent CBRE advised that people tend not to shop across districts, so Oxford Street East acts as its own separate sub-district. Tottenham Court Road is clearly a grand street suitable for larger stores, and controlling the identity of those stores can be difficult. The idea we have the same thing everywhere is disappointing, said Alex Lifschutz, however. ‘It would be great if the character of the road emerged and Tottenham Court Road became something distinctive’, he said.

David Taylor, Editor, New London Quarterly


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Unlocking Public Sector Land - 19/6/2014


Much of London’s ripest land is already under development and solutions were put forward on how to unlock the hard-to-get-at remainder at the Unlocking Public Sector Land half-day conference at the NLA on June 18.

Richard Blakeway, Deputy Mayor for Housing Land and Property at the GLA, promised better results as a result of 670 ha of land being transferred to the GLA, making it the largest public landowner in London. He promised that all inherited land will be under development or in development strategy by 2016. To that end, the GLA has made £200 million available to unlock public land and the Government has put in another £200 million. It is hoped that 50,000 homes will be built through this fighting fund in the next ten years. ‘We want the boroughs to bid for this cash and drive these schemes forward,’ said David Lunts, Executive Director of Housing and Land at the GLA. ‘Many of the boroughs have new-build housing programmes for the first time in two decades.’ Lunts pointed to the example of Ealing, which has set up its own development company to regenerate places such as Copley Close. ‘A lot of borough-led schemes were started last year, but more could be done,’ added Lunts. ‘There is a compelling argument for amending borrowing caps for boroughs, given the scale of the housing need.’

Other innovative funding mechanisms are being put in place, such as allowing developers to defer payment to public bodies and make tricky sites viable. Kevin Cowan, a director of Mace Group, said that it had benefited from the deferred payment model to develop an old hospital site at Greenwich Square with 645 homes and an impressive 50 per cent affordable housing.  ‘The deferred payment land disposal model worked really well here and made the investment negotiation with the banks far easier,’ he said.

Meanwhile, the GLA is encouraging developers by publishing a public land property database on its website – ‘a digitised Domesday Book for London’. And it is facilitating meet-ups between boroughs and developers with a ‘speed-dating service, to discuss land that is for sale’. This has led to a number of deals and the idea is now being rolled out nationally.

Sherin Aminossehe
, Head of Government Estate Strategy and Delivery at the Government Property Unit, added that the Government is also putting details of nearly all its land assets in London online.  ‘We want the public to know what we own and we are encouraging people to put forward a Right to Contest bid if they think we are not using the land in the best way and can do it better.’ She told the GLA: ‘The offer is there if you wish to join databases.’

Lunts claimed that London is getting ‘more mature’ about regeneration and pointed to the rapid transformation of vast sink estates such as Heygate and Aylesbury in Southwark. And there are encouraging signs on the ground that the sort of Nimbyism that has held back development of public land is being replaced by a more realistic attitude. Stephen McDonald, Director of Place, RE (Regional Enterprise) – a regeneration joint venture between Barnet council and Capita – said: ‘We are seeing evidence that conservative residents are increasingly receptive to housing developments in their area because they realise it might be the only way that family members can live there.’

Perhaps the biggest scheme coming forward, and the most challenging, is the regeneration of the Royal Docks, for which development partners are expected to be appointed in July. Jonathan Turner, Director of Development Consulting at DTZ, warned that the site may not reach its development potential because the market had not fully realised the benefit of its Enterprise Zone status. 

‘Enterprise Zones present the most powerful income stream mechanism for decades, but that’s not the position the market has taken,’ he said. ‘However, they missed the real point and that’s the ability to utilize business rates. In the Royal Docks, where there is more than 7 million ft2 of development, there is the ability to lever hundreds of millions of pounds of infrastructure investment on the rates.’ However, good modelling is needed to make the case and that is not happening. ‘We have found a lack of robust evidence base on what that accommodation is going to be; one plc looking at Royal Docks didn’t even know it could retain business rates.’

As more schemes come forward, said Duncan Salmon, Head of Regeneration at the law firm Speechly Bircham, developers and public bodies needed to think more carefully about ‘balance of control’ to unlock difficult sites.  ‘Think carefully about who is controlling what and when?’ he said. ‘Think about delivery of objectives, transfer of land interest and payments and how the proceeds are divided.’

Mahmood Faruqi, Director of Planning at RTKL, ended the event by urging London’s planners and developers to learn from other cities in a bid to stimulate development in the Central London core. He held up the example of the 15-year-old L.A Live entertainment complex in central Los Angeles. The “entertainment and lifestyle” development on public land was built around a 20,000 seat arena and has catalysed the building of 3,000 houses. “If the city authorities had just said ‘let’s build housing here’, no one would have touched it.”

There is much to do, but Rick Blakeway promised results: ‘The GLA is getting into delivery and rolling up its sleeves to regenerate London’.

Damian Arnold
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