The Developing City

The world looks to London this summer as Britain's capital plays host to the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, the Olympic Games and an extravaganza of arts and music. Promising all the pomp and pageantry of summer stalwarts Wimbledon and Royal Ascot, this year’s special events are certain to celebrate the city’s storied past.

By contrast, local architects and property professionals are focused on London's future. Alongside the seasonal contests and celebrations, designers and developers are forecasting how the City of London might look in 2050. Gensler is one firm setting out a vision for the summer-long public exhibition, "The Developing City," which considers how architecture will contribute to the Square Mile's enduring success as a global trading center.

Image: Aldgate Quarter reinvented for 2050


A Vision for the City of London

A Gensler team of planners, architects and designers has outlined a bold vision for London's adaptations to changes in governance, infrastructure, climate and the nature of work. In this provocative view, the future City benefits from growing international trade, world-class transport enhancements, pioneering infrastructure developments and the introduction of public parks to offset a deficit of urban open space. Predicting London to be the capital of an international free-trade zone, Gensler sees the City reviving its historic commercial diversity to become "the first genuinely global city."

"Our dynamic vision highlights how the City continues to redefine and reinvent itself," says Gensler Managing Director Ian Mulcahey.

Gensler Creates the CT2050

"In our view, London will grow tenfold to become the recognized center of the global economy," Mulcahey continues. "Our 'CT2050' plan demonstrates how the City's diversification away from finance and professional services continues apace, complemented by rapid expansion in tech-media and life sciences. To that, improvements and modernization of transport and infrastructure will facilitate changes in business, leading to the creation of public spaces that enhance the experience of locals and visitors alike." Gensler's plan takes the historic City Wall boundary that defined London's ancient footprint, adapting it to organize the future City in a "halo" of infrastructure and open space connecting five re-imagined districts: Thames, Barbican, Smithfield, Aldgate and Shoreditch.

Commercial Diversity

For centuries, a broad mix of trade and business helped London thrive. The CT2050 plan's "City Halo" concept gives London a visible identity lacking since the City Wall's destruction in the 19th century. Establishing a "ring of opportunity," the future City is home not only to bankers and lawyers, but creatives in technology, fashion, music, art, and increasingly health and wellness. Media companies have returned to Fleet Street; and software developers now concentrate in the urban core.

The London Life Sciences Exchange sensitively refurbishes Smithfield Market, converting the former meat market into a "Meet Market" in convenient proximity to the City's historic stock exchange and trading floors.

Technology, Media and the Arts

The City will rely on several anchors for economic diversification in 2050. While Smithfield welcomes the life sciences industry, Aldgate Quarter creates an eastern mixed-use, high-rise cluster for further intensification of financial and professional services.

Greater diversification of business is evident as the City engages its fringes at Old Street, Spitalfields and Shoreditch, which mix art galleries, boutiques and museums with a burgeoning tech media sector. Broadgate and Bishopsgate Goods Yard have merged with the London Tech Media Exchange at their heart; the Exchange providing an essential locus for interaction between finance, legal, creative media and technology communities.

Transport and Open Space

One of the legacies of Victorian and Edwardian investment is the scale of London's transportation network. Extending across the City, it bequests a foundation for CT2050's SuperStations. These transit hubs link major rail stations via a transport loop that circumnavigates the City's old boundaries, providing high-speed rail connections to terminals within the halo and to new runways in the Thames Estuary. Travel from office to airport takes less than 10 minutes.

Private car transportation is replaced by underground road and rail to create public open space above ground. The tight network of streets gives way to new parklands, cycling routes and vibrant pedestrian zones that are the envy of competing cities.

Culture and Parks

In living memory London's most popular cultural institutions have drawn visitors beyond the City confines. But culture is critical to a robust urban center, so CT2050 leverages the Barbican's intrinsic worth as a performing arts center to form the nucleus of a world-class cultural cluster.

Meanwhile, Gensler research into the value of urban open space reveals it to be an increasingly rare commodity and invaluable to the quality of city life. As such, London in 2050 will profit from the restoration of the River Fleet as a park running from the Thames to Hampstead, as well as the introduction of a continuous walkable park ring that connects all five regenerated districts in Gensler's plan.

Anna Robinson and Ian Mulcahey (Gensler London)

Gensler London CT2050 Team

Further Reading
"London 2050: The First Genuinely Global City" by Ian Mulcahey

About the Exhibition
The Developing City is on view at the Walbrook Building, London EC4, from June 21-September 9.

A major exhibition on the past, present and future of the City of London as a center for international trade, and part of the overall London Festival of Architecture, the Developing City Exhibition will look at how the physical environment of the City -- its buildings, public spaces and culture have helped it to thrive as a major business center.

A series of seminars, talks and walks about development in the City will accompany the exhibition. Please find more information on and under #DevelopingCity on Twitter.

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