The Architects Guide · The Long But Happy Face Of London, 2020

Before we look at 2020, we’re revisiting a NLA London breakfast talk, in December 2019. The discussi
Architects Guide Section
January 23, 2020

Before we look at 2020, we’re revisiting a NLA London breakfast talk, in December 2019. The discussion centered around our capital, and how it prepares to position itself as a rounded, global city for the new decade. Naturally, this is no easy feat, and the success will rely heavily on the redevelopment and repurposing of scarce inner-city industrial land.

Since 2001, over 1,300 hectares of industrial land has been converted for other uses. Buildings purposed for housing and offices have remained a primary focus; yet despite such efforts, to accommodate more people, and to strengthen our infrastructure, more space is needed. And with limited ground underfoot, how do we create more opportunities to develop, expand and grow?

The Changing Landscape

NLA director, Lara Kinneir, opened the discussion by acknowledging that, 'we are seeing a big shift in this landscape.' Andrew Smith, partner and head of industrial team, Carter Jonas, agreed, and highlighted that, ‘we have lost huge swathes of land; factors like a growing population, a rapid rise in demand for urban logistics and a relentless growth in e-commerce means that space is at a premium, but supply is not responding.' Land values have also risen sharply; west London has become synonymous with progressive industrial redevelopment, with rentals surrounding Heathrow offering some of the highest value increase nationally. However, to achieve a global status, we should not limit our opportunities. Smith notes that, 'East London has the advantage of a better supply of land coming up.'

A Multi-Storey Future

Looking forward, the sector needs to consider increasing levels of site coverage, more co-location such as industrial within mixed use schemes, and more multi-storey schemes of the kind that are so common in Hong Kong and elsewhere in the Far East. Smith continued, 'Future global cities must now take note, and respond. If they are to exist as economic leaders, they must also accommodate densely populated areas.' Architectural innovation, and pervasive development of urban areas is key.

Inspired by Hong Kong & the Far East

London has just one comparable multi-storey scheme, so it currently has very little in terms of a pricing model. But moving into the new decade, this is set to change; there are several more, new multi-storey projects being proposed, and UK Brick is proud to be supporting architects and developers with such projects.

A Taller Tomorrow

Segro’s Alan Holland agreed that London must be brave, embrace change, and think differently. ‘We’re in a world of unprecedented change, we have to adapt’ he said. Segro is developing a scheme co-located with housing, and Holland believes there is no reason why these projects should not become the norm, and in more central locations.

Creativity in Design & Functionality

Caroline Harper, chief planner at Be First, recognises the progress London has made, and yet raises concerns about our position globally. She highlights that, 'we need to ensure that planning is delivery focused, and instead of being rigid, it should be open to a flexible approach. We are, as a city, very behind in using our land intensively’, she said.

The attitudes at the talk were united in the need for architectural rethinking. Aggressive yet sensible redevelopment will both increase our inner city population, and radically improve our business opportunities on a global scale.

The Final Thought

‘We have to seize the opportunity’, concluded Holland. ‘Land is scarce. We have got to break the mould and stop being so narrow and rigid. We should take a bit of a risk and go for it.' We totally agree with this sentiment. Here UK Brick, we are proud to support architects and house-builders in their journey to redefine London’s skyline. With new, multi-storey apartment complexes and offices in planning, we are ready to help London stand taller, and to secure a long and prosperous future.  

Get in touch to tell us a little more about your plans, and we’ll be on hand to find the right brick for your project.

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