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London 2030: Imagining the future

UK: Pipers, a multi-disciplinary group that specialises in architectural model making, design and consultancy, has prepared a model of London 2030. In this model, approximately 50,000 individual buildings or blocks comprise the urban landscape, each meticulously crafted to scale from aerial photography.

Every street and park – not to mention the familiar curve of the Thames – has been faithfully reproduced from Ordnance Survey maps. And a total of 5,000 hours of labour by model-making firm Pipers has gone into the 12-metre-long (36ft) result.

And alongside the familiar structures – Buckingham Palace, the London Eye and the Houses of Parliament – sits every major development given planning permission to date. Some 500 unborn buildings are cast across the landscape, reproduced from architects’ plans and blueprints. Thus, at a glance, the observer can see London in two decades’ time.

Nick McKeogh, director of Pipers, explained, “The model was first made in 2005, in the middle of a huge building boom. Not since Victorian times had London seen such development. We thought a model would bring professionals from all the different disciplines together – architects, developers and politicians. But we have everybody, from people interested in architecture to members of the public, worried because something is going up in their back garden.”

To the casual observer, the number of new skyscrapers is particularly striking. In London’s financial district, the Gherkin – designed by Norman Foster – has six new partners among the clouds. And four buildings across the miniature landscape dwarf the UK’s current tallest skyscraper, Canary Wharf – despite being barely half an inch high in the model. Observers are left in no doubt: the skyline of 2030 will be a very different sight. But McKeogh said, “It’s not Shanghai-on-Thames.”

Mayor of London Boris Johnson and Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne are among the politicians to have studied the model.

While the proliferation of skyscrapers points firmly towards the future, the mark of history is still writ large, with clues to how developments of the past were carried out. Debbie Whitfield, director of New London Architecture, in whose galleries off Tottenham Court Road the model resides, said, “Although the model is quite simplified, it’s incredible what it reveals. It shows how the Roman walled City of London was largely built over the medieval street plan just as it was before the Great Fire of London. The medieval street plan informed the shape of developments that were built later.”

Whitfield added, “Architects building there (the City) had to respond to very different circumstances than elsewhere in London. For instance, you have Canary Wharf, which was a blank canvas. When you come out of the Tube there you could be in Tokyo – the complexity of London is its beauty.”

The model, built to a 1:1,500 scale, is constantly updated as new developments are approved. But will the London of 2030 be a better place? Or are developers putting profit over civic improvement? While his pride in the model is evident, McKeogh retains a healthy cynicism. “I would not say all of these things will contribute to a better London,” he mutters.

Source: BBC