LONDON, England


Originally an ambition, 'gentrification' is now viewed with mixed feelings in Europe's no 1 expanding megatropolis. At the centre of London, Bermondsay on the south bank of the Thames has already transformed from derelict artisanal and dockside industry to sleek sheik, more in keeping with Cheapside and Bank just across the Thames. Mayor Boris' recent fast tracking of 28,000 new houses promises 2400 to Bermondsey raising mutterings of new risks of potential 'de-gentrification'. At present this looks extremely unlikely.

Well crafted walkways along South Bank by Tower Bridge open exceptional panoramas across:- Tower of London; the 'walkie talkie'; 'cheese grater'; Gerhkin; Bank of England; Nat-West Tower; and westwards to St Paul's.  Equally iconic reverse vistas back across the river expose Tate Modern; Globe Theatre; Golden Hind; the Shard; ‘More London’; City Hall and towards the east, Shad Thames.

Spice warehouses along Shad Thames, closed in 1972, have adapted easily into picturesque waterfront residential mixed use, with galleries, restaurants etc, and ‘More London's’ Development for Mayor Boris and the London Assembly assures a civic future here for a while. Cobbled lanes serve parts but new accute streets add welcome riverfront links from Tooley St. The vennel on the axis of Tower Bridge and Shard appeals equally in both directions and well suits huge London Bridge pedestrian traffic.

Hay's Gallery

Positive regeneration through re-use and design has thrived here and not (yet) drained all local character. Behind shinier facades Tooley St is still edgy, especially when high profile cases are being heard in “Southark” Court. This style of gentrification satisfies mixed communities with mixed answers to whether they live in villages, towns, cities etc but it does not respond to London’s new swelling mega-rich patrons. Regeneration and 'gentrification' have no strategies to address this most rapacious capitalism where if it cannot quickly change 'organically' then simply demolish and rebuild.

Billionaire apartment owners have no use, or interest, in 'local' community. It is however meaningless to merely grumble or disapprove of the phenomenon! - who would not wish to attract wealth and power to their city? Global Community may not help low margin tobacconists, filling stations or kebab shops but it still needs  service and support. Understanding and interpreting these requirements is what architects purport to do?

London faces a unique challenge. This time there are no 'lofting' precedents to import from US or middle east as with previous 'lifestyle' models. UK's dense land use, history and traditions, and of course democratic values, means that sensitivity, harmony and compromise is absolutely essential in resolving this – even if not always present in our current confrontational planning system!

Clear, innovative thinking and design skills may be more important now than ever. Glance behind the dynamic image of Renzo Piano's Shard. This building compiles, and answers complex briefs; integrates 'global' with pre-existing community requirements, and all within a foot print above one city block, interlaced among transport routes. It is less a matter of replicating the Shard, but more of understanding, exploring and emulating this “out of the box” thinking process that might achieve worthwhile design solutions.

'The Scoop' More- London

The inspired fantasy project proposed last year by Scotland's WTArchitects for regenerating an island river fortress, “no1 Thames”, may yet achieve full recognition!

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© stuart campbell 2017