The City of London neighborhood is the nation’s financial heart, houses over 10,000 residents, and is home to significant cultural landmarks. Yet many of the City’s offices will remain underoccupied after the pandemic and cultural institutions will need people to return to their venues in order to thrive. A recent survey revealed that 45% of City workers said they want to continue working from home after the pandemic as it has improved their work-life balance. Additional stressors such as extreme weather, heat island effect, a lack of social cohesion, economic stress, and dysfunctional infrastructure compound the challenge.
This is a design vision for the City of London which unifies the cultural institutions in the area, makes access to arts and culture equitable, reclaims the public realm, and reimagines the use of buildings within the site. The vision is based on an approach to bringing happiness to this area of the city by creating a series of design moves which are influenced by human emotion.
The idea behind “Inside-Out” is to abstract the concept of “inside and out,” and apply it to all dimensions – physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral in order to improve the overall well-being of the site and its inhabitants. This design driver led to the creation of an expanded public realm at and above ground, through strategic programming, new and improved pedestrian connections and public spaces.
We measure things solely by economic viability, market-driven housing, clean-cut zoning, and transportation levels of service. This has manifested in how this neighbourhood functions today: auto-dominated thoroughfares and single-use districts that become empty after the 9-to-5 working day. Good planning and urban design should not be solely about how many square feet a building or park should be, but rather how they are perceived and experienced by their users. We developed a new urban design framework that drives the built form and public realm based on a “happiness quotient” and five emotional lenses: Enjoyability, Accessibility, Tranquility, Spontaneity, and Productivity.