The Future of the City is Already Here
The City of London is, at its core, a place for business. For centuries, as Greater London has enveloped the historic center, the Square Mile has maintained a steady concentration and development of economic wealth. Banking and finance are highly represented among the corporations and businesses that make their home here. The population of transient users vastly outstrips its approximately 10,000 local residents, a mixture of the most affluent professionals and foreign investors. This homogenous densification of land use and activity has made the City the bustling icon that it is today, but it has failed to generate inclusive paths to wealth in the area. This office and tourism-based development also makes its status extremely vulnerable to change as we have seen during the pandemic. The pandemic redefines our perception of place by challenging the requirement of formal work environments. Financial institutions that had the resources necessary to weather the storm of COVID are left to decide, “Do we need the office tower, when remote work provides a more balanced, commute-free lifestyle for office workers?” Almost half of City workers have expressed a desire to continue working from home after the pandemic and major tenants in the City have expressed their intentions to downsize. While it is disheartening to see deserted streets in the Square Mile the reality is most workers have safely transitioned to an inconvenient yet stable remote home office. This period of transition can serve to decentralize much of the City’s wealth by investing in the people of Greater London not just the spaces they inhabit. This design proposal seeks to restructure the traditional methods of development by redistributing investment, harnessing underutilized resources, and building partnerships between previously unconnected entities. While development can invigorate economies after a disaster, the systemic disconnect between development and the needs of community must be addressed if we are to weather the next disaster.