New London Architecture


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Today, the entire city – streets, cafés, public spaces and homes – is a place of work. As the speed of technological change accelerates, the boundaries between working, living and leisure become ever more blurred. This publication details the changing nature of work in a time of flux: both internationally, technologically and culturally. What do we need for the future? Where will we working?

In a post-Brexit world, London will have to work harder than ever to compete on a global level to attract and retain the best talent. Availability, affordability and quality of workspace will be critical, yet space for commercial and industrial uses are under threat as the demand for housing pushes up land prices and planning policies favour conversion of offices to residential use. 
Informed by roundtables and interviews with over 70 representatives from across business and the built environment, as well as policy and literature review, this Insight Study publication details NLA’s year-long research into London’s workplaces, examining how London can ensure its future resilience through its provision of space and land for business.
The accompanying Showcase publication presents innovative examples of workplace design taking place in London, representing the true variety of working environments at all scales – from council-funded hubs to multi-million pound skyscrapers – and where related industries are choosing to cluster in established and emerging hubs.

Excerpt from the introduction

It is fascinating to note that the coffee shops of the City of London in the 17th and 18th centuries, which provided alternative ways of working to the exchanges and merchant houses of the day, are now replicated in a world where the workplace has broken free from the shackles of the fixed desk. As then, social interaction is recognised as a key factor in a successful service economy. Its impact is disrupting the traditional methods of space provision. As just one example is WeWork, which describes itself as “a place where we’re redefining success measured by personal fulfilment, not just the bottom line. Community is our catalyst”. Only six years in business, the company has a market capitalisation of $16 billion, with 800,000 square feet in London which it hopes to double in 2017. It is the Uber and Airbnb of the office market.

In spite of this new flexibility, the capital still needs offices – yet Government policies on permitted development rights have had a serious impact on some boroughs' supply of commercial space. 

Technology is also changing how things are made. Quieter and cleaner, new ways of making can be integrated into mixed-use developments in a way that was once unacceptable. We must not forget that while the volume of manufacturing has been dropping in London, it still provides a substantial number of jobs in industries that mix less easily with other forms of development. Yet space for industrial uses is also under threat as the demand for housing pushes up land prices. London needs a stronger city-wide strategy to protect existing industrial sites and to plan for May 2019 when the current exemptions to permitted development are removed.

The speed of change in the way we work in the future will undoubtedly increase, and as the Mayor considers the contents of his next London Plan, he must ensure that London becomes smarter as a City in its supply of data, in its digital capacity and its ability to adapt with buildings flexible enough to absorb radical new ways of working. 


1. NLA Insight Study

By Peter Murray, NLA Curator-in-chief

Executive summary
Highlighting eight recommendations for the London Mayor to ensure London’s future resilience as he sets out the next version of the London Plan.

Chapter 1: Introduction: work in London 
Covering what is shaping how we work today and the broad shape of London’s economy and business activity.

Chapter 2: The corporate economy 
Including the importance of location and amenity for business, the role of retrofit and refurbishment and the relationship between owner, occupier and employee.

Chapter 3: The enterprise economy 
Analysing how major co-working space providers are disrupting the office market and the role of the education sector in space for new enterprise, among others.

Chapter 4: The manufacturing economy 
From London’s historical patterns of industry to ways to protect spaces for making, manufacturing and industry.

Chapter 5: London’s working districts 
With topics inkling the factors shaping our working districts and the new districts for innovation and knowledge?

Chapter 6: How do we make London resilient for the future of work? 
Such as making London a more flexible, open city and promoting the wellbeing agenda through planning 

2. Project Showcase

Representing the most innovative examples of workplace design taking place in London, whether recently completed, under construction or in design in the following areas:
  • West
  • North
  • East
  • City and City Fringe
  • South

Ideas and research
International exemplars, research pieces, business initiatives and design concepts 

Publication details

NLA Insight Study
Published October 2016
106 Pages
ISBN 978-0-9927189-9-2 

Project Showcase
Published October 2016
98 Pages

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