New London Architecture

Test and prototype to build back better – NLA NextGen Sounding Board

Wednesday 19 August 2020

David Taylor

Editor, NLQ and New London Weekly

More prototyping, testing and the kind of tactical urbanism represented by Soho’s recent transformations are the way forward to help London and other cities build back better.

That was the view put forward by some members of the NLA’s Next Gen Sounding Board this week as they met to discuss a series of inspirational ideas about how London might return to a new and improved version of itself through proposals that harness this moment for real change.

Board member Will Sandy of McGregor Coxall suggested that in an age when disruption had a positive spin we are able to move faster on transformative projects such as at Soho, where part-pedestrianisation and restaurants and cafes on the street have happened rapidly and for the better without ‘bureaucracy’. ‘I think we’ve learned from that’, he said, with an emerging opportunity to gather data and learn from such ventures. There should be more ‘tactical’ elements tried and tested to see if people use them and inspire other conversations. ‘We’ve got to take stock and start to really implement change fast and learn from that. It doesn’t need to be fast and wrong; it can be fast and learn’.

Michael Clarkson, Principal Policy Officer, Westminster City Council agreed, saying ‘it is the only way you can actually bring people along with you’, but that collaboration between public and private needs to improve, especially given the ‘adversarial’ nature of the planning system. Recently proposed planning reforms present an opportunity to try and influence the system and become more collaborative and focused on engaging the community, he added.

The group, chaired by BeFirst’s Selasi Setufe, had been going through their favourites of over 70 entries in categories from Active Travel to Rethinking High Streets, Better Living to Reworking the Workplace. Suggestions included a new bridge, a variation on the Barcelona superblock, pedestrianisation of Park Lane, pan-London cycle lanes, communal dwellings that improve wellbeing and concepts for mixed-use flexible buildings that encourage new ways of working. 
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David Taylor

Editor, NLQ and New London Weekly



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