Sell-Out Cities: how London was trampled by developers.
In this NEXT TALK that took place during IABR‒2016‒THE NEXT ECONOMY on 17 June 2016, Oliver Wainwright unpicked the forces that are making the city a meaner and more divided place, as public assets are relentlessly sold off and entire council estates flattened to make room for silos of luxury safe-deposit boxes in the sky. Across the city, policies are continually flouted, affordable housing quotas waived, height limits breached and the interests of residents endlessly trampled, as our streets are bullied by ever more bloated developments. From the slippery spreadsheets of “viability assessments” to the exploitation of planning loopholes, Wainwright shed a light on the darker sides of how the city gets made – and asked what alternatives we might offer.
“London has sold out. Across the capital, property developers are transforming entire swaths of the city into exclusive private enclaves, where homes are conceived not as places to live but as assets for unbridled financial speculation. As the state has progressively retreated, and council housing has become all but extinct, the provision of affordable housing has fallen on the market to deliver – a challenge it is clearly incapable of meeting. In the last decade alone, London has lost 8,000 social rented homes. In two years’ time, there will be a million fewer affordable homes across the country than there were in 1980, while the population will have increased by seven million in the same period. At the same time, the planning system has been utterly bulldozed: once predicted on ensuring the best use of land, it has become a system solely about safeguarding the profits of developers.”
Oliver Wainwright is the architecture and design critic of the Guardian. He was trained as an architect at the University of Cambridge and the Royal College of Art, and worked in a number of practices – including OMA in Rotterdam and muf in London – and on strategic planning issues at the Architecture and Urbanism Unit of the Greater London Authority, under Richard Rogers and Ken Livingstone. He has written extensively on architecture and design for a wide range of international publications, from Building Design and the Architects’ Journal, to Icon, Domus and De Architect. He has been a judge for international architectural awards, for the RIBA and AAI, served as curatorial advisor to the Architecture Foundation, and is a regular visiting critic and lecturer at a number of architecture schools.
NEXT TALKS were part of the WHAT’S NEXT?-program of IABR‒2016‒THE NEXT ECONOMY. Radical and provocative ideas for the future of the city were given a platform. International speakers were invited to stimulate and intensify the debate about the Next Economy. Podcasts of NEXT TALKS can be found on the IABR Soundcloud.
Oliver Wainwright. Image: Hans Tak