New London Architecture – free exhibition.

This morning I visited the New London Model, and was pleased to find our house is still on it. It’s surrounded by an exhibition showing all the many changes to the built environment that are ongoing in London. I took this photo from the east side of town as this is where a lot of changes are taking place. This really informative and uplifting exhibition is on display at the Building Centre in Store Street, just off the Tottenham Court Road (WC1E 7BT).

New London Model

I went along to a breakfast talk by the NLA about how the Lea River Park, the section between Stratford and the Thames, is coming along. A hotchpotch of boroughs, the LLDC, developers, and various agencies are engaged in transforming a once industrial wasteland into a pleasant area to live, work and spend the weekend.

The first speaker was Tom Holbrook of 5th Studio, who gave a useful historic timeline:

  1. Market gardens, and Stratford Langthorne Abbey.
  2. Infrastructure – docks, trade and gasworks. These industries serviced the rapidly expanding London, but built fences and made it difficult to move around.
  3. The last 10 years – huge and welcome improvements and changes to the landscape.

Because of the industrial back history Tom said that this makes it a very difficult area to work with. He said there’s still a lot of work to do, but so far they’ve been joining up paths and neighbourhoods and new parks are on the way.

The next speaker was Deirdra Armsby, Director of Regeneration at Newham. Deirdre pointed out a theme which ran through all the presentations, which was that everybody is in a very difficult financial situation, and has to juggle different pots of money and collaborate with different agencies to make things happen. She said she was less interested the physical environment than with how it works for people. Deirdre said that an attractive landscape has a great appeal to everybody, she wanted to bring joy. Anybody who has been to the former Olympic Park recently will know exactly what she means. She also pointed out the importance of jobs.

Paul Brickell, Exec. Director of Regeneration and Community Partnerships at the LLDC started by saying that the political boundary agreed between King Alfred and Guthrum (around 880) was still in place today! He has been working on improving the lower Lea Valley for a long time himself, and it probably feels like 1,200 years.

Paul continued the theme of how difficult it was to make progress, and talked about proceeding an inch at at time. He spoke about how making small connections – towpaths, bridges, cycle paths and the DLR, can make big improvements to the quality of life of local residents. He said that never again should we build homes that are isolated by being on an island site surrounded by main roads or cut off by rivers without bridges.

During questions Paul Brickell said, “Funding was always a problem – it’s better than it was, but it could have been better.” Tom Holbrook added, “The art of the possible.”

I’ve lived in Bow since 1985 – it was cheap and near the underground. I have to say that’s what’s been happening between here and Stratford is quite magical. I’m really impressed.

Lee Valley Velopark