Mix, balance and integrate!

South Bank Image from Topos Magazine

Iain Tuckett shares his thoughts with the international magazine Topos.

Covering key stages and challenges across 50 years, Iain shares how bringing together resources from the private and public realm and, most of all, the community enabled sensitive development aimed at opening and transforming London's South Bank. Iain also shares his predictions of what more is needed.

A case study for the future

Today, London is rediscovering its roots in the villages and neighbourhoods of which it is comprised. This coincides with the loss of faith in the ability and resources of government to care for the city.

With the national Government signalling that it will ‘level up’ by focusing on northern towns and cities, and local government starved of funds, the business of caring for London is increasingly being shifted to private sector and community organisations.

‘Business Improvement Districts’ originally introduced to bring ‘additionality’ to services provided by local councils now find they are expected to deliver basic services like cleaning and security that once were the business of the state.

Community organisations, always better at mobilising citizens, now find that their volunteers are essential to feed the poor, maintain local parks and provide legal and debt advice. Meanwhile, significant parts of newly developed London, like Canary Wharf, are almost exclusively managed and maintained by their private owners.

This is a reversal of the 19th and 20th century growth of government that oversaw the huge expansion of London. As this case study shows, there are opportunities as well as dangers in this shake-up of city governance. We can expect the role of citizens in influencing how their neighbourhoods are developed and managed to be hotly contested in coming years.

The success of London’s South Bank is based on some 80 years of aspirations, planning, controversy, creativity and (at times) co-ordinated public, private and community investment. It comes with some dangers: land values have risen and developers want ever larger buildings.

Local authorities increasingly see the area as a cash cow and neither protect it nor provide the infrastructure necessary to support densification. Few invest adequately in the long-term management and maintenance of the community facilities and public realm which are essential for a successful neighbourhood.

We are swimming against a tide, and this will require yet another collective endeavour. Cities need ‘gardeners’: people and organisations constantly caring for their neighbourhoods.

London is rediscovering its roots in the villages and neighbourhoods of which it is comprised

- Iain Tuckett, Group Director, Coin Street

The first guest-curated issue of Topos magazine was published with West 8; Issue 117 deals with the topic of infrastructures. Topos is the leading international and interdisciplinary review for landscape architecture, urban design and urban development