"What will London be like in 2062? It is impossible to know. Trying to predict the future of such a dynamic city, in such uncertain times, would be foolhardy."
So says the introduction of a book called Imagining the Future City: London 2062, put together by University College London (UCL), where academics and built environment experts take on that foolhardy task. The result is a series of 27 essays -- some weighty, some fun -- about what London will be like in 2062. I attended Monday's launch.
Dr. Sarah Bell, senior lecturer in environmental engineering at UCL, said at that event that the book is the result of a four-year research programme and that it is not all meant to be serious: "It's meant to be playful and creative, as much as to marshall information."
UCL partnered with think tank Future of London, which ran a series of four events to get ideas on housing, energy, transport, and the economy. Jennifer Johnson, programme and research lead at Future of London, said long-term vision is important because the Greater London Authority is already working on a strategic infrastructure plan that will look ahead to 2050. The GLA is due to publish an interim report on that next February.
That is important, but it is also boringly practical. This is why I've gone through the book and picked out some of its most creative and dystopian visions:
1) We Live in Paranoia Houses: Designer Arthur Kay imagines a world where a man called Terry Fyed lives in a Victorian house in Nine Elms, south London, that has been retrofitted to cope with an array of local and global threats. These are:
- Space underground to store water in case of flooding; water reserves in case of drought; and fish living in those water reserves in case of famine. The home also has an escape route filled with 10,000 tins of food in case of an emergency.
- Three airtight panic rooms to protect against nuclear, chemical, and ballistic attacks. Terrence's house also contains idyllic dioramas to help him relax.
- Hydroelectric, solar, and wind energy sources in case of an energy shutdown.
- Gold reserves in case a financial crisis devalues.
- Aerial escape route so he can leave the house by hot air balloon if required.
"Now, in 2062, the idealised, proactive emotions of home have been encroached by increased globalisation, inevitable terrorist attack, environmental catastrophe, nuclear disaster, economic crises, and political instability," it concludes.
(Source: ALIS via Wikimedia Commons)
2) The 5D Football Revolution: Yvonne Rydin, professor of planning, environment, and public policy at UCL's Bartlett School of Planning, and George Myerson, senior research fellow at King’s College London, envisage a London where football clubs are in charge. The idea is based on the role that football stadiums -- such as Arsenal's Emirates stadium -- currently play in urban regeneration.
Rydin and Myerson suggest that London football teams will become ever-more popular in developing nations, partly driven by a new 5D broadcast system that will enable people around the world to experience the smell and touch of a football match day. Football clubs would become global brands, and the city would increasingly call on them to bridge public sector funding gaps.
"Governance was now firmly in the hands of football corporations," it says.
Football clubs Arsenal and Chelsea could - along with Spurs - be London's future overlords
(Source: peatc via Flickr)
3) Post-Apocalyptic Wasteland: Matthew Beaumont, senior lecturer in UCL's English department at UCL, imagines a post-apocalyptic London that has been destroyed by an "unfathomable human accident, possibly caused by a nuclear disaster." Even so, some people have survived and are starting to "argue, passionately, patiently, about how best to rebuild the metropolis..."
Which would I like to live in? Well, I like the idea of football clubs using their riches to fund public services, but I don't want to live in a city controlled by Arsenal, Chelsea, and Spurs. It's enough that that they constantly crop up in my Twitter feed.
And the post-apocalyptic wasteland sounds like a surprisingly collaborative and dynamic place, but I don't fancy living there if my friends and family have been wiped out.
So I'll opt for a paranoia house. If I'm alive in 2062, then I'll be 79 years old. The constant anxiety about impending doom should be easier to manage with life experience.
— Rich Heap, Community Editor, UBM's Future Cities