London has a global responsibility to lead by example as a sustainable city — so says Harriet Thorpe, author of The Sustainable City, which documents everything from pioneering eco-villages to industrial behemoths repurposed into rooftop gardens parks.
With an estimated population of 10 million by 2040, London already generates seven million tonnes of waste per year, while 16% of its major roads exceed the legal limit of nitrogen dioxide. So much work is to be done
Some is already happening though; think the Ultra-Low Emission Zone, and cycle-sharing schemes — initiatives which help to keep London's carbon per capita emissions the lowest in the UK. Another way the capital is facing climate change head-on is through its pioneering use of architecture and design.
Sustainable City hones in on some of the most exciting eco-friendly projects to come to London in recent years. There's Beddington's BedZeb — a utopian development of roof gardens, pedestrian bridges and renewable energy — its its colourful wind turbines beckoning us towards a cleaner future.
Regent's Park Open Air Theatre — which was established in 1932 and is rebuilt annually — is low-carbon timber from stage to box office; the whole setup looks as though it could have been fashioned by enchanted woodland fairy folk (the more mundane truth is that it's the vision of architects Haworth Tompkins).
Another timber beauty is the Belarusian Memorial Chapel, crafted from Canadian cedar shingles and Douglas fir — and apparently the first wooden church to be built in the city since the Great Fire of London.
London's beloved Underground system is guilty of producing mountains of heat waste; enter Bunhill 2 Energy Centre, which harnesses these emissions from the Northern line, and uses it to power 1,350 local homes and a leisure centre. Its ox-blood exterior, by the way, is a nod to the tiles of Leslie Green-era Northern line stations.
In fact, the lion's share of designs here are uniquely beautiful things to behold; take the rooftop garden that follows the contours of an erstwhile Victorian gasholder in King's Cross, or the flamingo-shaped confections of play equipment at Yinka Ilori's Parsloes Park Playground in Becontree.
In this instance, Ilori repurposed concrete manhole rings into vividly painted urban sculptures; elsewhere, such reassignation is done on a vaster level — take the retrofitted Strand Hotel, a clunky old brute given a lease of new life as a modernist eco hotel, with a bright red lift pods that beg to be ridden. Gives credence to the idea that buildings like Bastion House in the City should never be allowed to be pulled down.
All of the projects in this book, says Harriet Thorpe, are optimistic buildings that reimagine the type of city that London could be.