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Bakerloo Line Extension - extending the Polycentric City

Chris Williamson

When Chris was asked to work with Andrew Weston for group projects at Leicester School of Architecture (for no other reason than they were next to each other alphabetically) he discovered that their skills dovetailed perfectly. Their shared ambition made for a perfect business partnership.

At Dubai Cityscape I gave a presentation promoting the advantages of Polycentric Cities citing London as an example. London was formed from small distinct communities such as Chelsea, Dalston, Hampstead and Brixton, which have grown together into a fantastic world city. The extensive underground rail system has helped enormously bind the city together but even now there are distinct communities.







In Fulham it is possible to meet characters you would not find in Shoreditch and vice versa. And now London is reinventing itself as a polycentric city giving people more choice of where to live work and relax. It started with the Jubilee Line Extension moving the city eastwards and creating new centres including Canary Wharf and Greenwich. It has continued with the East London Line, which for a modest outlay has regenerated and has transformed whole communities in Hackney. Crossrail has supplied the next wave of impetus eastwards whilst at the same time capturing private finance to contribute 30% of the cost of the infrastructure provision.

Picking up the morning papers in Singapore and elsewhere it is apparent that the new residential developments marketed on the back

of proximity to the new Crossrail stations are attractive as foreign investment at the expense of local affordability. This is a concern shared by many other international cities and requires discriminatory legislation, which governments seem reluctant to implement. We need the inward investment but also need to ensure we build affordable housing in the quantity and quality for London’s growing population. Progressive boroughs such as Barking and Dagenham, traditionally one of the poorest, most deprived parts of London, are showing how this is possible with an innovative public private partnership with well defined ambitions, again on the back of improved infrastructure provision. Southwark’s Elephant and Castle regeneration is another example.

The tube binds and defines the city. It helps form a tolerant collective community. It is reassuring to see different races, religions and social classes all respectfully going about their daily lives together. No first class carriages, no social or gender divide. This sense of community cannot be replicated. Private cars are by nature insular and divisive. Having worked on the design of over 30 London stations over the past 35 years WW+P has great experience in infrastructure projects at many levels and has helped contribute to make London a modern world city whose attractiveness is defined as much by how we travel as our culture, entertainment, commercial and shopping opportunities. London is a city which is looked at as a beacon throughout the world. It is transforming our urban environment through a combination of traffic calming measures making driving less attractive and more expensive, whilst making public transport safe, quicker, more reliable and more comfortable.

WW+P is exporting our expertise to cities including Kuala Lumpur, Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Toronto, working on city shaping projects where new infrastructure is acting as a focus for regeneration and winning the Queen's Award for Export in the process.

Now the next tube line extension in London will benefit our borough of Southwark and we can bring that international experience home. Having served on the Southwark Design Review Panel for over 15 years it has been wonderful to see, and hopefully help, the borough change and develop. It is one of London's most progressive councils, with a great social agenda working in partnership with commerce. Everything I believe in. We also, as an office, help support and encourage local school children by introducing them into the world of business, of engineering and architecture through schemes such as Engineering Education Trust, OpenCity ‘Architecture in Schools’ and other mentoring programmes.

Chairing the Design Review Panel, it has been illuminating to see so many exciting planning applications come forward for the Old Kent Road corridor in anticipation of the extension of the Bakerloo Line. The project- like most UK major infrastructure projects - goes through waves of reviews which has been exacerbated by the ongoing saga of Brexit. Despite that, the scale and quantum of ambition in an area, which is notorious internationally as the cheapest place on the original Monopoly board, is a testament to the power of infrastructure in facilitating Transport Oriented Developments. This all has to be done with the support and involvement of the local community. For too long the property development process has been divisive. Southwark has developed a vision for the area in consultation- a framework to allow innovative proposals, a blueprint for opportunities.

Southwark was the home of our first major infrastructure project, the Jubilee Line Extension station at London Bridge. Our experience on that project was the impetus to set up our home in the borough. Southwark was supportive of our proposal to build our new steel and glass studio on vacant land adjacent to the listed former Sarson’s vinegar works just south of Tower Bridge. I remember that the charismatic Fred Manson, former Director of Regeneration, standing on our roof terrace outlining the emerging plans for the borough and describing with great passion how the skyline would change. He was correct and the changes have been implemented without losing the individual character of the area and have prevented it from becoming a residential feeder for the city, with one way traffic over the Thames. So it would be a fitting place for my last major infrastructure project as by the time the trains are running I will just about be ready to hit the buffers.

Chris Williamson

When Chris was asked to work with Andrew Weston for group projects at Leicester School of Architecture (for no other reason than they were next to each other alphabetically) he discovered that their skills dovetailed perfectly. Their shared ambition made for a perfect business partnership.

Related Projects

How can we help?

Please get in touch if you’d like to know more about us and how we work with our clients, consultants and colleagues.