Urban Redevelopment of the London Docklands

As cities look to grow and support their population, some expand outwards, while others redevelop areas within. The Docklands were once the literal port of call for every successful city, and while their historical value is still often appreciated, their financial contributions to cities have all-but disappeared. However, redeveloped dockland areas of major cities have become a major source of trade, though not in goods and cargo.

The urban redevelopment of the London Docklands is one of the largest and most successful projects in the world, transforming a dying industrial area into one of the most thriving financial hubs in the world.

London Docklands, UK

The London Docklands was once the largest and most successful trading post in the work, originating with the West India Docks in 1802. Successive docks were later formed in the East India Docks, Millwall Dock, Surrey Docks and then the Royal Docks. In their time they employed thousands of people and international trade, warehousing and related trade made the UK one of the most powerful and wealthy countries in the world.

Image courtesy of London's Royal Docks

The damage done to the Docklands during the bombings of World War II effectively crippled the British economy, and much of the infrastructure was damaged beyond repair. After a brief resurgence in the 1950s, the London Docklands were essentially empty by the start of the 1980s. The increasing using of industrial shipping containers greatly reduced the need for ship access, as most cargo was carried in intermodal manner via trucks, ferries and aeroplanes.

Image courtesy of London's Royal Docks

The London Docklands suffered massive spikes in unemployment, with almost 83,000 jobs lost in the surrounding boroughs of Greenwich, Lewisham, Newham, Tower Hamlets and Southwark. With practically no commercial infrastructure such as banks or buildings societies, or any new office space, the UK government was tasked with the incredible challenge of how to replace an entire industry and make the depressed docklands area an attractive place to live and work.

Image courtesy of Bill Pearson 1982/85

A new financial centre The London Docklands Development Corporation (LDDC) was formed in 1981 to oversee the urban redevelopment of the docklands. Drawing on its previous industrial history, the site was initially proposed as an alternative industrial area. Yet even though Billingsgate market successfully relocated to the area, there was less of a market for large industrial spaces than could sustain the area.

It was the Docklands’ close proximity to the City of London that made it an attractive secondary office location, that would be supported by riverside real estate development to house this new wave of city workers; new and extended London Underground trains (Jubilee Line and Docklands Light Railway); expansive exhibition centres (London Excel Centre) and a new airport (London City Airport).

The DLR under construction in 1987. Image courtesy of the LDDC Annual Report

Canary Wharf

Named after the location’s historical connections to the Canary Islands fruit trade, the modern-day Canary Wharf was envisioned by former chairman of Credit Suisse First Boston Michael von Clemm, who came up with the idea to convert Canary Wharf into a back office. It is now an integral part of the city’s skyline, spending a good 30 years as London’s tallest building before the completion of The Shard.

By Diliff - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

The entire area now contains approximately 16,000,000 square feet of office and retail space, with around 105,000 people working in Canary Wharf. It is also the European headquarters for many major banks and professional services firms such as Barclays, Citigroup, Clifford Chance, Credit Suisse, EY, Fitch Ratings, HSBC, Infosys, J.P. Morgan, KPMG, MetLife, Moody's, Morgan Stanley, RBC, S&P Global, Skadden, State Street, and Thomson Reuters.

Mango Vinyl Hub architecture competition

Bee Breeders, in cooperation with Cesis Municipality and Mango Vinyl, have recognised the ever- increasing popularity of vinyl records with their Mango Vinyl Hub architecture competition. The grander vision of this complex will instigate further revitalisation of the area, much like the redevelopment of the London Docklands did for East London. The building should be considered the first stage in redeveloping the block and transforming it into a large scale creative park, acting as an anchor to draw interest and investment from other parties.

It is hoped that this development will breathe new life into the area by transforming other abandoned buildings and creating a more prosperous future by revisiting the past. In this regard, participants are also tasked with considering the Mango Vinyl Hub in a wider context - proposing ideas and visions for the potential further development of the block in the future. Cesis Municipality will award “The Big Picture” award to the best area development proposal.

 

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