Spotlight on Jan Kaplický

 

There are very few Londoners (and international cricket fans) who are not familiar with the Media Centre at the Lord’s Cricket Ground. Designed by avant-garde Czech architect, Jan Kaplický, this is one of his most renowned ‘spacecraft-like’ architecture projects. Completed in 1999, it received the RIBA Stirling Prize for its futuristic design and has become one of the icons of the sporting world. Kaplický provides us with inspiration here at RISE Design Studio, not only for his futuristic work but also for his interest in his later years in nature and the incorporation of organic shapes in his work.

RISE Design Studio Jan Kaplicky drawings

A new life in London

After beginning his career as an Academic Architect in Prague, Kaplický fled to London in the wake of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. He described a need to escape a country where empowerment was very limited at the time and it was “impossible to achieve anything that was even slightly out of the ordinary”. Not allowed to go to university, buy books, or exhibit his work in public, his move provided him with creative freedom and he soon found himself working on the design for the Centre Pompidou in Paris, under the direction of Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano before they relocated to the French capital.

He set up his own architectural practice in London – Future Systems – in 1979, and produced many intricate drawings of orbiting robots and homes transportable by helicopter. Although none of these drawings became real buildings, they drew a lot of attention to his ‘elegantly radical’ ideas, opening the doors for him to design the Lord’s Media Centre and later the Selfridge’s shopping store in Birmingham in 2003. Described as “the ultimate rejoinder to what was then Birmingham’s reputation as a decaying concrete jungle”, Kaplický’s work once again brought inspiration through his visionary designs.

From outlandish to organic

In the mid-1980s, Kaplický suddenly started to look to nature for organic inspiration for his architecture. Perhaps as a result of the death of his mother around that time – she was a well-known illustrator of plants – he had a renewed appreciation of the value of his mother’s work, using shapes of cobwebs, sea shells, mushrooms, flowers and other plants in his later work. Blending these shapes with a harsh and often controversial futuristic edge created a unique style that interrogated the relationship between nature and technology.

The business of buildings

Kaplický’s designs were generally not possible to build using conventional techniques. For example, the Lord’s Media Centre is an aluminum semi-monocoque shell – a sort of ‘boat shape’ – and there was no standard contractor in Britain who could build it at the time. Instead, Kaplický and his life partner, Amanda Levete, found a boatyard contractor in Cornwall to do the work. Combining Levete’s business experience with Kaplický’s designs worked well for several years.

In his later years, Kaplický designed a National Library building for Letná in Prague. Despite the work winning an international competition, its construction was blocked by the Czech authorities and caused much public and political debate. In interviews with Kaplický before his death, it was clear that he was sad not to have been able to build something in his home country.

Interview with Charlie Warde

Sean Ronnie Hill, Director of RISE Design Studio, recently interviewed Charlie Warde, a London born artist, who is now based in Marseille. His wide-ranging practise celebrates and critiques the themes behind post war architecture, in particular social housing. A number of his works can be found in the permanent collection of the V&A and 2 Willow Road.

Sean interview RISE Design Studio Charlie Warde

Sean: Why don’t we start with geography, why Marseille?

Charlie: It all stemmed from the project that Mike Davies and I put together for Manifesta Biennale, last year, so that was… what was last year? 2020! As a roaming European Biennale, it was Marseille’s turn to host Manifesta 13. Mike and I put forward a proposal for a large scale project that involved a student exchange between the Beaux-Arts here in Marseille and City and Guilds of London Art School and a big exhibition celebrating architectural and engineering achievements between the Brits and the French… a kind of “f*** you” to Brexit.

Sean: Absolutely.

Charlie: We were all set to go with that and then Covid kicked in. Mike had had some previous health issues and had to shield, so we had to sadly forget about his input in the project. I piggybacked onto a residency in the Beaux-Arts in Marseille and created a body of work which was well received; it all happened from that really. And then with Covid-19, we got stuck out here and Brexit kept us exiled here.

Sean: Yeah, very much for the better.

Charlie: Yes, exactly. But architecturally there’s plenty to keep me here too. There is the Unité d’habitation, the Cité Radieuse, which is something of an anchor point, I suppose.

Sean: So your equivalent to Trellick?

Charlie: Yes, it’s incroyable! Also, Marseille is a true Arrival City, it’s a port city – a gateway to North African French colonies like Algeria. Consequently you have this flow of people settling slab, dab in the centre of the city. You’ll find some of the poorest housing in Europe, in the first and second arrondissements, just off the Vieux-Port.

Sean: Which is quite like the Industrial model, because when the Industrial Revolution happened it was in the city centre.

Charlie: Exactly that, there are definite similarities in that way, one being that the landlords of these properties are private. They own a lot of the city centre which they rent out at cheap rents, which they fail to upkeep. There is a real issue of neglect, a lot of their properties are extremely dangerous, and there have been tragic incidents… in 2018, two buildings on Rue d’Aubagne collapsed, killing eight. There are buildings in the centre of Marseille with cracks through which you can see daylight. In structural walls! There are buckled door frames, that have shifted because of structural creep. So now in Marseille the Marie (Mayor’s office) is emptying a lot of these properties because they are so dangerous; they are pulling them down. There are gaps everywhere.

Sean: Are they relocating the inhabitants elsewhere?

Charlie: To hotels mostly! There are banlieues on the outskirts of the town which are full. I must say Sean I’m not an authority on this, which is partly born out of my lack of French, so any research that I need to do, such as going through city archives, is out of the question at the moment.

Sean: Sure, I mean you are a new arrival there, but it is interesting the parallel there because Ladbroke Grove was very similar with private housing.

Charlie: Yes, Peter Rachman, the landlord who squeezed a lot of the West Indian community out of what little money they had. Indeed it is similar, but what’s really interesting is Marseille has, as a result, you have this incredible mix of cultures, of classes, of creeds. It’s this crazy, chaotic melting pot, and there are town planners from all over that view Marseille as the antidote to gentrification. If you’ve got this density, this mix, it diffuses a lot of the differences. You’re not creating ghettos like they have done in Paris over the years. Everyone’s in it together – it’s a community. I’m not saying it’s an easy alliance, but it works in many ways.

Sean: Yes, yes absolutely, I mean that’s very much the essence and the beauty of these amazing cities. London did it for many years with many different communities living together and it very much benefited the city.

Charlie: Absolutely.

Sean: That leads into another interesting parallel where you’re taking about Unité d’habitation and Trellick: concrete. It was the material “in vogue” at the time…. but there’s a lot of interesting things you got from Trellick.

Charlie: For sure. They are both landmarks. Both are cited as prominent examples of a particular era aren’t they? Trellick being Brutalism, the Unité earlier – 1953 (Trellick was completed in 1972). “The Corbusier” as they call it here, is one of the high points of post war Modernism. And yes, both sculptural essays in the use of concrete. However, I would say the construction of Trellick Tower is superior to Corbusier’s building.

Sean: Do you think it was down to local craftsmanship or down to the timeline?

Charlie: Both – I think it’s a lot of things. I think it is the timeline. I think that structural engineers, architects and concrete technicians learnt very quickly how to improve mixtures and the issues of using certain aggregates. There were advancements in construction skills – for example vibration systems to compact concrete when it was poured into shuttering so that there were less cavities. Trellick Tower did have an advantage in that regard. Also, Goldfinger was particularly adept at large scale construction projects. He finished on time, never went over budget and was absolutely rigid in the way he oversaw a build. He was a very controlling man, he was a bully – larger than life, like his buildings. He was able to force situations into completion.

Sean: I suppose in an industry like that especially back then, maybe that was necessary.

Charlie: Yeah, 1972! From my knowledge of the project, they didn’t encounter too many problems whereas Neave Brown’s Alexandra and Ainsworth Estate was rife with issues, some born out of the complexity of the site (it was built along a curved railway line). There was a major flood because of a burst water main. There were also walk outs and strikes. It ran over time and over budget – it coincided with the demise of a lot of these large-scale estates.

Sean: What attracted you initially to Goldfinger’s work ?

Charlie: My first job in London was dismantling televisions on a shop in Golborne Road in 1996, and that was the first time I encountered Trellick Tower up close and personally, and it terrified me. I had already seen it driving in and out of London on the Westway – as you ride the flyover you meet its gaze – but being on Golborne Road, being under its shadow was something that made such an impression on me. Then I became aware of the legend and mythology of the building — the bad times in the 70s and 80s, the stories of drugs, muggings and rapes, the pirate radio station aerials on the roof. That all changed in 1984 with the resident’s association being formed. In 1987 the council finally installed a concierge to control the flow in and out of the building. It was the “Tower of Terror” mythology that initially pulled me in and then, when I was doing my masters, I began to research it and I began to understand why it was built, who it was built for and more about that period of architecture.

Sean: So Brutalism became your topic of choice then ?

Charlie: Yes, yes it did, after knowing very little about it became an endless source of fascination, and I began to look at other Goldfinger buildings. I had a residency at 2 Willow Road back in 2013 which gave me the opportunity to make a series of radio shows with James Torrance for Resonance FM on Ernö Goldfinger – Homes Of Tomorrow. We interviewed some great people – Neave Brown, James Dunnett (who has written widely on Goldfinger) and Mike Davies among them. It opened up this whole world of post war architecture, from which my practice has grown.

Sean: And in terms of your practice, we’re kind of jumping around a bit now but, it would be interesting to hear your thoughts on your upbringing

Charlie: My upbringing was peculiar, I grew up in a stately home in Kent, Squerryes Court, built in the 1680s. It’s a massive doll’s house – red brick, symmetrical, large windows, light filled; very beautiful. My family couldn’t afford to live there without opening it to the public so it became this lovely little museum and wedding venue around which we navigated our lives. We lived in a small part of the building and the rest was shut off and opened to the public. So I grew up in a beautiful environment that was interesting from an architectural perspective AND a fine art perspective as there was a small collection of paintings, furniture and porcelain. I grew up with an appreciation for these things.

Sean: Yeah, because you were surrounded by incredible architecture.

Charlie: So yeah, my upbringing was completely devoid of Brutalism, right ? It couldn’t have been more different and perhaps that’s the thing that drove me in a different direction. And I was into street culture as a kid – hip hop, breaking, graffiti; the Electro albums, Subway Art and Beat Street made a big impression on me. That led me into the more interesting parts of the city…

Sean: So, with a History of Art background, was Art always there ?

Charlie: It was always there. I think my subsequent degree in Art History was a natural progression given my family surroundings, and the people I met from from an academic and research background, so I fell into the art history. I guess that History of Art is interesting from a Fine Art perspective because one becomes an arbiter of style and quality – the stuff you learn about tends to hold up over time and is held as exemplars. If you have a background in Art History, I think it fine tunes you as an artist, raises your standards.

Sean: You have all the bits of a puzzle subconsciously.

Charlie: Certainly! And one is conscious of getting things absolutely right too. If you’ve researched art academically, you become very aware of the way your own art might be perceived.

Sean: Seems like a massive advantage to have this knowledge of the industry.

Charlie: Yup, but also a disadvantage… I’m perhaps too much of a perfectionist! I’d like to talk about some of the pieces you’ve been working on over the years, and the reasoning behind your medium of choice and why 3D and why is that inspiring?

Charlie: Well this all came out of two things really. Firstly, My Masters from City and Guild’s of London Art School from which I graduated in 2012, during which I concentrated on the contextual and conceptual aspect of my practice. I developed the idea of trying to BUILD a painting out of paint rather than simply paint a picture of a building. In 2012 London was full of “luxury apartment” building sites, CGI pasted all over hoardings around large scale construction projects – perfectly rendered lifestyle images of models in slick interiors, you know the sort of thing. Building a painting in 3D seemed like a more honest rendition of architecture than some slick two-dimensional trickery.

Secondly, during my pre-MA life as a portrait painter, I learnt how to grind pigments, make oil paint, cook up and thicken mediums, stretch, size and gesso canvases etc. I had a profound understanding of artist materials and found I could apply that to pushing acrylic paint, mediums and pigments into reproducing concrete ingredients and finishes.

Sean: Do you use anything like a substrate? So you start up with a thin piece and just layer up. No reinforcement?

Charlie: It’s pure paint – Plastic Painting. So yeah, that’s kinda how it happened, but concrete is interesting to me because it is bound up with so much narrative potential. That whole idea of the Sense Of Place, of Psychogeography and telling a building’s story. Concrete is full of energy – the stuff that made it, that it’s soaked up over the years. I think a damaged, decrepit piece of concrete from a neglected building is so revealing. So that sort of narrative is the stuff I’m interested in.

Sean: There’s something beautiful in a weathered building, but often with the architecture that we share an interest in, it would be interesting to see it when it was first built – before the weathering and pollution.

Charlie: Absolutely. Like Thamesmead, the way Kubrick depicts it in A Clockwork Orange, just after it was completed – it’s pristine, the stuff of Science Fiction. Not like that anymore…

Sean: So one of the most important elements of architecture that architects are considering now is sustainability. What is your attitude towards concrete as a material and how it can play a part ?

Charlie: Its a worry isn’t it, Sean? They say that if concrete was a country, it would have the worlds second largest carbon footprint. When one considers the amount of infrastructure that is being built in Africa, China and South America, it is just extraordinary. We are running out of construction grade sand!

I think the really interesting thing is the idea of transformation — architectural transformation. Finding the potential in something that already exists, even if it’s damaged. So you have Anne Lacaton and Jean-Phillipe Vassal who won the 2021 Pritzker Prize and their practice is all about transformation. Look at their project in Bordeaux – the Quartier du Grande Parc. They took an existing housing scheme and bettered it. They just altered the scheme, they didn’t tear it down. Mei Architects did an amazing project in Rotterdam — Fenix One. They took a large concrete warehouse and built a series of flats on top of it. I hope there’s a shift into realising that these are the ways that architects can solve existing problems. This is what my next exhibition in London is all about, PLAYTIME. I have asked 10 architects, artists, art critics, curators and a fashion designer to reimagine and transform the entire exhibition each week. Mike Davies is one of the Players, Gianni Botsford another; two brilliant architects that will rebuild the exhibition. Everything will be available to view in real time, 24/7 on the website, because we have HD CCTV cameras positioned around the gallery. The title, PLAYTIME, is based on Jacques Tati’s film, the ultimate cinematic critique of Modernism. As always, It’s all about the architecture, Sean!

RISE Design Studio Charlie Warde

Warde’s latest UK exhibition, PLAYTIME, opens at Cable Depot on 12th November. Details can be found here.

Working towards a Net Zero London

 

Earlier this month, New London Architecture (NLA) published a report on ‘Zero Carbon London‘. Part of NLA’s Net Zero programme (#NLANetZero), the report provides new insight into progress in the built environment profession in the fight against climate change. It is based on results of a survey of over 100 London-based companies in the sector and points out some of the biggest challenges and opportunities for the city to get to Net Zero. In this post, we pull out some of the key points that ring particularly true for our firm.

Net Zero London RISE Design Studio

What is Net Zero London?

‘Net zero carbon’ is often used as a proxy for the six greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide is the most common of these. ‘Net’ refers to the sum of carbon emissions and carbon offsetting/sequestration (e.g. via absorption of carbon dioxide because of new woodland creation) being equal to zero. It is now widely-proven that climate change is caused by the increased concentration of greenhouse gases emitted in the atmosphere from human activities. This leads to an increase in global temperatures (global warming). Reducing the emissions of man-made greenhouse gases is therefore vital for tackling the climate emergency, and this is why ‘net zero carbon’ is so important.

For cities, which account for over 70% of global emissions and consume over two thirds of the world’s energy, reaching net zero is urgent. London has been one of the first global cities to commit to becoming carbon neutral by 2050 – the Greater London Authority has a plan to achieve this ambitious aim. 27 of the 32 London Boroughs and City of London have so far declared a climate emergency. London is also one of the major global cities that has signed the C40 Net Zero Carbon Buildings Declaration, committing to ensure that all new buildings operate at net zero carbon by 2030 (and all existing buildings at net zero carbon by 2050).

Achieving net zero in construction

The UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) explains net zero in construction as ‘when the amount of carbon emissions associated with a building’s product and construction stages up to practical completion is zero or negative, through the use of offsets or the net export of on-site renewable energy’. A net zero carbon building tends to be highly energy efficient and powered from on- or off-site renewable sources, with any remaining carbon balance offset.

There are plenty of exciting initiatives and projects being undertaken by public authorities and the private sector: from a citizens’ assembly facilitated by Camden Council to come up with recommendations for zero carbon homes, to the RIBA 2030 Climate Challenge that sets out the actions that chartered practice like RISE Design Studio will need to take.

More to be done

The NLA survey highlighted good progress in the sector. First, the vast majority of those who took part have signed up to one of the industry pledges such as Architects Declare (we have signed up). Second, those in the industry generally feel that they have the skills to address climate issues.

However, those who completed the survey feel that the biggest barriers to positive change are regulation and finance. The lack of green finance is a critical barrier for the London Boroughs to implement and achieve their targets. For organisations like ours, the current policy frameworks are not effective and act as a barrier for implementing measures that will get us to net zero. For example, a recent government consultation on banning the use of combustible materials in buildings suggests that a lack of joined-up thinking remains an issue – timber plays a very important role in decarbonsing construction.

The Covid-19 lockdown between March and May 2020 demonstrated that it is possible to reduce emissions and address behaviour change in a short time – carbon emissions in London dropped by 60%. But, the challenge is to achieve this reduction at the same time as people living their lives freely.

There is strong optimism in the sector that there is now an opportunity to transform our way of life and act in a more environmentally-conscious way. The upcoming inauguration of a US President who ran on a manifesto of clean energy and net zero no later than 2050 is also encouraging, particularly if he manages to rally the rest of the world (and our Prime Minister) to take the same steps.

Terrace houses in London: a brief history of the most iconic British home

 

Terrace housing has become an icon of development in Great Britain and Ireland. But, did you know that despite its very British connotations, the aesthetic of the terrace house was, in its origins, an attempt to bring the architectural style of Palladio and the Italian Renaissance masters across the Channel? The Venetian palazzos, built around 1550 in Northern Italy are a great example of what the first terrace housing developers had in mind.

Venice canal houses RISE Design Studio

The trick, of course, was to be able to adapt the architecture of a palazzo to London, and to the much smaller building areas it offered. In order to do so, space was maximised by placing houses in a row, and building labour was standardised by making the homes in sets of almost identical mirrored pairs. Even with this efficient agenda, however, the original terrace houses did not look much like they do today.

 Georgian terrace RISE Design Studio

Terrace housing in London, and in other British cities such as Bath or Edinburgh, started to appear in the mid 17th century. In their origins, they were conceived as desirable houses for aristocrats, and sprang up mostly around well-off areas such as Regents Park and Grosvenor Square, for those members of the nobility who had to spend time in the city. Built in a classic Georgian style, the houses provided an all-in-one solution to accomplish the basic needs of a noble family within the city scale: family living, entertaining, and housing the servant quarters in the same building. During these Georgian times, terraces were typically placed around a communal square garden, giving the neighbours a sense of having a private piece of countryside within the city.

Terraced houses London RISE Design Studio

The grandeur associated with terraces did not last long, however. After the Great Fire of London in 1666, terraces gained enormous popularity as a way of rebuilding the city quickly and efficiently. The disaster worked much like a wildfire: initially causing immeasurable destruction, but sparking a renewed wave of growth and development afterwards. This time, however, the inhabitants that the developers had in mind were middle-class industrial workers rather than noble families.

In the course of the Victorian era, the terrace format changed from being a privileged form of city housing to becoming the go-to residential architecture solution to overpopulation. The new wave of terraces was very similar to the style we know today: they were built with efficiency in mind and arranged on two facing rows on a single street. Instead of the more noble stone of the Georgian houses, these terraces were made with cheaper materials supplied en-masse by the engines of the industrial revolution. A not-so-fun fact about these early terraces is that most were not provided with plumbing or sanitary installations… instead, they had outhouses that were sometimes shared between several households. The poor sanitary circumstances of the early Victorian terrace houses enhanced many of the hygiene problems faced by London as its population increased dramatically during the Industrial Revolution.

Even though these standards were raised, the early 20th century still associated terraced with overcrowding and poor sanitation, and terraces for the middle class lost popularity in favour of new tower constructions. However, as the modernist dream of the highly organised vertical city did not quite deliver its promises, terraces gained a kinder perspective again as people started to regard them as a good balance between city life, family homes, and private outdoor space.

Today, terraces represent the perfect marriage between living in the city and enjoying a family home with a sense of community. Terrace houses continue to increase in popularity and are constantly being updated and upgraded to suit their inhabitants’ needs. Divisions into several flats, regroupings to make single-family homes, extensions, renovations, and additions have passed and gone through many of these houses. Now, more than 350 years after they started to populate the streets, terraces keep proving to be immensely versatile homes that evolve with the nation, and homes that can constantly adapt to the needs of their time.

Harvist Road London RISE Design Studio

What does it cost to extend your home?

 

We’re often asked how much a house extension costs in London. Extending the home is a popular option among clients who perhaps need another bedroom, an office space, or a living area, without the hassle (and stress) involved with moving house. Although home extensions in London generally cost more than elsewhere in the UK, they remain a viable and cost-effective option to create your ideal additional living space and increase the value of your home. In this post, we set out the main costs associated with a house extension project.

How much does it cost to extend your home

Harvist Road Glazed Envelope

Extending into the garden and optimising natural light

You generally have three options for extending your home: single storey, two storey or basement. The construction cost of extending the ground floor of your home (in a single storey) is, as a general rule, between £2,200 and £3,900 + VAT per square metre, depending on the level of the specification you decide on. This is a popular option for extending into the back garden to add a dining area, studio or additional living space. It is also an excellent way to bring more natural light into the property, with the ‘glazed envelope’ (like the one in the above image) making the new space feel very spacious and ‘open’. If you plan to use the new space for a kitchen or bathroom then the cost of the fitting will need to be included (typically expect an additional £10,000 + VAT for a kitchen [low-mid level of specification] or £5,000 + VAT for a bathroom [mid range]).

The value of two floors

A two-storey extension generally costs an additional 50% of the construction cost of a single storey extension. It gives you the option of adding an upstairs bedroom or other room and the investment will seem like good value as once the foundations and other structural supports are in place, you do not need to bear these costs again for the second storey. It is important to note that a two storey extension may impact on the amount of light reaching your garden and may also present additional complexity in the planning process (achieving consent for a two storey is often more difficult that for a single storey and sometimes not permitted at all for example in a Conservation Area).

Going underground

A basement addition tends to be the most expensive option per square metre because of the structural and construction complexity and risk. The construction cost of a new space in your basement in London is likely to amount to between £4,000 and £5,000 + VAT per square metre. The costs may be less if you have an existing basement which may instead need converting or extending partially.

Other costs to consider

In addition to the estimated costs set out above, you will also need to factor in the cost of the professional services that you require, such as an architect and any other consultants that you need to involve – for the majority of projects you’ll need a Structural Engineer, Party Wall Surveyor, Building Control Approved Inspector and sometimes a Mechanical & Electrical Engineer as well as a Quantity Surveyor. This typically adds 15-28% to the construction cost. There are also planning fees (£200 to £300 for a house extension, although some extensions may fall under Permitted Development Rights), home insurance costs, and VAT. The costs of windows, doors and central heating will also be in addition to the costs already listed.

Site access and other constraints

There can also be costs associated with mitigating the constraints of a site. For example, the soil type may affect the type of foundation required or the types of building material that can be used, or there may be trees, drainage or other pipework that need to be (re)moved to allow access. If your property is listed and/or situated in a conservation area, you will need to allow for higher costs overall.

Despite the long list of costs, a home extension can greatly improve your living space and also increase the value of your home by 10% to 30%. We take pride in the home extensions that we have completed for our clients and it is always a pleasure to bring more light and space into the home. You can browse some of our recent residential projects here. If you would like to discuss a potential project with us, please get in touch.

What is green infrastructure?

 

Our green spaces are under increasing pressure as the climate and population change. There is a continued demand for housing and, as a result, there has been a tendency to replace green areas in towns and cities with bricks and tarmac, particularly on driveways and in gardens. When it rains, increasingly heavy rainstorms land on smaller areas of permeable or well-drained ground, making roads and homes more prone to flooding than previously. ‘Green infrastructure’ is a term used to describe all of the green spaces in and around towns and cities. This might include parks, private gardens, agricultural fields, hedges, trees, woodland, rivers and ponds. In this post, we explain the concept in a little more detail and share some examples of green infrastructure projects in London.

green-infrastructure

Development of the term

‘Green infrastructure’ is a description of what the land is, but it also describes what the land does. The term reflects a growth in understanding of the various benefits that are to be gained from providing and maintaining healthy green spaces: reducing flood risk; improving psychological health and well-being; boosting local economic regeneration, and providing a habitat for wildlife. Rather than valuing green spaces for a specific use (e.g. a football field for recreational purposes), green infrastructure recognises that green space can provide a variety of functions, often at the same time.

Green infrastructure in England

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) defines green infrastructure as “a network of multi-functional green space, urban and rural, which is capable of delivering a wide range of environmental and quality of life benefits for local communities”. The NPPF places the responsibility with local authorities to plan strategic green infrastructure networks, particularly to reduce the risks associated with climate change. Places where there is limited access to green space is also prioritised, as is the inclusion of green infrastructure in major development and regeneration schemes.

Green infrastructure in London

The All London Green Grid (ALGG) promotes green infrastructure across London. While London is already a very green city, with an existing park and green space network that functions well for recreational purposes, there is growing recognition of the need to plan, design and manage green spaces to provide additional benefits. Similarly, the London Infrastructure Plan 2050 emphasises that green infrastructure is as important for the city as other infrastructure such as roads and railway lines.

Recent green infrastructure projects in north and west London include the London Wildlife Trust’s new 11 hectare nature reserve, Woodberry Wetlands in Stoke Newington, which opened to the public earlier this year, and a new interactive map that allows you to explore the ‘Wild West End‘ of the capital. The aim of this project is to create a network of green spaces and green roofs between the major parks in the West End of London.

To learn more about green infrastructure and other local and national projects, visit the Green Infrastructure Partnership website.