The Age of the Airship\

From airships to interactive art, Darryl Chen believes technology will drive London’s future

By 2050 airships will have become a viable transportation technology for freight but also executive travel and tourism. They are getting cleaner, faster, quieter and safer, and commercial freight services are planned for as soon as the coming decade. Because they are enabled for vertical take off and landing, their penetration into urban space is much better. London will be well-placed to take full advantage of this and by 2050 we see airships as becoming a consumer brand in the same way as fair-trade or organic has today. Freighted goods that come from airships will provide a less carbon intensive alternative for an increasingly discriminating public.

We also imagine infrastructure become more layered with social functions. It’s so expensive to build now and will become moreso in the future such that moving people from A to B will no longer be enough as a return on investment in urban rail infrastructure. For example, outer borough tube stations will become vessels for social and economic assets like job training, community centres and retail space. Public space will become more embedded into infrastructure with ticket halls in particular becoming a resource for local areas, not least through the layering of digital information.

Generally there will be a greater connectedness between personal smart devices and our surroundings. Interestingly as the internet has enabled decentralization of work, global cities have actually grown in population and stature as face to face connectedness is valued. An overriding feature of London in 2050 is the idea that the more that digital infrastructures augment our architecture and public spaces, the more we crave physical space and real physical connections with each other.

In terms of housing, currently a small group of house builders provide a narrow range of products. In the future we will need to build new housing typologies for accommodating increasingly diverse family and social groups. Demographic shifts have already been marked by smaller households, aging households, as well as an increase in extended households. We will need to provide homes for the ‘sandwich generation’, those who are supporting grown-up children living at home as well as elderly parents. Housing will be diverse and have flexibility built in to it.

The delivery of housing will also diversify taking the impetus away from the volume housebuilders. In 2050 there will be a diversification in the number and kind of developers. There will be more self-builders of course but there will also be housing co-operatives, smaller and medium bespoke developers as well as partnerships with local authorities.

Published & London Autumn 2014

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