Open City's first Live Magazine



In addition to the regular programme Open City hosted our first ever Live Magazine. We shared ideas and provocations at a half-day get together – the Green Sky Thinking Live Magazine –  held at the UCL’s Bartlett School of Architecture and sponsored by VirtrA, to capture a more rounded picture of the city-making debate happening across London today. The mix of speakers and topics was broad: from character-led urban design methods at Brent Cross South with Argent, to the all-woman design and engineering team of the VeloCity project, enhancing the Oxford – Cambridge corridor. We even reserved a spot to celebrate journalism too, and the ethical role it can play in making better cities.

If you missed Open City's first Live Magazine the morning this is a recap of the thought-provoking perspectives shared and debated.


Rosie Cade of Argent and Sven Muendner of Beispiel presented how ‘character-led urban design’ and a magical mystery tour of Peckham helped reshape the masterplan for Brent Cross South. Based on a daylong design challenge when four interdisciplinary teams imagined a day in the life of future residents living and working in the Argent Related development, the collaborative approach highlighted the importance of the rich experiential character of a place. Rosie stressed ‘we wanted to get away from a drone's eye view and rethink the masterplan from the ground up’.

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Next, Graeme Nicholls presented 99 Fountains, a public realm project produced with Open City that aims to reinvigorate London’s civic infrastructure - while commemorating the women who have shaped the city. How? Through introducing three water fountains into each of the 33 boroughs of London, all formed through Ruben’s Goblet of inspirational London women. Not to mention the fact that it will hopefully stem Londoner addiction to plastic water bottles!

First Sarah Ernst, an architect from Architype laid out the work they have been developing alongside the Rural Urban Synthesis Society (RUSS). The project, located on a community land trust accommodates 33 self build affordable homes in Ladywell, Lewisham. It’s unique co-design process addressed resident requirements from initial brainstorming workshops up to detailing the customisable finishes. The final scheme offers a cohesive streetscape but also allows individuals to express their own character. This process meant they could make genuinely affordable homes that give the residents a sense of ownership. But their work hasn't stopped there, RUSS have persisted and Sadiq Khan has now committed to achieve 1000 community land trust homes by 2020. Keep a lookout!

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Then it was time to hear from Mark Cridge, chief executive of mySociety. He discussed the digital platforms they have developed that empower communities to change their own neighborhoods. Services such as, ‘Fix My Street’ and ‘What Do They Know’ demonstrate the need to make knowledge more widely available and to streamline communication between the public and local authorities. It’s easy to understand why they have over 11 million users worldwide. However, the focus of his talk was on their newest platform - ‘Keep It In The Community’. This offers a place where anyone can register an ‘Asset of Community Value’ and subsequently protect it from disappearing. The platform will allow the public to have a voice into what really matters to them - perhaps unsurprisingly a significant number of pubs have already been registered.

The session was closed with an insightful glimpse into the New Ground Co-housing scheme designed by Pollard Thomas Edwards for the Older Women Co-Hosing group - OWCH. Patrick Devlin, one of the architects behind the project discussed the collaborative design process of this unique typology, praising the determination and input of the women behind it. Hilary Vernon-Smith, a current resident, drew the picture of life at New Ground. It was clear to see Hillary's pride of her home and community. As she put it plainly, ‘I just love living there’. It also appeared that the scheme benefits more than just the resident women - when one of the ladies underwent a heart operation, she was released from hospital much earlier than usual as a result of the over 20 other women caring for her day and night, saving thousands for the NHS. It demonstrated how redesigning the way we live in later life could create significant benefits for more than just the older generation.  

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