This year's edition of the London Festival of Architecture invites architects, planners and the public to reflect on whether cities do actually provide the best environment for people to improve their quality of life.
More of the world's population than ever before live in cities, and the trend looks set to continue. Whether cities do actually provide the best environment for a high quality of life remains uncertain, however. An architecture festival is one way to focus the attention of architects, planners & the public on that crucial question, hence the London Festival of Architecture (LFA).
If the festival has a headlining act, it is perhaps the London Pleasure Gardens, which present an unusual vision of urban renewal in the capital's former industrial heartland. Inspired by the English pleasure garden, the 60,000 square metre site, surrounded by dilapidated industrial mills and landmarks, includes oddities such as a golf-ball-like concert hall, monopoly houses and an oyster bar with a grass roof that doubles as seating for the open-air cinema.
Renewal at the micro-scale is also being tested at LFA 2012. Gibbon's Rent, near the Shard at London Bridge, used to be one of those neglected back alleys that people avoided. Architect Andrew Burns and landscape architect Sarah Eberle have turned it into a "theatre of the jungle", or at least the beginnings of one, as the winding garden has been left incomplete to encourage local residents and businesses to take ownership of it and to develop it as they see fit. That bottom-up approach may become a bigger factor in city planning: similarly inspired projects are a feature of this year's festival...