Heathrow City

How far can you look into the future of your city?

How far can you look into the future of your city and what do you see?  Could you imagine that 30 years from now you might arrive in London at an entirely new airport built on an island in the Thames Estuary?  When you leave the airport can you imagine a journey on a high-speed train that shuttles you across London to your new home on the site of the former Heathrow Airport?  Or could you perhaps picture arriving back in London from a work trip on an airship, with an even shorter journey to your new home in Heathrow City?

Until 9th August 2014 New London Architecture is exhibiting concepts by three architectural practices that have been asked by the Mayor of London to envision what Heathrow might look and feel like, should it no longer be required as an airport.  While the Airports Commission debates the feasibility of a new airport in the Thames Estuary, let’s consider what the potential for a “Heathrow City”.

At 1227 hectares, Heathrow Airport is similar in size to the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and according to a study by JLL with Peter Brett Associates, could be capable of accommodating up to 80,000 new homes with a population of approximately 190,000.  Three architects were asked to propose a concept for the redevelopment of Heathrow:

 

The Transforming City – Rick Mather Architects

This concept design creates a mixed use, residential based masterplan evolving through stages of ‘hunter-gatherer’, ‘medieval’ and ‘enlightened’.  Ten character areas, each with a traditional town centre, would be created and linked by linear runway parks to concentrate dense development.  Where possible, existing buildings would be repurposed with Terminal 2 adapted to provide high quality office / faculty uses combined with mixed use / retail. Terminal 5 would be redeveloped as exhibition / conference facilities, including a Museum of Manufacture.  Terminal 4 would act as a local centre for culture and business opportunities, incorporating meanwhile uses such as hydroponic cultivation.  Landscape and public realm design are emphasized as playing an important role in place making and integrating the re-development with it’s surrounds.

 

Romance of the Sky / A Factory for Homes / A Green Belt in the Green Belt – Hawkins Brown 

Hawkins Brown interpreted the brief most liberally and envisioned three intertwined scenarios.  A self confessed ‘deliberately provocative’ concept, Romance of the Skies asked people to imagine returning to a golden age of travel with Heathrow City acting as a hub for airships.  To address London’s housing shortage and disrupt the prevailing delivery model to the UK market, Hawkins Brown also proposed that the site become a factory for homes, with 47% of new residential properties delivered by small or medium developers (or presumably community collectives) in subplots of less than 20 units.  The housing provision also aimed to address the needs of three emerging markets, namely:

  • Sharers (‘students, co-operatives, the elderly seeking sociability, renters’);
  • Flexers (multi-generational families, co-habiting households, households with flexible arrangements); and
  • Doers (homeworkers, hobbyists)

Finally, the existing runways would be adapted to create a linear green belt for recreational and ecological needs.  Interestingly, the existing Terminal Two would be converted into a city farm with hydroponic systems capable of producing millions of vegetables to be sold within a fresh produce market also to be located within the building.

 

Liveable Landscape – MacCreanor Lavington

Recognising the scale of mixed use development that could be accommodated within Heathrow City, MacCreanor Lavington see redevelopment of the airport as an important step in creating a more balanced, polycentric Greater London.  New housing could be developed through self-build, community, or developer led methods.  Significant existing buildings would be adapted to a variety of end uses including an international conference and exhibitions centre, technology campus, light industry, shopping mall and civic centre. Working with the long-term programme for demobilisation then redevelopment, they also propose a process of bio-remediation to treat contaminated soil and paved areas, plus reuse of waste materials as biofuel.

Other options?

If you can, now think back to 30 years ago – what was your world like?  For better or worse how has it changed?  Can you remember a world without the Internet, smart phones, electric cars, or Maglev trains for example?  Could you have foreseen how different your world is?

Although each of the three architects prepared sound design concepts, we felt that Hawkins Brown were best able to imagine a very radical future scenario.  By identifying wide ranging, potentially unlikely scenarios you can make more informed decisions and better prepare yourself to deal with risks (for more on this technique I recommend ‘the Art of the Long View’ by Peter Schwartz).  So what other development scenarios do we think could evolve for Heathrow City?

Underground

If significant excavation and treatment of contaminated surfaces is required, why not take things a step further and create as much space below ground as possible.  A network of roads, utility networks, storage and recreation uses could be housed below ground – potentially eliminating the need for vehicles anywhere at street level.  This could significantly decrease road space and create a dense, pedestrian focused typology.

Growing 

Could Heathrow City become an entirely productive space to grow, harvest, refine and recycle timber, food, renewable energy and water for London?  Existing terminal buildings could potentially be converted to urban farms run using electronic monitoring and lighting systems to maximise yield.  Waste products could be used for biofuels and there are excellent opportunities for solar energy production.  Perhaps the existing transport network could even be used to distribute goods to market.

Military

Unfortunately it is necessary to consider both positive and negative scenarios.  We all hope never to experience war, however it is possible Heathrow could return to its former use as a military airfield, with all the associated supporting industries and accommodation.

Space station

Sure, the spaceport in the Navajo Desert being built for Virgin Galactic is about five times the size of Heathrow City but whilst we are using our imagination, what if Heathrow City became an intergalactic transport hub? If not actively used as flights, it could still act as a world leading space research and technology hub.

 

Zero Carbon

Masdar City in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (www.masdar.ae) is a good example of a high-tech learning and living environment that is in the process of becoming carbon neutral.  There is no reason Heathrow City could not exceed the current highest BREEAM or LEED building standards with cutting edge, ultra efficient building typologies.

Green space

Theoretically, London’s housing demand could be met within the existing Greater London Authority area through targeted densification, so assuming either this scenario (or even more controversially, one in which housing demand falls), could the entire space become a National Park? Restoration of the site to provide a public open space with forests, lakes, and fields could act as lungs for London and actively support improved biodiversity.

If you have any outlandish or innovative suggestions for the future of Heathrow city we would love to hear them via twitter @urbenstudio

 

For more information on the exhibition or the Airports Commission study, see below.

Links:

http://www.heathrow-city.com/about/

https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/airp

At 1227 hectares, Heathrow Airport is similar in size to the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and according to a study by JLL with Peter Brett Associates, could be capable of accommodating up to 80,000 new homes with a population of approximately 190,000.  Three architects were asked to propose a concept for the redevelopment of Heathrow:

 

The Transforming City – Rick Mather Architects

This concept design creates a mixed use, residential based masterplan evolving through stages of ‘hunter-gatherer’, ‘medieval’ and ‘enlightened’.  Ten character areas, each with a traditional town centre, would be created and linked by linear runway parks to concentrate dense development.  Where possible, existing buildings would be repurposed with Terminal 2 adapted to provide high quality office / faculty uses combined with mixed use / retail. Terminal 5 would be redeveloped as exhibition / conference facilities, including a Museum of Manufacture.  Terminal 4 would act as a local centre for culture and business opportunities, incorporating meanwhile uses such as hydroponic cultivation.  Landscape and public realm design are emphasized as playing an important role in place making and integrating the re-development with it’s surrounds.

 

Romance of the Sky / A Factory for Homes / A Green Belt in the Green Belt – Hawkins Brown 

Hawkins Brown interpreted the brief most liberally and envisioned three intertwined scenarios.  A self confessed ‘deliberately provocative’ concept, Romance of the Skies asked people to imagine returning to a golden age of travel with Heathrow City acting as a hub for airships.  To address London’s housing shortage and disrupt the prevailing delivery model to the UK market, Hawkins Brown also proposed that the site become a factory for homes, with 47% of new residential properties delivered by small or medium developers (or presumably community collectives) in subplots of less than 20 units.  The housing provision also aimed to address the needs of three emerging markets, namely:

  • Sharers (‘students, co-operatives, the elderly seeking sociability, renters’);
  • Flexers (multi-generational families, co-habiting households, households with flexible arrangements); and
  • Doers (homeworkers, hobbyists)

Finally, the existing runways would be adapted to create a linear green belt for recreational and ecological needs.  Interestingly, the existing Terminal Two would be converted into a city farm with hydroponic systems capable of producing millions of vegetables to be sold within a fresh produce market also to be located within the building.

 

Liveable Landscape – MacCreanor Lavington

Recognising the scale of mixed use development that could be accommodated within Heathrow City, MacCreanor Lavington see redevelopment of the airport as an important step in creating a more balanced, polycentric Greater London.  New housing could be developed through self-build, community, or developer led methods.  Significant existing buildings would be adapted to a variety of end uses including an international conference and exhibitions centre, technology campus, light industry, shopping mall and civic centre. Working with the long-term programme for demobilisation then redevelopment, they also propose a process of bio-remediation to treat contaminated soil and paved areas, plus reuse of waste materials as biofuel.

Other options?

If you can, now think back to 30 years ago – what was your world like?  For better or worse how has it changed?  Can you remember a world without the Internet, smart phones, electric cars, or Maglev trains for example?  Could you have foreseen how different your world is?

Although each of the three architects prepared sound design concepts, we felt that Hawkins Brown were best able to imagine a very radical future scenario.  By identifying wide ranging, potentially unlikely scenarios you can make more informed decisions and better prepare yourself to deal with risks (for more on this technique I recommend ‘the Art of the Long View’ by Peter Schwartz).  So what other development scenarios do we think could evolve for Heathrow City?

Underground

If significant excavation and treatment of contaminated surfaces is required, why not take things a step further and create as much space below ground as possible.  A network of roads, utility networks, storage and recreation uses could be housed below ground – potentially eliminating the need for vehicles anywhere at street level.  This could significantly decrease road space and create a dense, pedestrian focused typology.

Growing 

Could Heathrow City become an entirely productive space to grow, harvest, refine and recycle timber, food, renewable energy and water for London?  Existing terminal buildings could potentially be converted to urban farms run using electronic monitoring and lighting systems to maximise yield.  Waste products could be used for biofuels and there are excellent opportunities for solar energy production.  Perhaps the existing transport network could even be used to distribute goods to market.

Military

Unfortunately it is necessary to consider both positive and negative scenarios.  We all hope never to experience war, however it is possible Heathrow could return to its former use as a military airfield, with all the associated supporting industries and accommodation.

Space station

Sure, the spaceport in the Navajo Desert being built for Virgin Galactic is about five times the size of Heathrow City but whilst we are using our imagination, what if Heathrow City became an intergalactic transport hub? If not actively used as flights, it could still act as a world leading space research and technology hub.


Zero Carbon

Masdar City in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (www.masdar.ae) is a good example of a high-tech learning and living environment that is in the process of becoming carbon neutral.  There is no reason Heathrow City could not exceed the current highest BREEAM or LEED building standards with cutting edge, ultra efficient building typologies.

Green space

Theoretically, London’s housing demand could be met within the existing Greater London Authority area through targeted densification, so assuming either this scenario (or even more controversially, one in which housing demand falls), could the entire space become a National Park? Restoration of the site to provide a public open space with forests, lakes, and fields could act as lungs for London and actively support improved biodiversity.

If you have any outlandish or innovative suggestions for the future of Heathrow city we would love to hear them via twitter @urbenstudio


For more information on the exhibition or the Airports Commission study, see below.

Links:

http://www.heathrow-city.com/about/

https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/airp