Video: Culture in the Future City

The video below contains highlights from our seventh Urban Research Unit event Culture in the Future City, held in Grimshaw's New York office.  See what panelists Kara Medoff Barnett, Susan Chin, Mark Davy and Harry Rich had to say about the importance of culture.  This event was moderated by Susan S. Szenasy, Deputy Publisher / Editor in Chief for Metropolis Magazine.

From Non-Place Airports to Hub City

In Marc Augé’s book, ‘Non-Places – An Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity’, a framework for what he describes as non-place can be found. Augé contrasts space, which is travelled through, with the idea of place which he describes as frequented space thus giving it a history and meaning. Augé continues in describing space as containing non-place pockets. These are pockets of what at first may appear to be places but are in his mind meaningless way-stations through which we travel. He argues these non-places create an isolating, transient state in which organic social interaction is no longer possible.

Perhaps the most obvious example of Augé’s non-place and certainly one of the most interesting is the large international airport. However it is perhaps the airport’s departure lounges that exemplify non-place at the most global level. These huge spaces with their polished floors and high ceilings, pictorial signage and global brand chain stores seem to have erased all identifiers of geographical place. It is an irony then that this non-place with its complete loss of local identity is more often than not the first point of contact with a new country and its culture, forming the gateway into or out from a nation.

But what if this could be changed? What if a city’s airport could be integral to its identity? What if a city had more than one airport?

Specific modes of transport have long been associated with cities and nowhere is this more prevalent than in London. The Black Cab, Red Routemaster Bus, London Underground (currently celebrating it’s 150 year anniversary) and more recently the London Cycle Hire Scheme all form part of London’s identity and international brand. All these modes of transport each have strong identities but do not rely on a single hub or point of departure. Instead they are polly-nodal networks with all the advantages that this can bring. This same strategy could be applied to London’s 5 airports (Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Luton & City) to create the first ‘Hub City’: a city in which travellers and airlines do not depend on a single hub airport but a closely networked system optimised to be far more responsive, adaptable, efficient and reliable than could be achieved with any single airport. Furthermore, this Hub City would not just provide an unrivalled air travel experience which no single airport could compete with but through hi-speed and convenient connectivity to the city centre integrate itself with the very identity of London as a truly globally city.

To some extent London already operates like this. Rather than invest huge amounts into an entirely new airport with all the associated environmental impacts as well as the required new road and rail connections why not invest in linking London’s current airports with each other and the city itself? What if London was the air traveller’s departure lounge with baggage checked in at points across the city such as major train stations and security checks completed en-route to the 5-airport network. A 3 hour stop-over at Heathrow with 2 of those hours spent strolling through Hyde Park?

The traveller is no longer Departing, Arriving or Transferring at an airport; they are Leaving, Entering or Enjoying a city.

Submitted by: Nick McGough, Grimshaw

Video: Playing In the Future City

The video below contains highlights from our fifth Urban Research Unit event Playing In the Future City, held in Grimshaw's New York office.  See what panelists Adrian Benepe, Signe Nielsen, David Burney and Tom Finkelpearl had to say about the ways we play.  This event was moderated by Lance Jay Brown, 2014 President of the American Institute of Architects - New York Chapter.

Video: Navigating the Future City

'Navigating the Future City’ was the fourth Urban Research Unit event of 2013. The evening was chaired by newscaster Jon Snow, and featured artist Rut Blees Luxemburg, architect Mark Middleton, Chairman of Soho Estates, Steven Norris, and Richard Powell, Director of Planning and Development at Capco. The panel explored ideas on the future of transport, planning, living and working in London and New York and the different ways in which the inhabitants of both cities will navigate, encounter and negotiate the 'Future City'.

Video: Housing the Future City

The video below contains highlights from our third Urban Research Unit event Housing the Future City, held in Grimshaw's New York office.  See what panelists Dan D'Oca, Jonathan Drescher and Susanne Schindler had to say about the ways we work.  This event was moderated by Alan G. Brake, Executive Editor of The Architect's Newspaper.

Overview: Working in the Future City

The second Urban Research Unit event took place on Tuesday 19th March at Grimshaw’s London office. Following on from the success of the first New York event, panellists and audience members gathered in Grimshaw’s atrium to reflect on the theme of the evening, ‘Working in the Future City’.  What followed was a lively discussion on what it means to work in a contemporary workspace and how different models of the office vary across London in particular.


Overview: Defining the Future City


Urban Research Unit’s first panel discussion was held on 8 February at Grimshaw’s New York office.  The panel, moderated by Jonathan Rose of Jonathan Rose Companies, featured Mark Davy, founder of Futurecity, Jolyon Brewis, chief executive of Grimshaw, Mark Beasley, curator of Performa and William Morrish, professor of Urban Ecologies in the School of Constructed Environments at The New School.  


Panelists covered a wide variety of topics centred on how we design and plan in the urban environment, what effects are derived from the design and planning process and ultimately how they end up serving the general public.  Choices that have great influence on the relative success of a development are often made years in advance of actual completion, complicating the process and challenging designers to anticipate future needs.  These needs range from quality of life issues like the provision of clean air and natural light to infrastructure issues that bring appropriate transit and services.  The careful connection of all of these complex threads is at the heart of city planning and design, and the panel discussed a number of ways these connections can be created or influence.

Art played a recurring role in the discussion, acknowledging the place of artists and the arts industry in successful development and examining ways in which the incorporation of arts facilities, public art and other arts amenities can serve as attractors for foot traffic that will create a sought after sense of vitality and liveliness.  The incorporation of the arts and ideas economies into new developments has increasingly come to the forefront of recent conversation, allowing the arts a particular place in many contemporary placemaking efforts.


The kickoff event for Urban Research Unit provided a broad canvas for discussion as diverse as the cities in which we live, and fertile ground for future, more targeted conversations that will focus on more individualized issues including housing, recreation and sustainability.  The next Urban Research Unit event, titled Working in the Future City, will be held on Tuesday, March 19 in London.  The next Urban Research Unit event in New York, titled Housing the Future City will be held on April 24.

London: Hub City

London could be the most accessible city in the world. In the decades to come London can develop an international reputation for being the easiest world city to visit; where it is possible to break a long-haul journey for less than an hour, but just as easy to choose to spend a few hours in the metropolis, knowing that London’s commercial and cultural attractions can be accessed quickly and reliably.