London: Design for healthy living?
Green Debate Review
On Tuesday 16 September Open-City held its first-ever Green Debate to launch the Greener City strand of Open House London 2014. Hosted by the London School of Economics at their very own green exemplar, the Saw Swee Hock Student Centre, the expert panel was welcomed by 200+ public and professional attendees.
Julian Robertson, Director of Estates at LSE opened proceedings with the LSE’s approach to the brief of the Saw Swee Hock Student Centre, the debate venue. Having asked for the "best student building in the UK" and now open for 10 months with an excellent POE report – he thinks he got jut that. Stating Ruskin’s quote that ‘We require from buildings two kinds of goodness: first, the doing their practical duty well: then that they be graceful and pleasing in doing it.’ The centre is a vibrant and lively space and thereby creates a healthy environment for its student population in the midst of the city centre.
Tackling the challenge of health in urban space the debate was then begun by chair Dan Hill, Executive Director, Future Cities, with panelists:
Dan Hill (who works for Catapult - an organisation that makes projects
happen in our cities that we all know should be happening but aren't) contextualized
the debate with trajectories such as
Each panelist then argued their positions – each from
very different backgrounds and perspectives.
"We must harness the efforts of the whole of society to solve problems. We [medical experts] don't know all the answers"
"London needs to looks at what it offers to all its residents"
"Mayor has set up London Health Commission, to be launched in 4-6 weeks"
"The Fiscal Cliff in 2019 will undermine local authorities' ability to deliver services"
"There is more money than ever in London but it's in fewer people's hands"
"How do you manage the increasing privatisation of public space?"
"We could be heading for an environmental and economic disaster if we don't act now"
"Hard-hitting legislation can make a difference but tenants' demands could be just as important"
"Must design in opportunities to be sociable"
"Places to feel safe, to nurture and to be nurtured"
"We need social spaces in local neighbourhoods that allow people to interact"
"We're about to spend just shy of £1bn on cycling over the next 10 years"
"Everybody's talking about placemaking"
"The pace of change when you're a campaigner is unbelievably slow. The pace of change when you're inside a big organisation is unbelievably quick”
Opening to the floor the debate brought about many further issues and nuggets of thought:
"In Britain about 30,000 excess deaths happen every winter " and this is more a matter of indoor temperature than air quality so we should focus on building design to alleviate this. Older and poorer people are not as assertive as others but their needs are often greater’
"Do we have too much green space in London?" Is the balance between affordable housing and poor quality green spaces right? Can we really afford to have golf courses or rarely-used school playing fields?
"How do you set up community organisations to manage green spaces?"
"we tend to separate big infrastructure from fine-grain"
"Health of the city is its core asset"
To hear a read a more indepth feature – read Dan Epstein’s perspective on Healthy Cities.
In the weeks leading up to the Green Debate, Open-City launched an online public poll to get a sense what we want from our city and how healthy we think London is and could be. Hear are our main resultes:
What initiative has made a change in greening the city?
What physical environments would you like to see improved?
Ask the panel…
Open Debate 2014Read more about '8 million and growing... will London grind to a halt?'
Open Debate 2013
Read more about last year’s debate ‘Is London building a sterile city?’