Shimmering skyscrapers, newfangled ways to get to work, driverless trains, Ikeaville, Boris Island… We’ve got the inside scoop on what lies ahead for our ever-evolving, ever-inventive city. Welcome to tomorrow’s London!
Tube, train, bus, cycling… Swimming? One proposed addition to London’s commuter options is a cleaned and filtered channel in the Regent’s Canal, so you could theoretically swim to work (provided you work at The Guardian and live in Broadway Market). With rising sea levels, we may all be facing a more watery commute, so don’t rule it out.
2 Height v length
London’s latest nicknamable skyline icon is the Pinnacle, a 63-storey steel-and-glass spiral planned for Bishopsgate. It is to be known henceforth as ‘The Helter Skelter’, though sadly that doesn’t mean a curly slide to street level. Meanwhile, Google (who else?) is pioneering again with plans for a 330m-long ‘groundscraper’ at King’s Cross. Longer than the Shard is tall, it’s said to feature bike parking lots and climbing walls for staff. Though it’s still basically a long shed.
3 Pont Patsy
Design visionary Thomas Heatherwick wowed the world with his Olympic cauldron and got commuters hopping on and off the back of his Routemaster-inspired New Bus for London. He may be on shakier ground with his next project, a fully planted pedestrian garden bridge across the Thames, from an original idea by the Zaha Hadid of teatime telly, Joanna Lumley. It’s at the consultation stage: let’s hope public support blossoms, sweetie.
4 A Battersea change
The twilight zone around the corpse of Battersea Power Station is finally being done up, with posh flats, shops and a whopping 200-metre residential skyscraper (the UK’s tallest). Add in two new Northern line tube stations by 2019, and Battersea’s all set to become the new Barbican, only navigable. The Nine Elms property bubble is inflating as we speak.
5 The island of Dr BoReau
Shrouded by the mists of the Thames estuary is Mayor Johnson’s hotly debated ‘London Britannia Airport’, or, more commonly, ‘Boris Island’. If constructed, this huge international capital air hub could see the closure of Heathrow, which may then become an attractive new London borough. Of course, Boris might simply go and live on his island. Like a king! It’s all up in the air at the moment.
6 Half-pipe dreams
While 60,000 skateboarders (and their photographer pals) petition for the preservation of their hallowed undercroft, the Southbank Centre has big plans elsewhere. A floating glass pavilion, a new entrance and new public areas are set to make this jewel of the Culture Mile even more bling. Gnarly! The Southbank might be unrecognisable in three years’ time.
7 Veg power!
A team of boffins used sprouts to power a Christmas tree recently: will we soon be seeing tuber trains and risking energy leeks? Odds are Greens-powered streetlights are closer than you think.
8 Saddle up (and up)
In a quintessentially capital mix of the sci-fi and the mundane, Norman Foster and Exterior Architects have come up with SkyCycle, a radical plan for elevated, traffic-free highways crossing, fantasy-like, above the city’s train lines. Gasp! So you can cycle to your office and hang your sweaty togs in the loos. Ungasp. Odds are slim… but Boris’s plan to turn London into Holland may just work.
HOW WE’LL GET ABOUT
9 Never mind the gap
It may sound like a non-fighty, new-age superhero, but ‘Inspiro’ is in fact a new energy efficient, air-conditioned driverless tube train built by Siemens. With tenders for new train stock anticipated on various lines this year, you might see the robo-train pulling into a station near you soon.
10 Crossrail 2: Electric Boogaloo
Crossrail’s been tunneling through the east-west axis of the city for so long that the prospect of it actually being finished seems slightly unreal. Pundits are cheerily predicting its trains will be at capacity from day one (that’s in 2018), but Abbey Wood has never seemed so attractive, and now there are plans for… Crossrail 2! Handily linking comparable income brackets, it will offer Wimbledon to Ally Pally in 28 minutes, so you can see the tennis during the day and catch Goldfrapp that evening.
11 Cockney rejects
Google might be putting paid to one of the great London questions: ‘Where to, guv?’. Its driverless cars could well become a fleet of driverless cabs by 2025, spelling the end of all those cosy late-night chats. If they could just invent a robot to cut hair, Londoners would never have to talk to anyone. More pedestrianly, Nissan has just unveiled its new take on the iconic London taxi, the NV200, a black minibus with a brilliant grin. Expect to see it on the roads as early next year, but presumably north of the river only.
12 Bike to the future
Along with his cherished airport, Boris is still banging the drum for the city’s cyclists – promising a ‘mini Holland’ in various boroughs. Last March, he said that ‘in the cooler parts of east London, a bike is the fifth limb for everyone under 30’. This intriuging image was backed up with a £400m plan for a ‘bike Crossrail’ running 15 miles east-west via the City and a ‘tube network’ of cycle lanes including the ‘Bakerloo Superhighway’ and the ‘Circle Quietway’. If you’re yet to try saddle up on a Boris Bike, you might want to wait: an electric version is being piloted this year for the pedal-shy and hill-averse. Read the full proposal here.
13 Jam sandwich
China already has triple-decker roads to cope with its glut of pesky cars, and the North Circular is mind-bogglingly being touted as potentially going the same way (becoming three layers, not part of China. Although…)
HOW WE’LL BE LIVING
14 Home Swede home
Plans for a ‘Tesco Town’ in Bromley-by-Bow have ground to a halt, but the Ikea Group has bought up 26 acres of Stratford to create Strand East, a new neighbourhood of offices, shops and townhouses. Nope, Ikeaville won’t be made of flatpack flats, but we’re betting they won’t be able to resist renaming it ‘Billy’ or ‘Noddi’ or something.
Met Office forecasters have seen the future: and it’s warm and wet. London summers could regularly hit 40C by 2080, while wetter winters and rising sea levels will put the Thames Barrier under serious pressure. Belgian architect Vincent Callebauthas suggested the ‘Lilypad City’ solution: floating urban islands complete with rainwater purifiers and suspended gardens. The Thames Estuary could become a sort of cockney Caribbean. Or not.
16 The perfect shitstorm
Forget rising sea levels, London’s more likely to drown in its own effluent. The population is set to reach 10 million by 2030 – and we produce a lot of waste. To help out London’s 150-year-old sewer system, a new £4.2bn, 25km ‘super sewer’ has been proposed. A decision on it isn’t expected till later this year, so don’t hold your breath. Well, do.
17 Speaking in tongues
Dzień dobry! Polish is currently London’s second language, with almost 150,000 speakers. But contrary to what the right-wing press might have you believe, we won’t all be chatting in Romanian and Bulgarian by 2020. Urdu and Punjabi are the two most common second languages among London schoolchildren, so start practising your hellos: that’s ‘as-salam alaikum’ and ‘namaskar’ respectively.
18 Developments on all fronts
Westside, the demolition of Earls Court Exhibition Centre will begin in 2015, paving the way for an £8bn low-rise redevelopment, with imaginative green spaces and quaint villagey names. Artists’ impressions of the plan feature a lot of blonde mums in capri pants. In the east, Homerton is emerging as a fashion hub, with a new outlet ‘village’ planned for Morning Lane, while City Road Basin is the site of an all-star architect-off, with four top names, including Foster and Farrell, each putting up a towering erection. Guys, there’s a Mr Freud on the phone for you…
19 Hostel of mum and dad
Given that today’s average London house price of £452,400 will rocket to £776,300 by 2023, Londoners look set to be royally priced out of their own city. Futurologists predict that this will mean longer commutes, with people living in cheaper outer boroughs, and people living with their parents for longer. The solution? Don’t have kids: you’ll never be shot of them.
20 Flying packets
When TfL announced the closure of 240 ticket offices by 2015, the story was that Amazon would be turning the empty spaces into parcel collection points. Amazon hasn’t confirmed this, but has revealed its sci-fi plans to use flying drones (or ‘Octocopters’) to deliver packages to customers. What’s that droning sound? It’s the London Grammar album you ordered.
For more premonitions take a look at the tube trains of the future.