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​​London’s Local Character and Density

Jane Manning, George Garofalakis, Antony Rifkin & Geoff Noble, Allies and Morrison LLP

Awards RIBA President's Awards for Research 2017
Category Cities & Community

London Skyline ©Allies and Morrison

Understanding the underlying character of different parts of London is fundamental to setting out a strategy for future growth. This study has established a broad characterisation of Greater London as a proactive contribution to the debate around the residential density matrix and its application alongside a wider consideration of land uses. The character areas have been defined using a series of detailed information layers, including historic maps, historic and current land use, street structure, transport infrastructure, existing densities and heritage designations. This resulting map is set at a broad enough scale to be useful to strategic planning, but is supported by detailed information to allow for more area specific interrogation. Using Geographical Information System software, it has created one of the most comprehensive mappings of London’s local character to date. Transects through it reveal a highly textured and complex urban picture. As an analytical and visual tool, the map could inform policymakers and architects alike in developing more contextually appropriate masterplans. The research suggests there should be a departure from the current London Plan understanding of the city as having three broadly concentric types of character: central, urban and suburban. In its place, our report recommends there should be a much finer grain understanding of density in London. This character-based approach to future planning, building and development could help balance London’s need to intensify new development without having to sacrifice its many unique characters and identities.

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