Friday, 11 November 2011

Thames Hub hubbub, starring Lord Norman Foster and the City of London

Breakfast this morning proved expensive. £50 billion came up at one point.
  Early birds at the New London Architecture breakfast briefing heard Lord Norman Foster, architect behind the Gherkin and Wembley Stadium, stir up a hubbub about the Thames Hub -  a potential new airport and high speed rail terminal in the Thames Estuary, east of London.
  A carbon neutral Thames Hub would be powered by electricity generated by a second Thames Barrier. Initially, I thought this seems a great initiative.
 But Hub tea cups began to rattle in the meeting room when the £50bn cost surfaced. I sipped my tea and dwelt on a definition: 'an initiative - an idea going nowhere fast'.
  Hub advocates say it would revolutionise the UK's congested, creaking infrastructure. A freight rail hub would link the new London Gateway port with the rest of the UK. A new rail freight line would avoid central London by tracking the orbital M25 route.
   Of course, this would mean building on sacred 'Green Belt' land. But Britain would once again become a competitive trading nation. Did anyone venture what 'Made in Britain' exports would fly, rail or sail to the rest of the world via the hub? 'No' is the long answer.
I couldn't help but think some perspective was needed. Earlier this week, I'd heard some perspective offered to another NLA audience of developers, planners and architects in the Livery Hall at the Guildhall, home of the Corporation of London
   City Planning Officer Peter Rees began his entertaining presentation on 'The Future for Building Typologies in the City', by saying: "Here we are on the brink of possibly the world's worst economic crisis we'll see in our lifetimes. 
   "Thousands of the UK's disaffected youth are amassing in the west ready to march on us here in the City...and I've been told to speak about building typologies!"
   Soon after we were joined for lunch by the outgoing Lord Mayor of London, Alderman Michael Bear, (not to be confused with that younger man Boris Johnson, the ongoing loud Mayor of London).
Bear told a barely humourous joke about Einstein's driver.
Crisis? What crisis?
Aptly, lunch was taken in the undercroft or crypt.

Images: Foster & Partners

Paul Coleman, London, November 2011.

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