Category: Green City

How meat and water designed part of London: the drovers’ route from Islington to Smithfield, a new walk from London Open City

Last week I led a walk exploring the drovers’ route from the Royal Agricultural Hall, Islington to Smithfield Market. This took in the New River, the history of Sadler’s Wells, Spa Green and especially the impact of the movement of meat and water on the design and development of the route along St John’s Street to Smithfield.

I will be leading this walk again on Saturday 26th September at 2pm, starting at the Business Design Centre in Islington. Find out more and book at Open City
The Central Market, likely now to be turned into a new Museum of London

The only retail butcher in Smithfield

One of four domes at the corner of the main meat market

A decoration across the entrance to the Smithfield Tavern

A boar insignia above a shop

The meeting point of St John's Street and Cowcross Street, a market meeting the drovers' route

One of three cold stores in the market

One of three cold stores in the market



Why can’t London be like Freiburg?

Freiburg in southern Germany rightly calls itself a ‘green city’. It has demonstrated a thirty-year commitment to sustainable urban development. Born out of protests against the building of nuclear power stations and influenced by the catastrophe at Chernobyl, a green activism has led to an impressive urban achievement. This includes:

  • a tradition of high-quality urban planning
  • competence as a leading centre for solar energy research
  • a local economy that regards environmental goals as a constructive challenge
  • a citizenry that is committed to protecting the environment
  • a city council that is prepared to make path-breaking decisions

(Freiburg Green City, Wolfgang Frey, 2011)

I visited Freiburg on holiday and the images below tell a story of ingenuity, homeliness, respect for children, shared green places, a joy in walking and cycling; and a commitment to the generation of solar energy. Very few of these pictures illustrate radical approaches to architecture as many of the buildings are simple five-storey apartments blocks. Houses are generally terraced but there are no detached garages and very few cars.  What connects so many of the apartments are balconies large enough live on; solar panels on most roofs; space to park bikes; narrow streets that give priority to children; green roofs; colourful walls; and places that feel humane and homely.  Freiburg has created its own traditions which set standards for sustainability and community.

Freiburg has the benefit of being an affluent city as well as a university research centre.  It has had a stable council with the same Green Party mayor and head of planning for the past thirty years. It has also established a cost-effective public transport system which is popular with many of its citizens and it has built tram ways which are green in every sense of the word as the pictures below illustrate.

Why is London (or any part of the UK) apparently incapable of learning any of the lessons of Freiburg? Architects, local authority officials and urbanists have been visiting the city for the past twenty years.

So much housing in the capital is inhumane, grey, glass-covered and thoroughly alienating as well as expensive to buy, to rent and to heat. As the government makes a commitment to building on brownfield sites without planning permission; a serious debate needs to take place on why one of the most affluent and design-conscious cities on earth is failing to offer its citizens something which the residents of a small German city now take for granted.
IMG_0979 IMG_0953 IMG_0950 IMG_0902 IMG_0899 IMG_0895 IMG_0892 IMG_0886 IMG_0883 IMG_0882 IMG_0880 IMG_0875 IMG_0872 IMG_0869 IMG_0865 IMG_0862 IMG_0824 IMG_0820 IMG_0804 Green tram tracks IMG_0793 IMG_0791 IMG_0789 Water drains into a sustainable drainage system Green tram tracks Green tram tracks Rieselfeld tram poles


North bank becoming as pedestrian-friendly as south bank

Completion of Watermark Place and the riverside walkway has created a pedestrian-friendly walk to rival that on the South Bank. The monumental Mondial House telephone exchange building, famously modelled on a typewriter key board and clad in white fibre glass, has given way to a building set back from the river and partly clad in weathered oak reminiscent of the medieval remains still visible on the foreshore.

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