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Again, London's Future is Looking Down

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

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London may be cracking down on "iceberg" mansions that devour virgin land under old neighborhoods, but why not renovate existing subterranean structures to relieve the capital's crowding?

Reviving a network of abandoned subway tunnels under the city could take considerable congestion off the clogged streets above them, says design and architecture firm Gensler.

The London Underline, billed as the "first citywide network of its kind," would repurpose deserted metro tunnels and "surplus infrastructure" for pedestrian and bicycle paths with cultural and retail spaces, the firm says.

3,000 People Each Week

The city's population is growing rapidly, with nearly 3,000 new residents each week, according to Gensler. London's population of 7.3 million in 2011 is expected to reach 10 million by 2029.

"Now that London has reached the highest level of population in its history, we need to think creatively about how to maximize the potential of our infrastructure," says Ian Mulcahey, managing director of Gensler London.


Gensler's idea for repurposing London's disused tunnels won Best Conceptual Project at the 2015 London Planning Awards.

"The adaptation of surplus and underutilized tube and rail tunnels could provide a quick and simple addition to our infrastructure network."

Kinetic Energy

Pressure on London to cope with future transport capacity puts the city in "desperate need" of new types of public and community space, the firm says.

Everything would be powered by Pavegen, a London company that has developed flooring technology that converts kinetic energy from footsteps into renewable electricity.

Pavegen and Momentum Transport Planning consulted on the design.

Designer Trevor To explains, "Gensler's proposal brings back an ignored part of the city through the collective efforts of its citizens. By harnessing the kinetic energy of everyone's footsteps, a whole new urban space is unlocked underneath the city.

"This self-sustaining approach to urban infrastruture is key to a carbon-neutral community, and London could lead the world once again in merging tradition with innovation to create a better future."

Award-Winning Concept

The idea recently won Best Conceptual Project at the 2015 London Planning Awards, which are judged by a panel led by London Mayor Boris Johnson.

This YouTube video from Gensler discusses the potential benefits of developing underground transportation.

The competition looks for projects that:

  • Are visionary and challenge the status quo;
  • Address local and strategic planning challenges; and
  • Contribute to London's world city status.

Gensler has particularly identified tunnels between Green Park and Charing Cross Road and between Holborn and Aldwych to link strategic pedestrian destinations.


Tagged categories: Architecture; Design; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Gensler Architects; Maintenance + Renovation; Renovation; Transportation; Tunnel

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (3/3/2015, 9:04 AM)

Here's a candidate:

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