A new urban renaissance

Oliver Bayliss, Buckley Gray Yeoman

Director at Buckley Gray Yeoman, Oliver Bayliss discusses how we can encourage equitability and diversity in London’s urban renewal post-pandemic.

The past twelve months have seen the biggest change in urban living in a generation. Many cities have taken the opportunity to remake themselves: laying down cycle paths, planting trees and reclaiming streets and pavements. The pandemic has turned the utopian idea of a less crowded, affordable and greener city into a reality. And it happened overnight.

Many of the ingredients for this urban renewal were already there, although policy and habit have held them back. Yet there is now a realistic path to a new urban renaissance that will make cities better places to live and work. And despite the lure of the countryside, there is hope for those of us who felt strapped to the mast as the suburban sirens pulled even the most devout urbanites away.

London’s greatest asset is its multiplicity; it’s mix of people, histories, and cultures. Its architecture acts as leveller; forging social connections regardless of creed or colour. 

With the expansion of the ULEZ scheme and the introduction of traffic reduction measures in boroughs such as Islington and Hackney, we can continue to better London’s outdoor environment and in turn promote its ‘Equitably’.

But there is more we can do. There are countless spaces dotted around the city that lie underused and are ideal for a new lease of life. In many cases, they don’t require deep pockets to turn them around. In fact, some of the best schemes are the simplest and make minimal interventions. One of these is Eccleston Yards which we delivered for Grosvenor; a former car park and industrial site in Victoria which we converted into a new piece of public realm for independent retailers – from art to zumba. This is one example of an approach to creating a more ‘Equitable’ city.

London – now over 100,000 years old – is obviously not going to disappear but it is evolving on fast-forward. The pandemic has been horrific for many and its tail-end will continue to affect millions to come. But seeing the streets of Soho full of al-fresco diners, or 2-person tennis courts repurposed for groups of skaters/footballers/break-dancers of all ages, all together, has highlighted that we can use our open spaces in a better and more inclusive way.

A diverse and inclusive London can only exist with citizens that follow suit.

As an employee-owned business Buckley Gray Yeoman has reaffirmed our commitment to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion through a dedicated staff forum established in January 2020. This has been undertaken by the staff and has already led to a series of pledges which affirm our commitment to cultivating diversity in practice and promoting greater inclusion within the profession. 

With this approach we can continue to produce work and promote a working environment that embraces London’s diversity.