London in the 21st Century

17 January 1996 - 3 July 1997

  • Westminster Hall, the venue for the many of the debates
  • A panel of speakers
  • Audience debate
  • Kate Painter, Criminologist
  • Simon Hughes MP
  • A vocal turn out at the event
  • The exhibition at The Architecture Foundation
  • The exhibition at The Architecture Foundation
  • Simon Jenkins and Tony Blair, MP

Responding to an absence of coordinated planning and design for London, The Architecture Foundation hosted a series of public forum debates to give Londoners a voice in shaping the future of their city's built environment.

Modelled on the Stadt Forum in Berlin, this series of Public Forum Debates was a new initiative in which key speakers opened the debates and members of the public were invited to comment and respond. Over 15,000 members of the public attended the events, including architects, planners, politicians, professionals and representatives of wide sections of the community, taking the opportunity to comment and respond to issues including transport, culture, the future of London and its governance.

During his public debate, Tony Blair MP, the then-leader of the opposition, announced his pledge to hold a referendum on the subject of a mayor for London should the Labour Party come to power – giving rise to the current position of Mayor of London. Richard Rogers would use the forum to call for the pedestrianisation of Trafalgar Square, and Norman Foster for the restoration of Horse Guard's Parade from a car park to a public space - two further projects which would come to pass in the future, and to which London in the 21st Century gave significant traction..

Complete audio recordings of each of the seven discussions are available on the event's webpages, alongside a review and summary of the conversations, which can be downloaded via the pages' resources tab.

An overview of the ideas raised at the Public Forums follows below:

Many of these issues would later be adopted and developed, some remain unrealised, others still on the drawing board.

Public Space:

- Pedestrianise the North side of Trafalgar Square
- Make Parliament Square accessible for public pedestrian use
- Ensure access to the riverbank from riparian boroughs – steps, piers, jetties, wharves, parks
- Open up royal access routes to the Royal Parks for pedestrians
- Introduce limited vehicle access to Soho and other inner city areas
- Create an underground car park for Horesguards Parade and link surface to St James's Park
- Open up the courtyards of Whitehall as public thoroughfares

Suggested Specific Physical Proposals:

- Provide a new bridge at Bankside
- Plant a million trees as a millenium project
- Stop cars in the Royal Parks
- Establish a tourist coach park at Vauxhall Cross

Capital/Policy Overview:

- Develop high quality social housing in central London's derelict areas
- Create new civic spaces in London's poorest boroughs
- Develop sustainable communities in the East Thames Corridoor with transport links
- Ensure buildings and social activities keep parks alive
- Ensure river frontage is accessible for public use and housing is set back from the river

Government and Policy:

- Elected strategic planning authority for the Capital
- Elect a mayor as figurehead for action on the Capital
- Quality of design is dependent on quality and structure of decision making
- London's new elected strategic Government must have the best advisors (economists, planners, architects etc)
- Improve the planning procedure to include communities and citizens in the process, rather than the decisions
- Change the use of 'Heritage' to 'Culture' - rename the Department of National Heritage accordingly
- Establish London as the green Capital by developing green technology and therefore jobs


- Strategic integrated transport and planning authority now
- Business levy as transparent and accountable tax straight to public transport infrastructure
- Increase cost of car use to reflect environmental and health damag
- Contain diesel emissions from buses and taxis now
- Commit to CrossRail
- Open up strategic cycle an walking routes
- With government subsidy, establish an efficient river bus with new piers


- Bring back red buses and bus conductors
- Recycle London's sewage waste as fertiliser

Participants in London in the 21st Century included:

Will Alsop (Alsop Architects), Alan Baxter (engineer), Rt Hon Tony Blair (then Leader of the Opposition), Michael Cassidy (Corporation of London), Terence Conran (designer), Terry Farrell (architect), Norman Foster (Foster and Partners), Herbert Giradet (environmental expert), Piers Gough (CZWG), Lord Gowrie (Arts Council of England), Rt Hon John Gummer MP (Secretary of State for the Environment), Stuart Hampson (John Lewis Partnership), Prof. Peter Hall (planner), Lord Inglewood (Department of National Heritage), David Jeffrey (Port of London Authority), Simon Jenkins (The Times), Charles Landry (Comedia), Stuart Lipton (Stanhope), Fred Manson (Southwark Council), Pasqual Maragall (Mayor of Barcelona), Tim Mars (Civic Trust), George Nicholson (London Rivers Association), Steven Norris MP (Minister for Transport in London), Sylvie Pierce (London Borough of Tower Hamlets), Sally Powell (Associated London Government Environment Committee), Anne Power (National Tenants Association), Jane Priestman (transport consultant), Nick Raynsford MPRichard Rogers (Richard Rogers Partnership), Prof. Richard Sennett (urban sociologist), Kath Shonfield (Southbank University), Chris Smith MPEric Sorensen (London Docklands Development Corporation), David Taylor (CrossRail), Tessa Tennane (NPI Global Care Investments), Tony Travers (LSE),  Ian Tuckett (Coin Street Community Builders), HRH the Prince of Wales, Andreas Whittam Smith (The Independent).

Sponsored by

The Evening Standard
The Corporation of London

Supported by

British Airways
British Cement Association
Broadgate Properties
The Crown Estate
English Heritage
Foundation for Sport & the Arts
Gardiner & Theobald
The Goldsmiths’ Company
Linklaters & Paines
Marks & Spencer
Montagu Evans
N M Rothschild & Sons
The Westminster Foundation