The future of East London

London Essays – Issue 8: Futures

The future of East London

Having spent the last three-and-a-half years studying the process of urban change in East London by photographing buildings in their surrounding social and architectural environment, I am conscious that there are a number of competing models for future development.

By Charles Saumarez Smith

How will the urban landscape change as the engine of London’s urban growth moves east of the River Lea into the remaining areas of (relatively) cheap housing and ex-industrial wasteland in Romford and Dagenham, and out towards Upminster and Bata-ville (East Tilbury)?

Recent developments round Heron Quays, just south of Canary Wharf, where the scene is of unrestricted urban growth, as in Dubai or Hong Kong.Canary Wharf from the west, representing the vision of the 1980s, using government investment through the LDDC to attract private development.

One of the old GLC blocks on Massingham Street in Stepney, now run-down and needing refurbishment.

Balfron Tower, designed by Ernö Goldfinger in 1963 for the London County Council in heroic brutalist style – now vacated, its ownership transferred to a housing association.

The River Lea, looking south near Three Mills, showing that there are still large areas of derelict­ion awaiting imaginative development.

The old Regent’s Canal, looking north under the railway bridge west of Turners Road in Limehouse.

Alison and Peter Smithson’s Robin Hood Gardens, one of the grandest pieces of 1970s social housing, is in the process of being demolished, not refurbished, in spite of being a monument to brutalism.