THE BLOG

Terrace Wires: Who Is Responsible for Keeping London Beautiful?

05/05/2014 17:40 BST | Updated 02/07/2014 10:59 BST

David Batchelor's Chromolocomotion has been well received since it's unveiling on 7 April. The bright colours definitely stop the St Pancras International visitors in their tracks and bring smiles to the early morning commuters as they make their way through the station.

To celebrate the official unveiling of Chromolocomotion, I hosted a dinner at the station to discuss what keeps London beautiful, what that beauty involves, who is responsible for its protection and development and why it's worth anything to us / why we care. It was clear that my guests sitting round the table did care - they were eloquent, varied and at times controversial in their responses showing that the passion to keep London beautiful is still alive.

Hearing the varying views on what makes London beautiful from my guests, three things stood out. First - memories, of younger selves and wiser relations along with moments in lives lived in the city. Second - vistas - from St. Paul's to the Royal parks, the river and national monuments. Thirdly - conversations - whether they were controversial, covering topics like immigration or life affirming statements about their love for this wonderful city. They bring variety, colour and interest to the city in which so many live.

We developed a proposal for a "skyline commission" to be given an express remit to continue the current conversations about the London skyline and to elevate them to a level where political decisions must be taken, in a coordinated fashion, in relation to how the city vistas are ever evolving. Some of those vistas are icons of their own of course - no reference to the London blitz of the 2nd world war is complete, for example, without an image of the dome of St Paul's cathedral surrounded by smoke. The London skyline has had rules applied to it before - for example, there was a rule which restricted the height of buildings around the edge of the city's parks, lost once the Hilton hotel was built on Park Lane. Once the first building has broken the rules they are then lost and unfortunately there is then no going back.

A memorable phrase was used across the dinner table in relation to the monikers we are adopting for the new tall buildings springing up across the city (the Gherkin, the Cheesegrater etc.), which was that London was "one sandwich short of a picnic". A picnic makes people smile, their thoughts move to warm summer days and carefree times.

Given the expected growth of London over the next 15 years, the city is growing fast and is forecast to reach 10 million inhabitants by 2030; the challenge for us all is to protect that opportunity to smile. We need to accommodate that growth whilst protecting the beauty of London.

Are some of the mid-rise buildings the ones which jeopardise that? Can we find a way to build stronger clusters of tall buildings again rather than to spread all the way along the Thames? What to do with the blandness of suburban shopping centres so different from the vibrancy and sense of destination that we have at St Pancras? These are all questions for us all, and for politicians. Ask yourself today: would you sit on a skyline commission? What would you protect? How would you allow London to grow? Let's all contribute to that conversation and allow the colour and beauty of the city to thrive in the future.

You can find out more about St Pancras International's contribution to keeping London beautiful, Terrace Wires, at www.terracewires.co.uk