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What does a ‘liveable’ city look like?

September 19, 2014

This weekend, for the 22nd year in a row, many of London’s usually private buildings will be opened up for public access through the Open House London initiative. Underlying this initiative is a desire to help the wider community become more knowledgeable, engage in dialogue and make informed judgments on architecture.

While that ‘open house’ ethos is exciting in itself, welcoming in those who would normally be excluded, it’s not just for the architecture buffs who like the thought of free access to some of the capital’s most iconic buildings. Rather, many of the themes running throughout the weekend are those which resonate with the Breathe community, raising all sorts of questions about how we live well in our context. For example:

  • How can we design cities for human flourishing?

With major constraints on space, huge demands for housing, and the dramatic rise in the number of one-person households, how can space and design be used differently? Check out the buildings which are trying to foster community living, make the most of ‘leftover’ spaces, and ‘green’ up existing properties.

  • How can we create truly ‘liveable’ cities?

Infrastructure is under pressure as London grows. Look at how architects have responded to the challenges of keeping London moving, supplying energy and clean water, processing and recycling waste, and finding solutions to long-term problems like flood risk and pollution.

  • What’s the point of open spaces?

London has historically been shaped by public spaces, squares and parks to enable its inhabitants to thrive, but land use is coming under increasing pressure. How do we create a sustainable landscape for the future and build beautiful places in a world where there are major challenges in managing water and other natural resources? Why not visit some of the community-led open spaces or regeneration projects which have the concept of landscape at their heart.

  • How can we make the city greener?  

Parks alone won’t do that. It’s all about the sustainable design of buildings and infrastructure, and this weekend you can visit some great examples of recent projects which exemplify this, from a zero carbon youth centre to an eco classroom which grows zero-food-miles organic salads.

If you’re in London this weekend, why not spend a few hours pottering around the city’s buildings; enjoying the delights of the diverse design on show and seeing it through a lens of someone who wants to foster community, connect with others, live more generously and critique the consumer dream which London is so quick to promote? You can search buildings by borough if you’re after something closer to home and there are some great ways of involving all the family.

And if you’re elsewhere, why not have a look at the website for inspiration before plotting a route around your own neighbourhood? What can we celebrate and what can we critique about the area we live in? Let’s get exploring!


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