Investing in the Infrastructure of Polycentric Cities

Chris Williamson
Founding Partner
Weston Williamson+Partners, London

Commuting in rush hour in any major city is unpleasant, crowded, expensive and unhealthy. Studies have shown that increasing capacity for existing monocentric journeys only provides a short-term solution. More choice of where people live and work, with different commuting journey options, is one solution to this problem. London, like other European cities, historically grew as a collection of local centers, and much of this is preserved and vibrant. The investment by the Greater London Authority (GLA) and UK government in infrastructure projects such as the East London Line has seen polycentric business and residential districts increase to include Dalston, Hoxton, Haggerston and Shoreditch, encouraging a vibrant economy and residential and community development.

This research has studied the effect of investment in infrastructure and the associated development it attracts. It started with the Jubilee Line in the 1990s, which fed the development at Canary Wharf, a huge new financial center built to rival the historic City of London. Elsewhere in the world, Dubai is also emerging as a polycentric city, with many important but as-yet isolated centers. New infrastructure is helping to link these centers. The comparison of a demand-led approach and a polycentric model, influenced by the example of London’s Crossrail lines, is demonstrated to affect the shape of the city and the choices available to its inhabitants.

Accompanying PowerPoint Presentation