This is the full script for a salon organised by LivingMaps at the Museum of London in December 2017, as part of their City Now, City Future programme.
THE GREAT DEBATE
The chair and two speakers seated on platform , with lectern and mikes.
In Town Tonite sound/music sequence with accompanying visuals , freeze on STOP
Announcers Voice :We halt the mighty roar of London’s traffic to bring you :
Welcome to our salon. I am Phil Cohen , Research director of Living Maps and we have put together an evening of live performance, multimedia, debate and play in which we will be exploring different visions of life in London in 2049 when it has become a city of perpetual commotion, officially dedicated to those who like living life in the fast lane. Meanwhile, in a parallel universe, some Londoners have chosen to defend themselves against future shock and put the brakes on.
The clip we have just heard is from the intro to ‘In Town Tonight’, a popular BBC radio news programme which ran from 1936 to 1964, and it illustrates very well the central issue we are setting out to address here: the mighty roar of London’s commerce with the world , has not ceased to intensify as globalisation penetrates ever more deeply into the social fabric of our great city . It is sweet music to some ears, part of the global urban buzz, whilst to others it is a cacophony which deafens the voices of its citizens, especially those forced to live precariously on the economic margins: the poor, the homeless, the wretched of the earth .But equally the sudden arrest of this momentum, applying the emergency brake to runaway urban ‘regeneration’ ,’ while it may afford a space and time for alternative visions of the city to be heard, may also presage the collapse of its most vital infrastructures. In the teeming silence, amidst the haunted ruins of the hollowed out city, some quite nasty things may take root and flourish. This is the great Fear of Brexit and its possibly dire consequences for London’s culture and economy..
This is not a new issue, although it has taken on a special urgency in the wake of the financial crash and now Brexit., both of which have administered short sharp shocks to our prevailing system of political economy .
Shock , according to Walter Benjamin writing in the 1920’s was the normal state of everyday life in the big city, linked to the advent of the railway , the automobile and all the other technologies which were speeding up the circulation of commodities, information, and people. Benjamin could never quite decide whether the impact of this accelerated pace of urban life was to force people into a chronic state of dissociation or distraction, a kind of general numbing down as everyone cocoons themselves within their own fractured worlds or whether it would create platforms for the emergence of new and more dynamic cultural forms breaking out of the parochial, inward looking communitarianism ,associated with what Hannah Arendt has called the ‘nationalism of the neighbourhood.’
So shock in this view is double edged, a moment of violent disruption , which can provoke a purely reactive, nihiistic NIMBYism, but it can also serve as a prompt for a more creative and proactive response .
Those two perspectives are still held in some kind of tension in Benjamin’s reading of the capitalist city, highlighting the contradiction between its dynamic modernity , as both a creative and destructive force , so spectacularly concentrated in the downtown areas of commerce and political power, and the backward looking conservatism of so much of its domestic architecture especially in the sprawling suburbs. That tension is there too in the discordance between the agitated rhythms of popular urban culture soundtracking mass commutes between home and work and the leisurely tempo of the bourgeois flaneur strolling around the downtown shopping Arcade. Whereas in Benjamin’s Paris or Berlin these could be seen as two complimentary sides of the same big city story, today , these different aspects of city life have hardened into rival camps within the field of contemporary urbanism, and given rise to competing futurologies
. In the first half of the salon we are going to explore these contrasting discourses, which may be broadly characterised as accelerationist and conservationist , through a head- to -head debate between two of their leading exponents , each of whom will present their vision of London 2049. After you have heard the arguments you will have an opportunity in the second half of the evening to test or challenge these views as you respond to different scenarios of urban future shock and work in small groups to create rooms for a future Museum of London based on what you would like to see removed, restored, retained or repurposed to make the city into your kind of town.
So now to introduce our two speakers. Toni Vertigo is from the Centre for Urban Acceleration. In her recent book Cities Unbound she has argued that the permanent revolution of urban life, far from producing widespread alienation, will sweep away existing structures of hierarchy and inequality and transform London into a smart city run by and for its citizens. In response, we will hear from Doctor Annie Ambler who is director of the International Institute of Not Doing Much and author of In praise of Indolence in which she argues that London should become a city for those who want to live in the slow lane, much of it pedestrianized, with a green economy, low density housing, ‘organic’ architecture, vastly extended recreational space, and a public transport system built on a sustainable eco-technology of ‘slowmobiles’.
So first up and to begin our debate will you please welcome Toni Vertigo.
TONI VERTIGO ( she speaks fast using a series of hip hop gestures to punctuate her words : viz Mos Def Wave, Slim Shady Chop and the Ninja Star – these points are notated as HHG )
Thanks for the intro, Phil buddy, and Hi there fellow accelerationists ( gestures to the whole audience) . Yes really I mean all of you , whether you know it or like it or not, you are fully paid up subscribers to the Accelerationist movement (HHG)..You are all mobile phone users, right? you have Tablets, laptops, right?(HHG) All these digital devices mean you are part of the ever accelerating flow of information, goods and services that are the life blood of a global city like London; increasing amounts of your work, your leisure and your personal relations are dependant on these rapid transit systems. Whether its speed dating, snatching a snack at a fast food restaurant or meeting a deadline for some piece of work and posting it to the other side of the globe in seconds, we are all of us in some way or other part of the digital economy , caught up in the circuit of its networked infrastructures. Nowadays It just aint possible to live off grid. , being self sufficient , not having to tangle with the market economy or the state- ,OK it may be an ideal for some , even an attractive one , but its a false utopia .A cop out (HHG).
Why? Cos these technologies offer real fixes , real affordances, but they do it in a lopsided way that maximises profit for the big corporate players in the digital economy :Amazon, Google, Facebook, Twitter; and minimises the pay offs for ordinary citizens .The way to change this , to make sure the digital economy works for the many not the few, is not to drop out of it, not to ignore it, but to actively engage with it , to push it beyond the limits imposed on it by capitalism, and the drive for private profit .
This aint exactly news from nowhere (HHG). Marx was the first accelerationist – he pointed out that what he called the productive forces(technologies) tended to make knowledge ever more socially productive, accessible and shareable for the public good but this was being held back by the relations of production , by private ownership and control, by monopolies, cartels, restrictive work practices. That’s why he was all for developing technology , going all out for full automation, because he thought that would create the conditions for a new kind of society, in which people were freed from monotonous soul destroying work and would be able to concentrate their energies on doing properly human stuff like educating and caring for one another, co-operative enterprises and creative endeavours of every kind. It would be a society of abundance , there would be enough to go around , from each according to their ability to each according to their need, based on a universal basic income .
So what would an accelerationists city look like (HHG)? .For a start It would be one where all the obstacles to free circulation of goods, services and people had been removed. So yes an end to traffic gridlock, by banning private cars from the centre of London , so yes the development of free or very cheap and fast public transport systems, monorails, overhead cycle routes and cable cars . The automobile would finally live up to its name and become fully driverless , getting you from A to Z in the fastest and safest possible time , reducing untold stress and carnage on the roads. London would become a velo-city( HHG).
And yes It would mean dismantling all those bureaucratic bottlenecks which at present riddle the planning process and make London’s governance unaccountable and impervious to popular demands. We will devolve all power including taxation to the Greater London Assembly, and if that means London sheering off from the rest of the UK so be it. In London 2049 , there will be no local councils , because these administrative boundaries are an irrelevance in the space / time of global flows. Instead there will be a form of direct democracy , with on line plebiscites on every aspect of urban policy: housing, education, health, welfare , the environment . The electronic agora would make smart cities immediately responsive to the needs of its citizens and speed up the whole process of decision making.
At the same time bio and nano –technology will create an abundance of food and material goods . In what is left of the Green Belt we will build new info- tech nodes, complete with business parks, high density, high quality and highly affordable housing.
Cogno-tech will revolutionise the process of learning . Compulsory education for 5- 16 year olds will be abolished, because if you have to compel children and young people to learn about the world , you start off on the wrong foot. Schools will be replaced by 24/7 community learning hubs for all ages , with science and technology studies forming the core curriculum along with the arts. Universal basic income will include life long learning vouchers . Disabled and elderly people in London will be issued with free domestic robots to help them remain independent in their own homes . All London’s hospitals will include cryonic centres, and properly funded medical technology will transform the quality and quantity of life..
But how will London 2049 cope with global warming as it begins to hit home and flood barriers are powerless to hold back the rising tides . No it wouldn’t be a post apocalyptic ruin, out of a JG Ballard story (HHG). No , it wouldn’t look like something out of Blade Runner (HHAG) . But it might look like a high tech version of Venice, with streets forming a network of canals and advanced hydraulic engineering systems keeping the city afloat. Of course we need to rethink the built environment to withstand climate change and extreme weather events. We need a new high density, high tech architecture , some of it on stilts, creating vertical living ,working and play spaces linked by horizontal virtual networks. So we need visionary architects , planners and politicians to grasp the opportunities that are opening up to put London at the cutting edge of change in the transition to a post capitalist society. Accelerationists don’t advocate speed for its own sake but because its technologies open up a new deterritorialized space of social and cultural fluidity and blow away the fixed hierarchies, the command and control structures of corporate power .
So, hey, don’t listen to the techno-phobes and the urban catastrophists, with their lurid sci fi dystopias (HHAG). Don’t live in the past and cling on to outmoded forms of urbanism.(HHG). Above all don’t turn your back on the future because you are afraid of the changes it will bring. Citizens of this great world city,you have nothing to lose by throwing off the chains of capitalism , and releasing the creative human potential that is locked up in digital revolution (HHG).. We declare that only a promethean urban politics of maximal mastery over the city and its environment is capable of dealing with the problems of globalisation( HHG) . So hey make the accelerationist city work for you! More speed less haste !!!( clenched fist salute).
PC Thanks very much , Toni, for your thought provoking contribution. And now , as they say , for something completely different. Will you please welcome Dr Annie Ambler
Good evening, ladies and gentlemen (EAG). It is a real pleasure to have been asked to address you on this important topic. It puts me in mind of a passage from the novel Slowness by the great Czeck novelist Milan Kundera. It is so pertinent to my argument that I will quote it in full:
‘The man hunched over his motorcycle can focus only on the present instant of his flight; he is caught in a fragment of time cut off from both the past and the future; he is wrenched from the continuity of time; he is outside time;in other words he is in a state of ecstasy. In that state he is unaware of his age , his wife, his children, his worries and so he has no fear , because the source of his fear is the future and a person freed of the future has nothing to fear.
Speed is the form of ecstasy the technological revolution has bestowed on us. In contrast to a motorcyclist , the runner is always present in their body, forever required to think of their blisters, their exhaustion; their weight, their age , This all changes when we delegate the faculty of speed to a machine; from then our own bodies are outside the process and we give ourselves over to a speed that is non corporeal, non material , pure speed, speed itself , ecstasy speed.
Why has the pleasure of slowness disappeared? Today the pleasure of indolence has turned into having nothing to do which is a completely different thing. A person with nothing to do is frustrated, bored , is constantly searching for the activity they lack. Someone who is in tune with the seasons of his or her own soul, who has learnt to appreciate long duration, the beauty of small things unfolding slowly is best placed to withstand the onslaught of a future in which everything that is valuable has been reduced to its monetary worth.’
Ladies and Gentlemen (EAG), do any of us need reminding that the 24 hour city is a city where no –one sleeps. Sleep, where the body and mind slows down, to regenerate vital functions ,creates a space and time for dreams or reverie which, remains the last barrier against its full and final capture of our inner lives. In fact, to live the dream of capital, is to exist in a state of chronic insomnia and stress, as everything that is solid and makes for solidarity in our social world melts into the thin air of cyborg communication.
How many of you have had dreams of running faster and faster to stay in the same place. This image seems to me to perfectly capture the futility of life and labour under turbo charged capitalism . On one side , the constant battle to prevent the rate of profit from falling by producing ever newer, more obsolescent commodities. A runaway economy inm a throwaway society .On the other the imperative to continually re-invent ourselves, driven by the terror that unless we continually adapt we will be left behind and thrown on the scrap heap. And what does the constant acceleration of new information produce but mountains of data that are mined for profit but threaten to overwhelm our capacity to make sense of it all.
But ladies and gentlemen (EAG) , I am glad to say this is not the whole story. In cities and towns across five continents there is a growing movement of citizens in revolt against the endless speeding up of everyday life and labour. Workers vote to go slow, to regain some control over their work process and mitigate the principles of hyper-exploitation built into new management strategies for measuring productivity. Consumers are rejecting fast foods, in favour of healthier , and that means slower cooking and eating. Conservation areas are preventing slash and burn regeneration; the creation of cycle lanes and pedestrian only areas are slowing the pace of urban life.
The slow movement was started by Carl Honore and its aims are summarised in his 2010 book In Praise of Slow . The movement is growing at an ever increasing pace as more and more people recognise the toll taken by the hurry up culture , driving the planet and its population towards burnout. Time poverty is endemic . as is living in a state of chronic impatience and permanent distraction. In response people are beginning to decelerate ; slowing down helps them live, think ,work and play better. Being slow means never rushing , never striving to save time just for the sake of it . There has been an exponential growth in slow activities such as meditation, knitting , gardening, yoga, reading and walking , so many ways of finding your own tempo in life. Of course in a world hardwired fore speed, slowing down induces feelings of guilt , opens us to accusations of laziness or idleness . But as Paul Lafargue put it in his famous essay, The right to be lazy is a fundamental human right and the chief means of resisting the reduction of human life to the brute struggle for survival . And as Bertrand Russell argued nearly a hundred years ago in his book In Praise of Idleness, the reduction of the working week to four days, and each day to six hours becomes feasible given the vastly increased productivity of labour; it would not only reduce unemployment by spreading work around more equitably, but create the conditions for the creative use of extended leisure by the vast majority of people , reducing stress and improving health in the population at large.
So these are not new ideas But more than any generation we understand the futility of constant acceleration and are determined to roll back the cult of speed. Demography is on our side.The aging population is also a slowing down population. But can only the well -to -do and retired afford to slow down.? Surely it is just as important for the young, the poor and the unemployed for after all they are often the most stressed because the time they have on their hands is the empty homogeneous time of capitalism, of clocking on and clocking off, not the richly textured time of imagination and memory.
The Slow Cities movement started in Orvieto,Italy in 1999 and has now spread to 183 towns and cities in 28 countries. It is animated by a desire to have less traffic, less population density, less pollution ,less noise and general commotion.The Slow City manifesto contains 55 pledges or criteria, upon which cities are assessed, grouped into six categories : environmental policy, infrastructure, quality of urban fabric, encouragement of local produce and products, hospitality and community awareness. I believe the principles of the Slow City movement are ones that should apply to all cities no matter how big or small. And especially to London.
However it seems to me , ladies and gentlemen (EAG) there is much more to this than a life style choice. The real issue here is the increasing physical separation between where people live and work , and how in London the quest for affordable housing is drawing more and more people out of the inner city where the growth in creative jobs is concentrated. Slow cities have to rethink the relationship between housing, employment , recreation and transport. There is more to this than simply joining up these policy areas. We need a whole new political ecology of the city based on human need and scale, not profit..
As we know, in the last twenty years, London has started consuming itself with accelerating voracity. Change has tended all in one direction- converting all the qualities of its urban fabric into investment value, especially residential property. This process has threatened qualities fundamental to the city , its availability, generosity , fluidity and social diversity. If this trend continues it looks as if London will consume itself at a rate that will liquefy all its vital organs of work and sociality, pricing all but the very rich out of access to its human resources.
.Put simply the pattern has been one where private interests have been given freedom to exploit and grow up to and often beyond the point of disaster: Fire , disease, overcrowding, sprawl , pollution. It is only when a major shock to the system occurs , like at Grenfell Tower, that there is some major public intervention, and then usually it is too little , too late. To prevent any of this happening ever again we need to slow down the whole process of London’s regeneration , to ensure that if and when it happens it is with the active participation and assent of the populations most directly affected, those who live and work in the area concerned. Slow regeneration means piecemeal neighbourhood renewal , not slash and burn demolition. The point is that social ecologies and physical forms should renew through change not be devastated by it. Community and place cannot be bound together for ever, but neither should Londoners be threatened with uprooting every few years.
So my vision for London 2049, will include widespread pedestrianisation of the centre and inner city , the introduction of electric slowmobiles in place of cars , the demolition of all high rise buildings , whether commercial or residential , which are no longer fit for purpose and their replacement by low density , low rise structures made out of recycled material with minimal ecological footprint, the conservation of public space and amenity , the designation all Council estates built before 1951 as heritage sites, their full restoration and return as secure affordable housing to low income tenants, the closure of London City Airport , the transformation of the Thames into a watersports park and nature reserve , and ,of course, the expansion of London’s green belt into the inner city , leading to the greening of London’s urban fabric and economy.
In conclusion I want to go back to the beginning of our debate. In his introduction our genial host was good enough to mention Walter Benjamin, but , Ladies and Gentlemen (EAG), may I remind you that Benjamin’s ‘odd idea’ was that revolution might be an act of deceleration, interruption, stopping the ‘runaway train of History’. Marx says that revolutions are the locomotive of world history. But perhaps it is quite otherwise. Perhaps revolutions are an attempt by the passengers on this train – namely us human beings – to activate the emergency brake before it is too late. Thank you for your attention.
PC Thank you for that, plenty of food for thought there, I think. So now I will invite a response from Toni Vertigo , to which the Doctor will reply before we open the debate out to the floor.
TONI VERTIGO RESPONSE
So I listened to the Professor’s pitch with interest but with growing disbelief. Basically his message could be boiled down to ‘Stop the world , I wanna get off’. It was yet another example of project fear which we have become all too familiar with , from both Left and Right over Brexit, from people who want to turn the clock back , to return to some imaginary golden age when Britain ruled the waves . Instead of grasping the political opportunities which are opening up to create a truly post capitalist society , they cling on nostalgically to a world in which both Labour and Capital knew their place in a period of relative social stasis between 1945 and 1970.
Ok so lets cut to the chase. What is to be done to stop London’s political life stagnating . Lets talk about participatory budgeting which is such a buzz word among sections of the Left today. How do you go about setting up a mechanism of public deliberation about public spending where all citizens who want to get to decide what gets spent on what?. In a big city like London that would only work if you had an online discussion and voting platform accessible to everyone on the electoral register and that means a networked information infrastructure that everyone is plugged into via their phones. In other words the internet (HHG). The platform would have to be constructed so the whole process of deliberation was speeded up, compressed in space and time. To hear some Lefties talk you’d think that people had enormous amounts of time to spend attending meetings, discussing stuff. They don’t., That’s why they delegate to politicians , as their elected representatives to do the business on their behalf. If you really want to change that(HHG), if you want direct democracy (HHG), to make London truly governable by its citizens, then you need to accelerate the whole process of decision making and make it accessible to all of the people all of the time at the click of a button.
Do we really want to turn London into the Doctors quaint prescription of a Garden City , a city where everyone cultivates their own back yard, grows their own vegetables and opens urban ostrich farms, , while sticking their heads resolutely in the sands of time which are running out and calling it ‘slow city mindfulness’ ?
If Brexit did nothing else it showed us that politics is no longer business as usual. And after the 2008 crash neither is economics. Doing nothing is not an option . We need to take the future away from the corporate imagineers, to make sure that technologies work for us and not against us and to do this we need to be as quick on their uptake as those who want to use them to defend and extend corporate power and the status quo. So don’t waste precious time scrabbling about in the dustbins of history in a self indulgent nostalgic quest for a future city that never was and never will be . Instead immerse yourself in the here and now and accelerate those tendencies in the present that point beyond the limited visions of contemporary urbanists, for whom the future is either more of the same or catastrophic. Instead let us advance together towards a London that is not only post imperial and post industrial but truly post capitalist.
ANNIE AMBLER RESPONSE
Ladies and Gentlemen (EAG), contrary to what the previous speaker implied I am not a Little Londoner, let alone a little Englander. Nor am I a techno-phobe or a passe-ist. Far from it . But neither do I want to be treated as a ‘node’ in some vast global network which I can neither grasp concretely , nor control . Of course we need change and we need technologies to make our lives better, but we need the scale and tempo of urban change to be at a human pace and scale and nowhere more so than in London . Contrary to what the accelerationists think, human life is not like an action adventure movie . The processes of urban growth cannot be captured speeded up by time lapse photography. As the exponents of slow cinema remind us, and as great film directors like Bela Tarr or Tarkovsky show us, it is when we immerse ourselves in the sensuous depth of long duration , when we grasp the physical detail and fabric of everyday life in which our projects are embedded and unfold, that we truly appreciate the fact that we are historical agents- that we can intervene to change the course of events.
As regards London I think we need to go back to the future spelt out by the Abercrombie Plan (1948) which set out such a progressive vision for the reconstruction of London after the war . You may remember the famous map where London is shown as a network of urban villages , considered as distinct units of regeneration, each with a distinctive character and containing all the elements – affordable housing , rewarding jobs, accessible amenities, educational and cultural opportunities , and cheap transport-, that make living in a big city such a worthwhile and exciting experience. The plan was never realised , it was ahead of its time, but many urbanists today think its principles have become even more relevant than they were more than half a century ago.
Now lets go back even further in time , to the Charter of the Forest that was made at the same time as Magna Carta. It enshrined popular liberties ; it protected the people’s right to access and make use of the environment as a source of livelihood and amenity; today it provides a template for resisting the enclosure of public spaces and loss of public amenities through privatisation and financialisation – something which is happening all over London as I speak. Pubs and clubs closing and being turned into luxury apartments; valuable public space being eroded , waterside industries and small enterprises being closed down or forced out , parkland and gardens tarmacked over or built on, leading to an increase in pollution levels, and a deterioration of public health . Against these trends the Charter offers us a truly contemporary vision of communal stewardship of pooled assets and resource .It is a ready made manifesto for the greening of London’s economy,the preservation and extension of the urban commons.
So rather than blindly embracing the future, and ignore the lessons of the past, ladies and gentlemen (EAG) let us pay attention to those projects which were perhaps ahead of their time , but which we now have the means and the capacity to realise , provided the political will is there.
PC Ok thanks very much . So now over to you – any questions to our two speakers , or comments on the issues raised?
The lights are dimmed and we hear the following pre-recorded tape setting the scene for the shock scenarios. Three different voices reading sections of the text..
Welcome to UnLundun 2049 : A Travellers Tale
PC: It was Michelet who said that every epoch dreams of the one that follows it to which Walter Benjamin added – that in doing so it actively creates that future . In a moment, we are going to invite you to imagine what London 2049 might be like to live and work in and how it might be transformed into your kind of town . But first to set the scene we would like to take you on a journey, to tell you a time travelers tale with the help of a few writers.. So welcome to UnLundun 2049 .
Voice 1) We reached the village of Suthuk which is on the edge of the river bed of the Thames, most of which is reclaimed land planted with cabbages, the export of which form the principle staple of the country’s economy since Brexit …
Our first destination was the vestiges of the once famous Lun-dun Bridge mentioned in many accounts and in one folk lore ballad which has come down to us beginning, ‘Lun-Dun bridge is falling down’. Several arches of this structure now span the intervening space between the village of Suthuk and the extremely picturesque ruins of the Shard .
Voice 2) As evening drew on we went to what was left of Tower Bridge to watch ‘The Para-Olympic Dream’, marvelling at the flickering figures as they vaulted over the sandbagged parapets in their giant wheelchairs. Our gaze was inevitably drawn downriver to the famous motto Amplius, Charius, Colossicus, written in neon lipstick against the city’s darkening rim. It was time to visit the Olympic Park and sample the remaindered glory of the Games. We hired a gondola jetski at the Isle of Dogs and as we approached the site were overwhelmed by the awesome spectacle of the Orbital Tower, now leaning more crazily than ever Pisa’s did, with noxious weeds from foreign parts clinging to its superstructure creating a veritable hanging garden of London Babylon.
We disembarked at a pontoon where in happier days the late Sir David Beckham had handed the Olympic torch to Bradley Wiggins, fresh from his triumph in the Tour de France. Little did either of them dream of the disaster to come. As we made our way across the deserted walkways toward the tower we were dismayed by the signs of neglect and decay all around: broken railings, park benches vandalised, drought-withered gardens, a derelict open air café where only a few tables bolted to the ground remained as mute witness to the conviviality they had once entertained. And everywhere the hidden hand of the graffiti artist mocking the ambitions the 2012 tag had once evoked – ‘Live the nightmare’ … ‘Everyone’s a loser’ … ‘Betray a generation’ – and other, cruder, slogans were blazoned in dayglow colours on wall after crumbling wall. The stadium itself, abandoned by the ill fated ‘Hammers’, after they were relegated to the lower divisions of our once famous football league, now served as a travellers’ encampment; from time to time this community organised a horse fair or produce market to which the remnants of the Cockney tribe flocked from the outskirts of the city where they now eked out an existence on their allotments. As we skirted the settlement the smell of cooking and the shouts of children playing amidst the ruins of the velodrome sent a welcome message that at least there was some human life that remained. At last we approached the Tower itself, that monument to the shared hubris of a steel magnate, a famous sculptor and a London mayor. The building was now officially classified as a dangerous structure since the death of two visitors from falling debris. We resolved not to get too close.
Voice 3) Since the Thames barrier had been destroyed in the Great Deluge of 2045 this part of the city had become an extension of the Lea Valley and looking further east all we could see was vast marshlands stretching to the horizon with only the broken stump of Westfield and Stratford International , long occupied by squatters since the economic collapse of 2030, to remind us that this had once been a thriving business quarter . The wind was getting up , creating an ominous vapour of dust which hid the setting sun and we decided to leave this benighted Allah forsaken place and head back to town.
Our digimap showed that almost all the roads leading from the Olympicopolis site had been converted into canals but there was not a Gondola jetski to be seen. We looked around for some other means of transport .There were no cars of course but there were plenty of other vehicles. Some were carts tugged by zebras or ostriches , others were pedal-powered. Not bicycles though.The travellers perched on jerkily walking stilts linked together to form a kind of train. We hopped on one of these strange velocipedes as they were called,and soon found ourselves travelling past open fronted houses full of old and odd looking equipment. Most of the houses were open access designed for travellers , nomadic tribes and mendicants, our guide informed us.The streets were mostly red brick like the old London terraces but considerably more ramshackle, spindly and convoluted. Houses leaned in to each other and storeys piled up at complicated angles like something out of a cubist painting. Slate roofs lurched in all directions. Here and there , where there should be a house there was a low tree with open fronted bedrooms , bathrooms and kitchens perched in its branches .One entire three floor building was made out of rubbish. There were fridges, a dishwasher or two , hundreds of record players, old fashioned pre digital cameras , telephones and typewriters all stuck together with thick cement. Our guide told us that this was where a strange tribe called The Recyclists lived.
We passed an enormous building , like a cathedral, perforated in several places with what looked like random holes and bursting from them were railway lines. They sprang in different directions: horizontal, up like a roller coaster then corkscrewing down and plunging into holes in the street and down into the darkness of UnLundun.
Voice 1)Our guide explained that UnLundun’s terrain was difficult as a result of the impact of global warming. There were thin tangled streets , sudden steep hills, deep pits, patches where roads seemed to be made of something too soft for wheels on which pedestrians bounced along .To deal with the various difficulties of their routes the unLondon buses had adapted. They trundled on caterpillar treads. They rolled on enormously inflated rubbery wheels. They coasted on skirts like hovercraft. We saw a giant aerobus pick its way delicately over the roofs on four enormous lizard legs that sprouted from its wheel housings, its padded feet closing silently around buttresses and splayed on slanting roofs , leaving no marks behind as it speeded through the gathering gloom .
Voice 2)After almost an hour we came upon one of the few new districts that had been constructed in response to the changed conditions. It had been designed by a famous planner of the neo-cubist school to demonstrate the principles of counter intuitive urbanism. The layout of the neighbourhood was designed to provoke a systematic disordering of normal ‘lines of desire’. It was no good for example expecting your house to be where you’d left it in the morning when you returned at nightfall. You had both moved on in spacetime and it was necessary to use a new, previously agreed, homing device to ensure you once more coincided with your dwelling place. Equally streets that you thought of as being busy thoroughfares or shopping malls might be replaced by quiet residential cul de sacs once your back was turned unless ,instead of following your habitual route, you went with the flow of traffic in the direction of your chosen goal.
It was quite usual to experience having been somewhere before even though you knew it was the first time you had ever set foot in that particular place, or to come back to where you first started after you had set out to leave it behind. In all these circumstances you had to act as if none of this were the case, and you could rely on arriving at some approximation of your original destination. Perhaps not surprisingly the inhabitants of this neighbourhood, which was called Dromoville, had developed a horror of the déjà vu, and of anything which might slow down their erratic but speedy progress.
Voice 3) In order to establish some principle of order in this otherwise chaotic metropolis known as UnLundun the city state government – which had declared independence from the rest of the country when Britain crashed out of the EU- had introduced a rigorous zoning policy; there were exclusion zones for various types of illegal migrant – and all migrants were by definition illegal – , a homeless containment zone situated on the island that had once been Westminster, special narcotic enforcement zones where addicts were confined and drug free zones where you could not even smoke a cigarette without risking arrest. But above all, literally and metaphorically, there was a fast track transit network which enabled category A citizens –designated as such by virtue of their special contribution to the Post Brexit economic regeneration plan- to move speedily about the city on their business unrestricted by the rest of the population who moved so sluggishly dragging their feet as they promenaded through the maze of canals and dead end streets in search of distraction while they eked out their universal basic income.
THE THREE URBAN SHOCK SCENARIOS
The audience will break out and choose one of the work stations- long tables with chairs round. Each group will work on a large outline map of London , using specially designed stickers, post- its, and felt tips to construct a response to a particular shock scenario.
The Incredible Shrinking City
(Facilitator Debbie Kent)
After Brexit, the flight of City money sets off a housing market crash and sends the economy into freefall. The map of London now reflects an alternative economy – but what does it look like? A game in which you have the chance to reshape that map.
We Can Stand the Heat
(Facilitator: John Wallet)
Global warming has sent temperatures rocketing, raised the level of the Thames and made extreme weather a run-of-the-mill occurrence. The built environment has had to adjust to cope – how has it changed? Unleash your creative/destructive urges and help us redesign the city.
Revolution in the Streets (Facilitator : Blake Morris)
The decades between 2018 and 2049 were a time of social and political unrest and transformation. What were people demanding in the Great Protests of those years – and what did their demonstrations look like? Imagine being part of that glorious resistance and fill the room with placards, slogans and actions.
At the end of this exercise the audience will re-assemble, the maps will be presented followed by a general discussion .