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Icon 184 – The State of Creative London

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Icon is a monthly magazine focusing on the best, most inspiring buildings, interiors, furnishings and fittings. It also celebrates the design process and the talented designers behind the most innovative work. It can be enjoyed equally by architecture and design professionals, and the design-literate public.
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Icon 184 – The State of Creative London

Icon 184 – The State of Creative London | Inside the October issue: As a property crisis looms, how do the creative industries stack up? Plus: Danny Dorling on the future of housing, the architecture of Crossrail, and the rebirth of Kensington Olympia.

There are plenty of things to love about London. It is among the most ethnically diverse cities in the world. More than 250 languages are spoken here. It allows many people to forge their own identity. And it has long been a place for new ways of seeing and being, like cultural movements from Pop Art to Punk. But creativity in London is struggling. Icon’s last London special reflected on the impact of Brexit on the creative industries. A year on, we consider that London faces not only the prospect of leaving the European Union – against the wishes of a majority of its population – but also a housing crisis that has left all but the wealthiest Londoners questioning whether they can really belong here.

A few years ago, sociologist and urbanism commentator Saskia Sassen was among the first to ask who owns our cities and warned London to pay heed to the impact of the huge post-credit crunch purchasing of property by corporates. ‘Today, rather than a space for including people from many diverse backgrounds and cultures,’ she warned, ‘our global cities are expelling people and diversity.’ She called the phenomenon of large-scale corporate buying of space in the city ‘de-urbanisation’ since rather than adding texture and richness the metropolis, it creates tedious repetition.

Given this state of affairs, our cover story of Icon 184 asks how creativity can thrive in London. It also makes it imperative that this issue celebrates creativity that does survive, from the engineering of Crossrail to initiatives to expand green space, and the revival of postmodern architecture.

We talk to designers who continue to push the boundaries of their discipline, such as Kellenberger-White who are exhibiting during London Design Festival, Gort Scott who recently retrofitted a magistrate’s court in Walthamstow, and Martijn Rigters who has found a purpose for off-cuts from London’s hairdressers.

Putting London in context is our feature on Helsinki. A sign that culture is thriving there is not only the opening of a new cultural complex including a new art museum, Amos Rex, and the Bio Rex cinema, but also the Oodi Central Library under construction opposite. As we close down libraries in the UK, Finland is building new ones.

From further afield in India, BV Doshi, who became India’s first Pritzker-prize winning architect earlier this year, spoke to us of lessons from his 70 year-long career. The inspirational takeaway, and one that could serve London well, is that architecture can – and should – be used as a vehicle to tackle inequality.

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