In a Q&A session Barnes added that planners who are willing to create more sui generis uses and allow for highly flexible, almost hospitality-like management and leasing of space ‘could really fast forward into the 21st century’, casting off the shackles of homogenous, single use. ‘We have to change our siloed late 20th century practises into something very much more agile, dynamic and nuanced as we go forward’, she said. ‘I'm not quite saying “tear up the London Plan”, but I think there's a very good case for having a post Covid overhaul of it’.
Other speakers included Howard Slatkin, Deputy Executive Director for Strategic Planning, NYC Department of City Planning who felt that challenges of the near future will be from tight budgets and revenue shortfalls, and thus the need to tide over infrastructure and institutions. ‘The future of New York City is very bright if we can navigate the short term’, he said. In the recent US elections, however, ‘it was clear that one of the candidates cared for cities and the other had it in for them’. ‘That’s really shocking’. Kim Yao, principal of Architecture Research Office showed the thinking behind the Visualise NYC 2021 project towards making a better, greener, equitable and more liveable city. And Giles French, External Affairs Director, Innovation & Growth, City of London Corporation, said that although this had been an extraordinary and, in many ways, a ‘tragic’ year for both London and New York, business had been resilient and adaptable and the City is ‘very much of the view that the office is not dead’. This was principally because of the agglomeration effect of being near clients and competitors and bringing people together for innovation and collaboration. Digital communication is fine, but is a ‘diminishing return’ because it fails in terms of allowing for the meeting of new clients. The trick will be to provide safe, secure and pleasant urban environments that convince people to travel in to meet with colleagues. ‘I don’t want to sound flippant; the last months have been significant but they haven’t unravelled thousands of years of human evolution’, said French. ‘People like meeting one another and they like working together to create things’
Finally, the panel was asked for one thing that should be top priority in the run up to mayoral elections in both cities next year, with answers ranging from climate action to repurposing the suburbs, fixing Penn Station to affordability of housing and restoring the tax base for the long term good.
WATCH THE FULL WEBINAR RECORDING