Demystifying the London Airport Conundrum with Ricky Burdett

There’s no denying that London’s airport capacity is insufficient (to put it mildly) – not just for its current needs, but, most worryingly, for the future. Nor are architects ignorant to the situation; in the last few years we’ve published proposals from the likes of Foster+PartnersZaha Hadid ArchitectsBeckett Ravine, and Grimshaw Architects, offering their own unique perspectives on what could be done.

However, for all the proposals (some emphasizing new off-shore airports, others on bulking up or existing facilities), it’s hard to untangle what’s actually being done towards making these ideas reality. To clarify the situation, and lay our doubts at rest, we spoke with , one of the commissioners of the newly created Independent Airports Commission.

In the video above, Burdett, a renowned architect and professor of Urban Studies at the LSE (who has previously served as architecural advisor for both the 2012 London Olympics and the Mayor of London, 2001-2006), explains the political situation in the UK that has been preventing action, and describes how the Independent Airports Commission has been assembled in order to help the government through this process.

More info on this controversial commission, after the break…

AD Interviews: Ricky Burdett

“The architect has to continue doing what he or she has done for the last 5,000 years, which is to make objects of great beauty, which uplift the spirits of whoever commissions them or occupies them or sees them. But, increasingly, [the architect] has to take on two other things, which is: to make things in such a way that they are part of an environmental whole; but also to be much more conscious of what the social impacts are of the decisions the architect may make. [...] The architect, unless they want to wipe themselves out and become aesthetes, has to deal with these big issues.” –

As the world becomes increasingly urbanized, there lies an important question ahead of us. There can be no doubt that cities will grow, but how can we make sure that they grow sustainably and – what’s more – equitably?

To get to the bottom of these important questions, we spoke with Ricky Burdett, a professor of Urban Studies at the London School of Economics  (where he directs the program LSE Cities), the author of The Endless Cityand one of the world’s leading experts in . Not only was he the Chief Advisor of Architecture and Urbanism at the London 2012 Olympics, but he is also a founder of the Urban Age Project, an interdisciplinary investigation into the future of cities. We caught up with Burdett while he was in Chile, invited by CREO Antofagasta to advise on the development of Chile’s sprawled-out city of Antofagasta.

Burdett had so much to share about his varied experiences that we’ve decided to split this AD Interview into two. Part I (above) covers Burdett’s conception of what architecture is/should be; the London Olympics; and his strong opinion on the state of architecture in England today.

The second part of this interview, which you can see after the break, explores Burdett’s work studying urban environments – including the Urban Age project; the secrets to sustainable, equitable growth (for more on Burdett’s take on this, read Jared Green’s article “The Rise of the Endless City“); and how architects and policy makers must work together if we are to design cities that serve the greater social and environmental good.

The Rise of the Endless City

Aerial view of San José, California, USA. Image via Wikimedia Commons User Robert Campbell

“While [...] everyone would like to be as sustainable as Copenhagen, creating true sustainability in a mega-city is a totally different story.” 

In this article, which originally appeared in The Dirt, Jared Green explores how mega-expanding and merging with other cities, fast becoming endless cities – must focus their growth in a productive, sustainable way. Expanding on the theories of Ricky Burdett, a Professor of Urban Studies at the School of Economics, he explores which mega-cities are doing growth right (Bogota, London) and which are only headed towards increased inefficiency and inequality.

Read more about our endless cities – and how limiting them is the key to sustainable development – after the break…

Video: What makes for a successful city?

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Phaidon Press recently made us aware of a video they posted on what makes a successful city. It is part of a series by Ricky Burdett that promotes the book Living in the Endless City. This video features Ricky Burdett, and Saskia Sassen. This is an important topic as three quarters of the world’s population will live in by 2050.