WAN takes up the urban challenge

Nick Myall
Monday 27 Feb 2017

On May 23rd a gathering of like-minded visionaries and innovators will assemble in central London to tackle the main issues underlying London’s housing crisis

London’s housing crisis is reaching a critical point as supply continues to lag behind demand. Many prospective buyers are being priced out of the market with average house prices in the capital increasing by more than 7% over the year to December 2016 according to the Office for National Statistics, with the average price in London now £484,000.

Increasingly prospective buyers are resigned to never being able to afford to buy their own home. 

At the same time, renting is increasing. According to PWC the proportion of households renting in London has already passed the 50% mark.

As pressure on available space continues to mount developers in London will have to consider a wide range of possible options including low cost, high density solutions to solve the capital’s housing issues.

Against this backdrop World Architecture News are running the WAN Urban Challenge on May 23rd in central London, a global ideas competition and housing symposium.

Drawing on 10 years of experience running the largest International architectural awards programme, the main aim of this initiative is to bring together talents from across the world inviting them to put forward ideas to tackle London's housing crisis. These may be successful solutions that are already in place in other cities that could be applied to London's fabric, or new ideas that simply need exploring further.

WAN's Urban Challenge will be a gathering of like-minded visionaries and innovators, including architects, housing providers, senior planners, government officials, urban designers, and consultants, who will be charged with the task of exploring solutions to London's housing. We expect this to be viewed from a range of perspectives, making this not simply an architectural competition and symposium, but potentially unlocking new ways of structuring financial investment, offsite modular construction methods or community leadership in housing delivery.

Similar to a project that WAN ran with the Mayor's office in Detroit in 2011, the aim is to galvanize our international reach and address a key urban issue. 

Commenting on the Urban Challenge, Peter Murray chairman of NLA - London’s Centre for the Built Environment - said: "A lot of the imagination is constrained by regulation. Something like this can look at imaginative projects and look at the regulations that need to change.

"Pocket Housing in the UK are a good example of a developer delivering perfectly decent living space in smaller areas but they are banging their heads, quite literally, against a brick wall due to the level of regulation.

“We also need to reduce the need for continual commuting into London. There are interesting places outside the centre like Croydon which has changed in a relatively short space of time. Ealing, Hounslow, Barking and Dagenham could also follow suit.” 

The WAN Urban Task Force, is a group of visionaries we are assembling to help tackle the ever present issue of London's housing crisis, which will be carried out in three phases: 

Phase one: Global Ideas Competition

Open to architects worldwide, WAN is looking for firms and individuals who can bring innovation and fresh ideas to London’s specific housing challenge. There will be four winners of the competition who will be invited to join a Task Force at the event on 23 May. 

Phase two: Task Force, 23 May 2017

A full day dedicated to working groups and presentations to help solve the problem at hand. Drawing from a range of countries, expertise and practices, we will assemble a Task Force of like-minded visionaries who can not only bring innovation and creativity but also practicality to the table to discuss and work towards a solution. 25 international experts will be invited and they will form four working groups:

  • Social
  • Economic
  • Governance
  • Innovation

Each working group will focus on the challenge presented by London’s housing gap through their respective viewpoint.

Phase three: Housing Symposium, 23 May 2017

At the end of the day, the findings from each group will be presented to an influential audience of 200 industry decision makers.

Global Ideas Competition - Who should enter? (link to Urban Challenge page below)

We are looking for architecture firms and individuals who can bring innovation and fresh ideas to London’s specific Housing challenge. 

Why enter?

Four winners secure a place on the WAN Urban Task Force - a working group of high-level experts and decision-makers who will be gathering on 23 May to tackle the London housing crisis.

Entries will assessed by a high profile jury panel and the Urban Challenge London will provide architects an unrivalled opportunity to showcase their ideas and designs to major players in world cities.

Nick Myall

News editor

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