Urban living

Urban living, London (c) Jason Hawkes

Britain from the Air - Urban living

River-view flats in London can cost more than £22,000 per m² of floor space.

London has finally recognised its great river as a good place to be, the ebb and flow bringing a natural rhythm and an earthy saltiness to one of the world’s greatest cities. Travel down the river by boat today and every inch of available river bank will have apartments jostling for the barest glimpse of the water.

The prices match the view. Residential land values are among the highest in the world, with some riverside asking prices reaching an amazing £22,000 per square metre. At that price, high density living is the norm, and a good match for a high-energy city. Cosmopolitan London is not everyone’s choice but for many of its multinational residents they cannot imagine being anywhere else.

Redevelopment of the city

London is like an anthill, permanently renewing and re-using its fabric over the centuries. Disused power stations turn into world class contemporary art galleries; old docks become swish apartments. Sometimes rebuilding was forced, such as after the Great Fire of London or the bombs of war. At other times a constant process of piecemeal replacement has quietly gone on. 

The 1940s low-rise skyline with St Paul’s, the Houses of Parliament and Battersea Power station standing proud, is now punctuated by sky scrapers. Many are architectural and engineering icons of their time; all are guided by the planning laws. Who can now imagine London without its ‘Gherkin’, a Lloyd’s building, or the Shard.

Urban dwellers

The world is experiencing the largest wave of urban growth in history. People in fast developing countries like China are flocking to the cities. According to the United Nations, three quarters of the world’s population will be urban dwellers in 40 years from now.

The rapidly growing city is not without problems, such as inadequate housing, congestion and pollution. But globally the urban environment usually gives the best opportunity to escape poverty.

Cities create jobs and income, and are more efficient at delivering essential services like healthcare and education. And they can, with good public transport and high densities, be much more energy efficient than the modern countryside.

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Ensign House, St George Wharf, London, SW8 2LU

Grid reference:

TQ 30210 77996

Britain from the Air - Urban living credits

Thank you to -

Jason Hawkes for aerial photography

Text researched and written by the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG)

Londoners speak more than 300 languages between them.