75 years ago this year, a parliamentary act enabled London councils, for the first time, to protect land from development by designating it as ‘Metropolitan Green Belt’. This apparently simple gesture, which aimed to limit and direct the growth of the city, led to the creation of a ring around London which continues to define not only London’s planning policy and growth, but also how the city is perceived, used and imagined. The result is a legislative space of exclusion, one that is defined by what it isn’t rather than what it is, what it prevents rather than what it contains.
Designed as part of Britain’s social democratic project, and sold as a collective vision for London’s future development, the Green Belt is increasingly represented not as a work of design but as a dumbly enforced constraint on development. Now, on the back of the Coalition’s pro-growth agenda, the belt is shrinking, with an area the size of the London Borough of Hounslow estimated to be built on over the coming 20 years. Coinciding with this, the GLA will be re-evaluating its Belt during 2014.
ADS2 provides a framework for projects that confront the future of London. We therefore invite students to work not with a physical site but with a legislative one, the city’s Metropolitan Green Belt.
We will work collectively to systematically understand, for the first time since its creation, what the Green Belt is, how it is used, whose interests it serves and whose it limits. This research, of national significance, will be exhibited and published as a collective work.
In parallel, students will develop proposals that challenge, critique and speculate upon the Metropolitan Green Belt and which reestablish it as a work of design, from the scale of building to the scale of national policy.
Download the handout here, and a selection of student work from both 1st and 2nd years can be seen below. Our research, the Green Belt Atlas, was published by the London Society as part of their position paper on London’s Green Belt. The publication was picked up in The Planner magazine, and can be downloaded here: