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London’s ‘incoherent riot’ of a skyline beats NYC’s boring banality in my book

Given Peter Coy's recent New York Times savaging of the London planning and development community, I feel compelled to offer a counter-view.

It is naïve to suggest that architects have such power over London’s planners (and their clients) that they can shape buildings according to their whim. As someone who engages with the London planning system daily, it is clear to me that such a suggestion is little more than creative writing.

While Manhattan’s planning codes have allowed a proliferation of ordinariness, the London View Management Framework, which seeks to designate, protect and manage key views of London, has fostered a city that celebrates difference while protecting historic landmarks. That ancient monuments sit comfortably beside contemporary structures is one of the characteristics that makes London iconic.

I love ‘The City of Dreams’ and was a proud New Yorker for several years before becoming British. As a collective urban setting it is inspiring. Its icons are indelible despite the attempts of some, and its open spaces are often magical oases.

However, as we reassess our priorities post-pandemic and as we strive for inclusivity, it remains to be seen whether those cities that reflect the spirit of such attitudes prosper over those that are shaped by forces of uniformity. When comparing London with New York, the data already tells a tale of two cities performing radically differently. People matter – as does the identity and character of our cities.

Read Earle Arney's full defence of our city's skyline in the Architect's Journal: London’s ‘incoherent riot’ of a skyline beats NYC’s boring banality in my book (