IT'S ALL COMING TOGETHER FOR KEN
Ken Livingstone's move to group London's fragmented design advisers under a tight umbrella may be too late to inuence the Olympic masterplan - but it has major implications for the capital's other key projects.
Design for London (DfL) will knit together planning advisers and design experts from the Greater London Authority's (GLA's) Architecture and Urbanism Unit (AUU), the London Development Agency (LDA), and Transport for London (TfL).
The goal is to streamline architecture, urban planning, and sustainability in Greater London, which embraces everything from the 2012 Olympics to the Elephant & Castle regeneration initiative.
While the concept smacks of centralism, it is undoubtedly encouraging to see Livingstone adopting a holistic approach to London's spatial design.
Set to be housed at the LDA's new Palestra headquarters in Southwark, designed by Will Alsop, DfL will operate in the spirit of the AUU but ideally with a much sharper cutting edge.
While it can only make a limited impact on the Olympic masterplan, it has the potential to shape the legacy of the 2012 Games - but only if it moves very fast.
'What we need is an organisation with teeth, ' says RIBA London director Andrew Hanson.
Running side-by-side will be a new DfL advisory group, led by Richard Rogers - head of the AUU and the Mayor's chief adviser on architecture and urbanism.
In typically upbeat form, Rogers is con dent Livingstone will succeed in creating a longlasting Olympic legacy. He says: 'The strategy will be to create a city east, like one of the rural London boroughs supported by good transport infrastructure. That is where it is going to be most crucial.' And Rogers will effectively become London's design tsar - a prospect that has got London Assembly Conservatives frothing at the mouth.
Conservative chairman of the GLA planning and spatial development committee Tony Arbour says: 'It's fairly unlikely that Richard Rogers Partnership will cease bidding for London projects. One wonders if there will be a clash of interest here and whether other architects should be considered.'
We can only speculate at the tensions already brewing as the three units comprising DfL scrabble to safeguard spheres of inuence. While there is a mutual concern for quality architecture, it is no secret that the AUU and Livingstone's planning advisers are far from best friends. Efforts to break down barriers will be hindered by TfL's decision to retain its design team in-house rather than see it transfer to Palestra.
Predictably, Eleanor Young, the Mayor's senior adviser for planning and development, is playing down any hairline fractures. There would clearly be differences of opinion over design, she says, but there is, nevertheless, 'absolute synergy'.
While DfL must be content to pick over established Olympic designs, it looks set to make its mark after 2012.