LONDON HAS BEEN RIGHTLY CELEBRATED FOR ITS INDOMITABLE SPIRIT
Two weeks ago the RIBA launched a new body called the Institute of Urbanism. At the time it seemed an interesting concept based on the worthy values of out-going president George Ferguson and his mate John Thompson.
While the institute remains a vague, if worthwhile, entity without an entirely clear remit, 'urbanism' as a word and movement suddenly became an entirely different proposition last week.
First came the extraordinary and wonderful decision to hand the 2012 Olympic Games to London, the result of which will catapult ideas of urban living and urban community to the forefront of everybody's minds over the next seven years, whether they know it or not. This will be true both in the build-up, as the capital struggles to create an entirely new urban quarter capable of hosting the event, and in the actual two weeks of the Games, as people come together to celebrate the sporting bonanza.
Secondly - just one short day later - came the bombs. Can anything focus people's minds on the concept of community more than such an outrage? One hesitates to use this cliché, but undoubtedly there was something of the 'Blitz spirit' about London in the days that followed.
While the papers focussed on the sense of 'community' that was born of the carnage, much of their rhetoric was distinctly 'urbanist' in its tone and outlook. London as a city and a place was rightly celebrated for its indomitable spirit.
It may seem crass to make such a link, but Ferguson and Thompson's determination is to ensure that new developments in the Thames Gateway, and of course the Olympic Park, foster such spirit.
While some might think this secondary to creating beautiful buildings, it is the development of places where the majority might choose to live and feel proud that can prove the most important gift that architects can give to society.