Monday, March 20, 2006

Manhattan and Century City: "A Love Story"

(For some reason, I'm intermittently able to upload my own photos to this blog, so I'm still going to lean on internet links to give a flavor to what I'm talking about here.)

If you want to know what the "future of London" looks like (and then I'll move stateside), there's Canary Wharf. Canary Wharf can probably best be described as the lovechild of New York's Downtown Manhattan and Century City in Los Angeles, in that it has a very brand-new, sanitized, master-planned (and a touch soul-less) feel (like Century City), but it is still awe-inspiring because it consists of 6 million square feet (with another 8 million in planning stages). The history of the project is impressive. Here it is, in a nutshell: From medieval times up until WWII, London's Docklands were the heart of global shipping. By the 1970s, however, the rise of "containerization" (shipping via massive metal containers) meant that its infrastructure was outmoded. By 1980, there were only 3,000 jobs left (from a high of something close to 100,000!).

In the early 1980s, the London Docklands Development Corporation was created, and started urban "regeneration" on a massive scale. After a hiccup or two (thanks to the tanking of the economy in the late 80s/early 90s), over 63,000 people now work in Canary Wharf, primarily in service-sector jobs. (This where companies like Barclay's Bank and CSFirst Boston have their headquarters.) I don't know how many buildings there are, but there must be at least 30 new skyscrapers, as well as scores and scores of incredibly cool-looking loft-style high-rise residential structures, all built along a network of waterways that used to serve as the nervecenter to the world's shipping and trade.

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