Simon Jenkis argues that ‘London today has the only skyline in the western world that is unzoned and unplanned. I once asked Johnson’s deputy mayor for planning (yes, there is one), Sir Edward Lister, how many towers he thought appropriate for central London. He said: “as many as are appropriate”. Even corrupt Rome controls its high buildings.’ London’s skyline does need zoning and planning. But it also needs imagination. Architects concentrate on the individual ‘objects’ they design. Planners think in two dimensions + spreadsheets. London’s skyline needs the analytical and imaginative skill of landscape architects. The urban area needs a Scenic Quality Assessment to define which parts are most in need of conservation and which parts have most scope for imagination. This done, London needs imaginative plans for its Roofscape-Landscape. ‘Restricting high buildings’ is a totally inadequate conceptual framework for the design challenge facing London.
The Scenic Quality Analysis of the River Thames(below) was done in the course of a boat trip. There should be a lively debate about the quality of London’s landscapes. The landscape architecture profession did a lot of work on scenic quality in the 1960s and ’70’s but then lost its confidence about this area of work. Their work was challenged by geographers, psychologists and others. They had valid points to make but they were not good enough reasons for the discontinuation. Without a scenic quality assessment how could Britain have chosen the location and boundaries of its national parks?