Surveying Four Years of "Borisopolis"

As London's next mayoral election draws near, Rowan Moore evaluates the good and the bad in planning, architecture, and design from Mayor Boris Johnson's first four years at the helm.
May 1, 2012, 7am PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Purview over the physical shape of the city is one of the few areas that falls within the "relatively limited range of powers" bestowed upon London's mayors. "They oversee the London plan, which guides the future development of the city, and have the power to approve or refuse significant planning applications. They have budgets that can be spent on the city's public spaces."

Judged by these elements, Moore finds a less coherent approach to city building than Johnson's predecessor, Ken Livingstone, who "adopted Richard Rogers's idea of the "compact city", that it was good to densify and intensify the centre of London, rather than let it sprawl horizontally into the green belt."

In the litany of projects and policies credited to Johnson, Moore doesn't seem to find a coherent strategy, or one he's willing to identify as Johnson's own. In his assessment, Moore finds that Johnson's "mayoralty has been more impressive when it comes to things that are barely visible, or about taking stuff away rather than adding it."

Moore concludes: "This, then, is Borisopolis: a combination of show-off whatsits and fairly sensible stuff. When it comes to public space there is not a fundamental difference between Labour and Tory, Livingstone and Johnson. Both think it's a Good Thing and both have an idea of a city that favours pedestrians and cyclists more than it did before. Johnson and his administration do however deserve credit for getting some things done that make London, in a modest way, a better place to live."

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Published on Saturday, April 28, 2012 in The Guardian
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