Mayor of London unveils three proposals for the future of Heathrow


July 21, 2014

Romance of the Sky, by Hawkins\Brown (Image: Factory Fifteen)

Romance of the Sky, by Hawkins\Brown (Image: Factory Fifteen)

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What to do with London's increasingly-cramped Heathrow Airport? While plans have previously centered around building a new runway, London mayor Boris Johnson favors abandoning the site altogether, and building a new airport on an artificial island in the Thames Estuary. Should this ambitious plan come to pass, it would leave the original Heathrow site obsolete, presenting an opportunity for redevelopment. To this end, the mayor's office has revealed three proposals for transforming the airport into a new town dubbed Heathrow City.

The proposals were commissioned by Transport for London, at the mayor's behest, and will be available for public viewing at the New London Architecture galleries in central London until August 9. At this stage, they appear more a jumping-off point rather than finished plans and warrant all due skepticism.

Romance of the Sky

Hawkins\Brown produced the most striking, and perhaps the most unrealistic of the three proposals. Its Romance of the Sky proposal features an airship port, a so-called "factory of homes" in which the production of prefabricated houses would be streamlined to help meet London's growing housing needs, and the widespread use of remotely controlled and unmanned drones as an alternative means of delivering parcels.

"A big site like Heathrow needs big ideas," said Darryl Chen, Partner at Hawkins\Brown. "Heathrow City should be a platform for innovation on a massive scale. We want to capture the same pioneering spirit and romance that characterized Heathrow's first airborne adventures. We hope our vision inspires other new ideas about Heathrow's and London's future."

Transforming City

Rick Mather Architects' proposal involves making use of Heathrow's existing infrastructure. The airport's runways would kept and used to connect 10 areas, each containing a cluster of retail, education, residential, and community spaces. A manufacturing hub would be built and could specialize in housing production, and the development of environmentally-friendly products including biofuels.

"Our proposal 'The Transforming City' explores the natural emergence of a vibrant and integrated new hub city from the existing airport structure, embedded in its setting and wider landscape, singular and distinctive, at one with its immediate setting and locality, yet fully tuned for regional, national and international opportunity," said Gavin Miller, partner at Rick Mather Architects.

Liveable Landscape

The Liveable Landscape proposal, by Maccreanor Lavington, echoes Rick Mather Architects' view that the existing infrastructure of Heathrow Airport should be maintained and built upon, and calls for the airport to become host to a technology campus, new housing and a retail hub and civic center.

"Heathrow has outgrown its location," said Gerrard Maccreanor, Director of Maccreanor Lavington. "If London is to maximize its influence from coast to coast then the airport should move and this site should be the future catalyst."

Mayor Johnson's office says that the redevelopment of Heathrow Airport into Heathrow City could provide 90,000 jobs and 80,000 new homes in West London, and generate up to £7.5 billion (around US$12.7 billion) for the UK economy.

Source: Heathrow City

About the Author
Adam Williams Adam scours the globe from his home in North Wales in order to bring the best of innovative architecture and sustainable design to the pages of Gizmag. Most of his spare time is spent dabbling in music, tinkering with old Macintosh computers and trying to keep his even older VW bus on the road. All articles by Adam Williams

Ah yes, Boris Island, a pie in the sky dream that will never be a reality for several reasons, the main one being getting all the passengers to and from it and closely followed by the fact that there would be too many aircraft flying very low over London.

These proposals are nothing but PR to try and lever the Boris Island idea which has well and truly debunked in the past.


Here's an idea, let the companies that operate the planes decide where they might want to land and purchase the land and develop it and then have the city sell the heathrow airport to the highest bidder to do as they please with it.

Chris K

@ ivan4 One of the key features of the Thames Estuary airport (Boris Island) is that it will massively reduce if not eliminate planes flying low over residential areas. Not sure where you got your idea from. Regarding transport to and from the new airport, it is clearly addressed by the original plans showing new road and rail links which have been included in the total cost of the development. I share your doubt that it'll ever be built, but there's no need to make things up to buttress your argument.


The thing none of these (government) idiots consider is what an assett the airport can be as a reliever and general avaition airport serving the busisness community. Instead, they always listen to greedy developers who will make millions by buying the land cheap and make millions selling it to developers. Look what Mayor Dailey did to Meiggs field, having the runways bulldozed in the middle of the night.


To have spent ALL that money developing Heathrow, only to close it?

That's a very bad idea.


"Hawkins\Brown produced the most striking, and perhaps the most unrealistic of the three proposals." And perhaps the most ambitious and desirable in my opinion.

The others are concrete renditions of symetry and conformity. Boring


As someone who lives under the flightpath for Heathrow, I can assure you that any of these options is better than a third or fourth runway. The non-financial impact is ignored as usual. Yes Boris Island is pie in the sky, excessively expensive and requires massive infrastructure upgrades, but the benefits are immeasurable for the population of both London AND the UK. Why won't it happen? British politicians have no balls and they are only short-termists out for their own self interest.


The people that moved in close to the airport for the cheap land do to airplane noise will be overjoyed to have the airport move.

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