London’s Lower Lea Valley raises questions about the urban intensification of the periphery. Located east of the centre, and with the new high-speed rail infrastructure at Stratford and the Olympics site to the north, and London’s Canary Wharf financial services centre to the south, the area nevertheless exhibits the typical challenges of a former industrial zone at the edge of a metropolis. Can new spatial and use patterns, and fresh approaches to urban policy, guide us toward a strategy for a polycentric city-region? This work explores several key issues in the urbanism of the knowledge economy, from the proliferation of the creative industries, to the re-establishment of links between manufacturing and higher-value services, to re-thinking the multi-layered mobility infrastructure that runs down the valley. Other aspects of the productive city emerge around questions of the value of informal and irregular activity, and the importance of a network of education resources. Still another theme coalesces around issues of density, intensity and urban mix, and changing patterns of working and living. In each of these themes we have sought crossovers between social, economic, and architectural reasoning.
Three groups have focused on different arguments and concepts for change, with different choices of sites within the area, and with different spatial investigations.