The international political landscape is more fractured than ever, as countries grapple with the divisive nationalist forces that influenced the Brexit vote and the 2016 U.S. election. Leaders are calling for unification, and to Eric Wong, a recent graduate from the Master of Architecture program at Central Saint Martins, one potential avenue towards a united front is to remake Great Britain’s capital city to be more inclusive and more resilient.
While that idea may sound familiar to policymakers and planners, Wong is taking it to the nth degree by illustrating a speculative plan in the spirit of 1960s and ’70s countercultural architects. In his graduate thesis, called Cohesion, Wong imagines a radical vision for the capital of the future, a “what if” scenario as opposed to something immediately actionable. He proposes splitting the financial and political nucleus of the United Kingdom–the city of London–and building an entirely new capital.
“Relocating Britain’s capital may appear totally fanciful and farfetched, however, such a move has been considered in the past to the regions of Lancashire and York, a more geographic center,” Wong says. “With London being an unusual capital of both government and commerce compared to most major economies, a separation of the two may seem desirable . . . [political] separation from [London] and its financiers could provide a different light and outlook on the United Kingdom from a non-London perspective.”
As Wong sees it, London is facing too much population pressure, which is driving up real estate prices, contributing to transportation congestion, and compounding problems with poverty. He argues that moving the capital city to a new location would be dramatic enough to make meaningful headway in improving population and wealth distribution.
Many of the social and economic problems London faces now are similar to those seen in the ’60s and ’70s, as is the call for a revolution. So it’s fitting that Wong’s renderings wink at the work of Archigram, a group of architectural futurists. His speculative capital city is located in the Isle of Man, an island that’s in the geographic center of the United Kingdom. There, Wong imagines a place where houses can pop-up from the landscape to house refugees, waste and refuse is transformed into usable land, elderly residents live in the heart of the city, and vertical gardens provide sustenance. Large-scale infrastructure produces energy and clean water, and a distribution system routes it to the rest of the country.
“Globally, governments are now acknowledging that the future built environment on resilient efforts can provide potential multiple co-benefits to cities,” Wong says. “The Rockefeller Foundation’s president, Judith Rodin, defined resilience as ‘the capacity to bounce back from a crisis, learn from it, and achieve revitalization. A community needs awareness, diversity, integration, the capacity for self-regulation, and adaptiveness to be resilient.'”
Cohesion is a self-sustaining utopian fever dream where resources are used efficiently, the people are welcoming, and Kool-Aid is likely drunk in abundance. While it’s far fetched, it’s also mesmerizing and its core conceit—redistributing political and financial power to alleviate pressure on London—is thought-provoking. Spy Wong’s renderings in the slideshow above.