Architects explore an alternative future for Heathrow

When it comes to the quandary of expanding the UK’s air capacity, one of the ideas on the table is an ambitious plan that involves shelving the current Heathrow, and constructing a new ‘hub’ airport in the Thames Estuary.

The idea of an estuary based airport has been proposed at various times since the 1970s, but has never yet made it past the drawing board. This time around London Mayor Boris Johnson has backed these new estuary airport proposals wholeheartedly, arguing that the capital needs the expansion if it is to ‘continue to prosper as a global city’. Leading architects including Foster & Partners, have also put together impressive airport concept designs.

Could this plan be about to fly? And if it does, what then for the redundant Heathrow? That’s just the scenario faced by architects Maccreanor Lavington, Hawkins\Brown and Rick Mather Architects, who’ve all been commissioned by TFL on behalf of the Mayor of London to come up with their vision of what type of city could exist in the defunct airport’s place. This is no mean feat, especially when you consider Heathrow’s site could support in the region of an estimated 80,000 new homes.

The architects’ ideas are on show in full at Heathrow City: Developing the Vision, a new exhibition at New London Architecture (NLA) but here’s a little taster of what you can expect to see:

Macccreanor Lavington’s ‘Liveable Landscape’


Maccreanor Lavington imagine Heathrow as a new ‘Tech Hub’ for technology research. Heathrow would be the first step towards a ‘polycentric’ London, housing a new Technology Campus and international exhibition and conference centre. Residential developments will adapt to future trends by including self-build, custom-build and community-led development.

Hawkins\Brown’s Romance of the sky’


Hawkins\Brown‘s Heathrow City will remain an important airport but with the cleaner greener airships taking the place of traditional air traffic. These airships will ship freight all over the world. The scheme will also feature a ‘superscale’ linear park in the centre (a Hyde Park of the west) with residential development concentrated around the four existing Heathrow tube stations.

Rick Mather Architects’ ‘Transforming City’


Rick Mather Architects explore the geometric pattern created by the runways for their vision of the new Heathrow City. They propose to reuse as many existing structures as possible and base the central quarter of the new development on the layout of a medieval city. Development will also be focused around the existing four transport hubs.

Heathrow City: Developing the Vision runs until August 9th at NLA, the Building Centre, 28 Store Street, London, WC1E 7BT.