Cities are a compelling phenomenon of the current era. The age of globalisation is also an age of globalising cities but the science of cities is only slowly emerging; there is limited understanding of how and why some cities succeed and others fail.
London is a case in question. The success of the 2012 Olympic Games marked a high watermark at the end of two decades of evolution and transformation in which London had become one of the most open and cosmopolitan cities in the world, while increasing its influence and soft power in the global systems of trade, capital, culture, knowledge, and communications.
London holds a fascination for other world cities because it appears to be always slightly ahead of the curve, highly adaptable, and almost accidentally successful. What can other cities learn from London? Is London really a success? Or are there problems in store? Can London fix its own problems or is something more required?
In The Making of a World City: London 1991 – 2021 I have sought to draw on over 25 years of experience working within London policy and economic development organisations, and on interviews with around 100 leading thinkers about the past, present and future of London, including commentators and leaders in New York, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Paris, Singapore, and São Paulo. London’s path to becoming a leading world city is not well understood. The assumption is that the Big Bang, London Docklands, the EU, or global finance is the key explanatory factor.
The reality is richer and more surprising. The book sets out in clear detail both the catalysts that have enabled London to succeed and also the qualities and underlying values that are at play: London’s open-ness and self-confidence, its inventiveness, influence, and its entrepreneurial zeal. London’s organic, unplanned, incremental character, without a ruling design code or guiding master plan proves to be more flexible than any planned city can be.
Cities are high on national and regional agendas as we all try to the impact of global urbanisation and the re-urbanisation of the developed world; if we can explain London’s successes and her remaining challenges, we can unlock a better understanding of how cities succeed.
I hope this book will be of interest to people living and working in London, and also to people in other globalising cities that want to understand what the journey of London has been. I am very grateful to all those who made a contribution to this book and to colleagues from near and far who have provided the following supporting comments:-
The future of cities depends on their resilience. London – messy, unplanned, organic and ungovernable – has become a model of global city resilience. Anyone interested in understanding the complexity of cities should read this book.
Prof Ricky Burdett, Professor of Urban Studies, LSE, Director, LSE Cities and Urban Age
In this revealing book, Greg Clark has consulted an impressive array of international commentators and city experts to explain London’s evolving story as a leading world city. Most importantly, Clark highlights the need for deeper reforms of city governance and city finances if London is to keep pace with its competitors and combine liveability with opportunity.
Prof Rosemary Scanlon, Dean, Shack Institute of Real Estate, New York University
London has captured the world’s imagination as a center for financial, business, cultural, and social development. Greg Clark has drawn on his own vast experience and that of leading experts to write a must-read assessment one of the world’s most important cities.
Prof Michael J. Enright; Sun Hung Kai Professor, University of Hong Kong
The emerging world cities need to know the secrets and the challenges of London, New York, Paris and Tokyo. This books helps us to see London from the inside out, and it explains very clearly how London became a leading world city.
Prof Miguel Bucalem, Director, Centre for Cities, University of Sao Paulo.
London’s rebirth as a leading World City is indeed a major strategic achievement. Greg Clark’s remarkable and positive account of this story gives food for thought to other global cities, such as Paris, who are following a different -less business focused and more citizen oriented- path.
Paul Lecroart, Senior Urban Planner, Paris Region Planning Agency (IAU îdf)
Moscow’s role as a global hub of business and finance is evolving in ways which understand that culture, higher education, and international promotion are critical ingredients for success. The London story, as told by Greg Clark, reinforces these messages and shows how former Imperial Cities can become great world cities in the modern age.
Prof Andrei Sharonov, Dean, Skolkovo Business School, Former Deputy Mayor of Moscow, Chairman of Moscow Urban Forum.
As Barcelona continues on its path towards to being a global city in Europe, lessons from London become increasingly more interesting and relevant. This book reveals London’s formula for global success in ways which educate and entertain.
Mateu Hernandez, CEO, Barcelona Global.
In this book Greg Clark tells the remarkable story of how London reinvented itself over the past quarter century, making it, along with New York, one of the world’s two leading centers of commerce, finance, communications and innovation.
Prof Bob Yaro, President, Regional Plan Association of New York.
Clark tells a fascinating story – how on old and seemingly tired global city got a new lease of life – extremely well.
Ben Rogers, Director, Centre for London.