A City

In Transition

In the last opus of our Off Base Cities Now. Cities Next. event series, we unveiled ten key priorities that will transform the way we plan, build and maintain thriving communities and businesses in London and other major cities across the UK.

As guest speaker Laura Citron, CEO of London & Partners said, in the short-term there’s uncertainty, but in the long-term there’s a bright future for London. Despite the current economic and political climate, London has managed to retain its leading position on the global stage - a recent report from the City of  London Corporation highlighted that our capital attracted more individual foreign investment projects than any of its global counterparts. London has also remained the top destination in Europe for technology attracting more than £1.8 billion in venture capital funding.

View some highlights from the event in the video below:

Customer expectation is at an all-time high. They have a voice and they are not afraid to use it. Retail brands have the unique opportunity to reinvent the way they engage with their customers and create authentic brand experiences. All customer experiences should therefore be mapped around the customer’s own intention – with “task mode” being the most common customer mindset.


For Lara Marrero, Principal, Strategy Director and Global Retail Practice Leader at Gensler, we first need to redefine the purpose of place as a shop is no longer about simply distributing products. They need to understand the wants and needs of their clientele and create a best practice retail experience that perfectly matches these expectations to create a real community.

Yet, the future is only as bright as we can make it. Our cities are changing and they need to adapt and respond to changes in society, technology, resource availability and to the rapid urbanisation. Through Off Base Cities Now. Cities Next. events, our experts in the workplace, retail, planning and education sectors highlighted ten key priorities that will help us create sustainable, productive and vibrant communities in London and beyond.


With seven of the world’s top 50 universities on our shores, the UK and especially London remains one of the top destinations for international students. As Maria Nesdale, Principal at Gensler points out, cities are in competition with each other and to drive that competition they need talent. Yet, talent isn’t enough on its own. In the future, the way we access knowledge and the places we do it in will be far more diverse and beyond the campus.


Universities, research institutes and innovative businesses offering continuous learning need to create new and better places – whether virtual of physical – that facilitate the transfer of knowledge and the exchange of ideas to boost innovation. Maria Nesdale believes we need to better integrate the knowledge economy into our cities, and invest in our communities to foster innovation, reinvention and cultural vibrancy.

For centuries, cities like London and others around the world have primarily been built upon trade and work, and shaped by synchrony and collocation – with people coming to work at the same time and in the same place. But for Philip Tidd, Principal, Head of Consulting Europe and Director at Gensler in Germany, work in the 21st century is no longer confined to these old models and we are now living in a world where ‘time’ and ‘place’ is dislocated like never before. Work has left the confines of the (office) building and now happens across a spectrum of time, space and place in a multitude of ways.


New, pervasive and hyper-connected technologies have changed the way we experience our cities and blurred the boundaries between our buildings. Yet, we’re not designing cities in a way that addresses this change. Philip Tidd argues that the city itself becomes the new office and that we need to move away from mono-use buildings and from tenancy to membership.


Good planning provides great places to live, work and play. Bad planning results in poor mental and physical health, environmental degradation, loss of cultural heritage and economic harm. Planning matters. London and other global cities are changing, and the planning system needs an overhaul to provide more flexibility, and enable businesses and local authorities to create the homes and infrastructure London desperately needs.


A building needs to be able to change and adapt to its users and become and office, a retail space or a home the next day – or even a combination of all – to better adapt to changes in society. As Ian Mulcahey, Gensler’s Principal and Managing Director highlights, we need to transform our planning system from control to catalyst and reform business rates to encourage investment in our city centres.

“London has a long history and heritage of innovation, has been a global trading centre over the years, and has managed to retain its leading position despite the economic uncertainties. We’re building some of the biggest infrastructure projects in the world, from Crossrail to a major research centre in Sutton, and we need to make sure that we’re prepared for the future by reforming our planning system and the way we design our offices, high streets and universities among others. This city has an exciting future and we’ve got to make sure it’s not lost in the intermediate future,” concludes Ian Mulcahey.

Gensler’s ten priorities for city transformation:


  1. Redefine the purpose of place for the retail industry;

  2. Create meaningful retail spaces that better engage people;

  3. Integrate the knowledge economy into our cities;

  4. Invest in our communities to foster innovation, reinvention and cultural vibrancy;

  5. Ensure that innovation is at the heart of everything that we do;

  6. The city needs to become the new office;

  7. Abandon mono-use buildings and move from tenancy to membership;

  8. Reform business rates to encourage investment in our city centres;

  9. Transform our planning system from control to catalyst;

  10. And finally, London needs to speak with one collective voice for these changes to happen.