The Mayor of London is supporting proposals to build a new hub airport in the Inner Thames Estuary and looking for ideas on how the existing Heathrow Airport site could be redeveloped to help meet London’s need for new jobs and homes. Here three such visions are presented for a new ‘Heathrow City’ by leading architectural practices – Rick Mather Architects, Hawkins\Brown and Maccreanor Lavington.


One of the most successful and influential architectural practices in the UK. Their refurbishment of Park Hill was nominated for the Stirling Prize and they are currently designing major infrastructure projects  for London through Crossrail and Transport for London.


Once upon a time, Heathrow captured the imagination – air travel was glamorous and just the sight of aeroplanes at takeoff set the heart soaring. This proposal aims to capture the same spirit of adventure, romance and the pioneering spirit that characterized Heathrow’s birth and imagination-soaring growth. Heathrow City should be a massive platform for innovation – London’s petri dish – where new ideas can be incubated in the fields of technology, industry and governance.

Three big ideas are proposed – the UK’s first airship port, a factory for homes and a green belt in the green belt.

Airship Port: Airships are becoming faster, quieter, less weather dependent and importantly, more carbon efficient. Six companies in the US and UK are currently

investing in the development of airship technologies for commercial application. This proposal would see a consolidation of the existing infrastructure into a new generation of service for freighting specialised goods and even for tourism and business travel.

Remotely controlled and automated unmanned aerial vehicles – drones – are an alternative means of delivering small parcels, and could be part of an integrated future strategy of distributing goods.

Factory for Homes: The rate of building new housing in London can be increased if more and different kinds of parties at a variety of scales are enabled to develop. A factory for building homes will democratise the delivery of housing – opening up the site to self-build, co-operatives and small, bespoke developers. The advancement of prefabrication and online customisation will allow individuals to order parts to

their own specifications, making endless possible iterations no more expensive than standard products.

A Green Belt In The Green Belt: Like a Hyde Park of the west, the green belt within the green belt will define Heathrow City at a sub-regional scale and become one of the great parks of London. The existing airport runways will be turned into a superscale continuous linear park. Taking inspiration from crop rotation land management techniques, a series of programmes sequentially migrate around the park, creating a dynamic and ever-changing landscape of events and biomass. The configuration of the green belt means that the majority of sites at Heathrow City will be within 10 minutes walking distance. The green belt also contains a tram system on its edge.

Rick Mather Architects

A firm with a track record for innovation, quality design and extensive experience of developing solutions for complex sites that require a pragmatic approach to delivery. They have worked on inner city regeneration across the capital and as master planner for the South Bank Centre.

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This vision for Heathrow City will see it grow and evolve naturally from the existing airport structure to be a genuine piece of city, defined by its whole context, both present and future, achieving a real sense of place, while accommodating a multiplicity of scenarios. Through working with the existing structure and by seeing the terminals as generators to development, the site can be sequentially and naturally transformed.

It will be a model for a city embedded in its setting and wider landscape; singular and collective, tuned for local, regional, national and international opportunity, and composed of distinctive areas, a main centre, with a wide range of building types, held together as a whole.

The former runways define the structure of the city, connecting the various elements together while at the same time acting as orientation devices to define

the different neighbourhoods. Each of the ten distinct character areas are connected by these linear runway parks. These seams can absorb more specialist and varied activity along their length, from leisure, education to specialist building types. Each local centre provides a traditional cluster of retail, education and community uses focused around the transport connection and retained airport buildings.

The central area is conceived as similar to a medieval core of a town, where the historic geometries underpin the complex weave of existing buildings. A new series of buildings can be “woven” around the retained existing buildings, which, as it is sequentially developed and built out, creates a natural and carefully considered informality. Parkland surrounds the medieval gates and walls, providing a spatial continuity to the terminal buildings.

By recognising the potential of its position to connect the London and UK economies and addressing the capital’s housing shortage, Heathrow City can and must meet these needs, and beyond, being instrumental to how the UK performs for future generations.

MacCreanor Lavington

Winners of competitions and awards for projects all over the UK including the RIBA Stirling Prize. Their experience covers urban design, residential, education, commercial, retail and leisure sectors. Clients include the London Legacy Development Corporation, University of Cambridge and Argent.


This vision for Heathrow City offers a global future for the site as a fully functioning city within the metropolis, characterised by a rich mix of ecology, culture, employment and liveability.

Central to the successful delivery will be the development of a flexible framework whose vision is de-coupled from a specific timeframe; the ability to flex delivery in response to opportunities, accelerate and decelerate delivery as necessary proving to be its success.

Existing buildings are used as seeds and nodes to establish fresh development and certain existing and historic features are used to ignite ecological and cultural diversity to create a liveable landscape.

A new, layered context of forestation, historic landscape, and city activities is created on the inherited ecologically and culturally inert post-airport landscape. The contaminated ground would be cleansed through bioremediation and the planting of trees, which will build an ecosystem and provide biomass and employment through coppicing. The contaminated hard-standing will be mined and processed on site to provide biofuel and the decontaminated aggregate will be reused in the construction of various structures on the site.

In the east of the Heathrow site, Technical blocks A and B will become the focal point for a new technology campus. London is a world leader for technological development in many areas. A new campus with good links to the Thames Hub and also to existing

technology industries on the M4 corridor would create a consolidation of knowledge and research in a fast growing field.

The former terminal 2 building will be renovated to become a civic centre and retail hub. It will form the heart of the new community at Heathrow Central, sparking urban development.

A variety of mechanisms are proposed for the delivery of housing with a culture of trialling as well as a non-prescriptive approach to accommodate and adapt to emergent trends, thus ensuring its robustness – future proofed. Emerging trends might include self-build, community-led development, temporary housing, a development corporation and developer-led housing delivery.