Transforming the urban? The adaptive reuse of infrastructure in the London Docklands Development Corporation

Research output: ThesisMaster's Thesis


The Thatcher government’s redevelopment of London’s Docklands under the London Docklands Development Corporation (LDDC) is seen by many to have been indicative variously of ‘neoliberalism’, ‘late capitalism’ and of the fall of social democracy (Weaver 2015, Cochrane 1999). It can also be retrospectively understood as having been significant for instating much less well-cited term: the adaptive reuse of infrastructure – preserving and basing new development around outmoded infrastructure for its value as heritage. This phenomenon lacks scholarship entirely, and this dissertation seeks to substantiate the claim of its significance for urban studies scholarship. To do this, I contextualise the adaptive reuse of infrastructure as part of a longer historical lineage and look into the role it played within the LDDC. This is with the intention of eventually—although not within the scope of the present project—understanding how the phenomenon came to be of persistent importance to processes of urban change in the present day.
In order to achieve these aims, I make a case for an experimental and self-reflexive methodological combination of two urban epistemologies: ‘Planetary Urbanization’ and assemblage urbanism. This combination is necessary in order to fulfil the aims of bridging historical and epistemological inquiry with localised research into spatial phenomena.
In contextualising the prehistory of the adaptive reuse of infrastructure, I include a brief review of the new towns and the lobbying activity of their representative organisation, the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) amidst the ‘crisis of the inner city’ in the 1970s and ‘80s. I conclude that, despite their political differences, it is an irony of history that the LDDC came the closest to realising plans for the ‘decongested’, low-density inner city advocated for by the TCPA. Although this has now been superseded in inner-city development, the significance of the adaptive reuse of infrastructure persists.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationMaster of Science
Awarding Institution
  • University College London (UCL)
  • Arabindoo, Pushpa, Supervisor, External person
Award date1 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2017


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