Themes of 2017

Is London an easy to use, accessible-to-all environment with a balanced relationship between the stuff we build and the natural world? Is it sustainable? Equitable? The best it can be?

These are the kind of questions we ask at Green Sky Thinking, the construction industry’s annual ‘user-generated’ gettogether now in its seventh year and run by Open City. Our aim? Being able to answer with an emphatic ‘YES ’ to all of the above nags.
This year we expect around 2000 sustainable design experts including Argent, Foster+Partners, ARUP, Buro Happold Engineering and Google among others to share best practice and network during the week-long programme. We have over 50 events planned: workshops, seminars, hackathons and debates, all run by industry experts. Each takes place in a unique location in London, as learning directly from the built environment is a key component of Green Sky Thinking.

This year’s Green Sky Thinking is centred upon a simple idea:


And all events planned for the week-long programme will address this idea, one way or another.
But what do we mean by ‘open city’? A few things. An open city is a sustainable city – one built in the public interest with a generous urban landscape, both durable and dynamic – and fashioned using an ultrapraticality, i.e. the best tools and tech.

These three headings - Ultrapraticality, Generosity and The public Interest - encapsulate the Open City and should be used by those wishing to host a GST event to shape their content. Each heading can shelter a number of concepts:

  • ULTRAPRACTICALITY – technology, planning, augmented reality, virtual reality, hybrids and symbiosis, green infrastructure, smart buildings, project management, WELL Building standards and Ska rating, POE, Net energy-positive buildings.
  • THE PUBLIC INTEREST – housing, community-centred development, public realm projects, crowdfunding, sustainable neibourhoods, air quality, designing for an aging population.
  • GENEROSITY– low-energy design, environmentally aware buildings, health and wellbeing, culture-led regen, workplace design, holistic thinking, beautiful places, people-centred buildings, circular economy, sustainable urbanism, autonomous vehicles

As ever we’ll be using real world examples to explore these notions alongside expert commentary.



An Open city building is an ultrapractical building. Here we go. Another buzzword. What does it even mean? Two things. It means, when we build, we should be practical – intensely practical – when it comes to programme and technology. That goes without saying. But ultra has another meaning beyond intensification. Ultra also means ‘to go beyond’ or ‘transcend’. So ultrapractical architecture and urban design not only stands for functional, efficient placemaking, but for a dynamic urbanism with genuine facility but laced with mystery and atmosphere too. ‘Character’, as they used to say…



Building in London is a privilege. Be generous to your residents and neighbours. New additions to the city should improve on previous conditions in terms of: durability, flexibility, and energy usage, but also in terms of what a building project can do for it’s neighbourhood. How does it add to ‘place’ – does it enable public activity? What does it withhold from its client and give to the city instead? Does it have the capacity to foster a local culture above and beyond it’s own functional contribution?  



Building in London should always be in the public interest. Get the public involved in your project. We don’t mean hand the design over to the local community, we mean design with their concerns in mind, and with their input where appropriate. Professionalism in the built environment matters –playing an active - sometime leading - civic role is a crucial part of that.


Programme sponsors: