Saturday, 22 September 2007

A Ken sense of Design.

At the grand opening of the London Design Festival on Monday, 17 September 2007 at the Royal Festival Hall. Ken Livingstone; Mayor of London embraces design as the key tool into making London one of the world's favorite travel destinations. He recruited the famous Architect Zaha Hadid to design the Aquatic Centre in London which was a key feature in London's bid for the 2012 Olympics. According to Ken 15 million tourists visited London last year and he attributes that traffic to design. Whether it is the preservation of culture, the tangibility of England's history, or the independence of public transport that tourists enjoy London is designed purposefully to work and to be a successful tourist destination.
In his interview, Livingstone reminisces about the one and only time he visited Nigeria in 1966 and how he spent four weeks living on a tent on the beach in Lagos.

On London as Design Capital of the World vis a vis Financial Capital of the World…

“A lot of people worry about London losing its position as the financial capital of the world, but I don’t worry about that. 15 million visitors came into London last year and they didn’t come to look at our bankers in suits or our great financial institutions. They came for culture and design. I would much rather London is number one in design than in the financial sector.”

On Zaha Hadid’s contributions to design in London, and the bid for the 2012 Olympics…

“Zaha came up with a design for our Aquatic centre that was breathtaking and she deserves an award for that. It was stunning! The IOC (International Olympic Committee) members saw it and thought, this is great Architecture and that is where we want our aquatic events to hold. Zaha struggled to make sure the original concept survived; she fought to make certain that the centre would be there to inspire millions of people who will walk past the Aquatic Centre in the decades to come. As long as this city attracts people like Zaha to work in it, our future as a centre of design and creative industry is secure. If you doubt that, Zaha has just flown in from Paris where President Sarkozy assembled all the greatest Architects in the world to tell him how to bring his city to life and how to help bring France out of this long period of relative recession and depression. He recognised that you do it not with the great industries or the great financial centres, but you do with your artists in every field of culture and design.”

On design and developing countries…

“A lot of people feel that developing countries need to replicate the western patterns of development of heavy industry and so on. But with the nature of technology, telecommunications, the Internet and international travel, I think developing countries would want to leap frog the industrial and go straight t o the service sectors.

If people come to Lagos because they are excited about a dynamic city; they will come for that. They won’t come because it’s developed with loads of industrial plants or because of its oil fields. They will come because of the arts and the culture.”

On his one time visit to Lagos

“I haven’t been to Lagos since 1966 when I was 21. I’m told it’s changed. When I came I slept on the beach at Lagos for four weeks in a tent. And every morning I left my possessions in the tent set out, went to explore the city and came back and all my belongings were there. I was there on holiday on holiday at the time. I will come again but I won’t lie in a tent on the beach though.” (laughs)


Photo- Ade Omoloja

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