Well, there’s a reason to take the cable car from North Greenwich now London 2012’s over – The Crystal was launched this week, right next door to the north terminal at the Royal Docks. It opens to the public on 29 September, but I got a peek last night.

Backed by Siemens, it’s a visitor centre dedicated to promoting urban sustainability, and it’s full of exhibitions and touch-screen displays exploring how cities, buildings and people can make less of an impact on the world around them.

The Crystal’s developed with business partly in mind, so it’s probably not one for the kids (unless they’re studying this sort of thing) but it’ll leave most people with something to think about.

But for me, the exhibition only touched on the kind of changes cities need to make – there was lots about sustainability, but little on liveability and nothing on how congestion and the poor design of our cities affects our day-to-day lives.

Curiously, the Crystal was opened on Wednesday by Boris Johnson – who cancelled sustainability and public transport measures when he took office, and plans to build a new road tunnel close by. Copies of a Siemens magazine containing a sycophantic feature on the mayor were everywhere. Indeed, considering Boris’s record and comparing them with the fine ideas on display, the whole thing seemed nauseatingly hypocritical.

Last night was an event held by the UN Habitat programme, with a guest appearance from An Inconvenient Truth director Davis Guggenheim, and showcasing short films made as part of a Siemens-backed project.

As the booze flowed, the MC struggled to make herself heard as she introduced the movies. Maybe the message that sustainability is also about consuming less hadn’t quite got through. As planes from City Airport roared overhead, I left for a lonely ride on a chilly cable car home. Lovely idea and worth a visit if you’re into this sort of thing, but with the current shower in charge of London, its ideas remain a long way from reality.

3 replies on “At last! A reason to use the cable car: Inside The Crystal”

  1. Always wonder with these kinds of displays what their own sustainability is? The use of energy, how much of the display/build is made from recycled materials or will be recycled, whether the production of the material used is polluting and so-on, whether the builders were on a decent wage….

    I am a bit tired of what often appears to be simply yet another case of greenwash.

  2. Had a lovely good laugh at the two howlers pictured – one display board questions: “Bike, Bus, Train or Tram?” with no mention of the Cable Car ha ha ha; and then the hilarious “The Benefits of Intelligence” (caption) sited adjacent to a photo of Our Boris. OK, so I have a warped sense of humour?!

  3. Hey, thanks for your review! I’m pretty interested – what was this exhibition about? I mean – I read all about this 9 zones and touch screens, but did they offer some REAL solutions for city infrastructure that you might remembered? Maybe some examples that you can share with me? Thanks!

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