Cutting-edge virtual reality model of the Square Mile launched

The most advanced, fully interactive virtual reality (VR) digital twin ever of a major city area has been launched today.

A collaboration between the City of London Corporation, Innovate UK, New London Architecture (NLA) and VU.CITY, it captures every building, lamp post, window and traffic light to 2cm accuracy across its 2.9 sq km geographical spread – a first in accuracy and detail over such a large area.

Alastair Moss, Chair of the Planning and Transportation Committee at the City of London Corporation, said: “Almost without exception, every decision made on a new building has been based on two dimensional images and videos. Now, for the first time this new technology will give us the opportunity to put buildings into a fully interactive virtual world and experience it at a human scale.

“Using the technology will not be a requirement of planning permissions but it is a tool that developers could opt to use to help realise what the plans offer in terms of space, enhancement of the public realm and to the City.

“Working in VR gives us, as Committee Members, the possibility to experience proposed change to the Square Mile before making the decisions that will forever change the future of the City.”

The ability to visualise the present and then conceive and plan the future in a VR environment is a ground-breaking transition in how cities across the world can be better and more easily developed.

“A new day is dawning on the age of planning, designing and building our cities,” says Jason Hawthorne, Founding Director and Chief Digital Officer at VU.CITY. “This is the beginning of many highly advanced urban planning solutions.

“With a single click a virtual twin will show us, for example, what the next tower will look and feel like in seconds, enabling us to rapidly rethink or refine our approach to ensure any change proposed is suitable.

We are on the cusp of great change with what virtual and digital twins can teach us, with the Square Mile leading the way.”

By supporting collaboration in a virtual space, the model ensures that all involved in the design and commissioning of buildings can review proposed changes together, share knowledge and ultimately come to more informed, meaningful decisions.

“Most people find it difficult to read architects' plans and to understand the impact that their proposals might have" says Peter Murray, Chairman of New London Architecture. “This new technology allows everybody to see what buildings will look like and how they will affect the City’s streets and its skyline. This is the ultimate in tools for community consultation.”

Going forward, however, VR modelling will not just be a way of understanding and experiencing planning changes. It offers huge potential for how we understand and operate our cities, such as enabling “digital tourists” across the globe to immerse themselves in the sights of their favourite cities through their screens, exploring the streets and monuments in great detail.

The Square Mile VR model will be accessible at a fully equipped VR centre at The City Centre on Basinghall Street, run by New London Architecture on behalf of the City of London Corporation. The VR centre will be bookable for up to six people to help facilitate planning discussions and a better understanding of the City’s built environment. For enquiries please contact thecitycentre@cityoflondon.gov.uk.

Notes to editors

About the City of London Corporation

The City of London Corporation is the governing body of the Square Mile dedicated to a vibrant and thriving City, supporting a diverse and sustainable London within a globally-successful UK. www.cityoflondon.gov.uk


VU.CITY is a game-changing, powerful digital twin of our cities that supports its users in creating, refining, and sharing the journey of city transformation.

The VU.CITY Platform covers the whole of London and the centres of 19 major UK and international cities to 15cm accuracy. Through use of 3D technology, data visualisation, and game engine technology, VU.CITY helps city changers make better design and planning decisions, faster.

About New London Architecture

New London Architecture (NLA) is London’s independent centre for debate, discussion and information about the future shape of the capital. Its membership represents all those involved in the capital’s built environment. The year-round programme provides a platform for NLA’s broad network to meet, share knowledge and shape a better city. Visit nla.london for more information.