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The Thames is London’s raison d’être. When Transport for London took the river off the Tube map, public outcry forced it to re-install the elegant symbol at the heart of Harry Beck’s design. But despite this attachment to the river, Londoners have long felt unsure about what to do with it.

Globally, industrial cities have struggled with the legacy of redundant waterside industrial developments. But London has struggled more than most. The Thames is a difficult river. It is fast, wide and dangerous—at least 30 bodies are pulled out of the water passing through London every year, and its five…

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