But how much of the latest building boom will actually improve the life of Londoners?

London continues to attract people from all over the world — even if the young, the creative and the unsure are increasingly pushed to the margins. There was never a perfect moment. Yet walking through its fast-changing streets there is a sense that the new is inevitably bigger than the old; glassier, shinier, but rarely better. “The chief function of the city,” wrote the urban historian Lewis Mumford in 1961, “is to convert power into form, energy into culture, dead matter into the living symbols of art, biological reproduction into social creativity.” The chief function of London, today, it would seem, is to convert space into money. Is that ambition enough?