• Bricks & Words #8: ‘The City of London - A record of destruction and survival ‘

    With the Square Mile devastated after the Blitz, economic and societal recovery was paramount. Charles Holden and William Holford’s partnership saw architect and planner working to create a new vision of a new City of London, cognizant of tradition but eager to embrace the future. Their joint plan was introduced to the wider public through this book, a landmark in public engagement.

    Written in what we would now call an accessible tone, it is split into sections. One is a concise history of the Thames and the City and its particular situation and practices, with emphasis on the specialised nature of its business and the buildings needed to contain it. The plan itself sets out – again, in a readable manner – the technical detail of the complex new calculations of size, volume and floor space that would be allowed under rebuilding. This and the formal report to the Corporation (also included) hint at the building types that might, as they saw it, emerge from the rational, Modernist thinking that then prevailed.

    Best of all, though, is an extraordinary chapter envisaging a walk through the City in perhaps 20 years’ time, illustrated by Gordon Cullen’s exquisite colour plates of the architecture and landscaping envisaged. Broad avenues, elevated roads with parking below, sunken pedestrianised concourses lined with shops and services, maritime-themed observation points from which to watch the river traffic – still very much industrialised – and small courtyards and spaces made from ruins and historic buildings all feature. Exceptional and indispensable.

    ‘The City of London - A record of destruction and survival’ by C.H. Holden and W.G. Holford (Architectural Press, 1951)

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Chris Rogers writer on architecture and visual culture

Click blog images to expand; pre-Sept 2011 posts here

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