London 1940s -1950s

 

Reconstruction by Louis Jobst at PHD for English Heritage. Aerial image courtesy English Heritage Archives

 

During the Second World War thousands of London’s buildings were destroyed through bombing. Many more were lost in the subsequent clear-up. In response to the losses, and to assist with post-war planning, the nationwide listing of historic buildings began in 1947. This brought a measure of protection to inhabited buildings and churches for the first time, though many Victorian buildings, which had previously been seen as fit for purpose, now began to be lost.

 

A climate of post-war optimism saw the development of the welfare state and a determination to raise living standards. Completely new towns were created to meet housing needs. Alongside this were significant advances in architectural design, and innovation in materials and structural methods was demonstrated on South Bank during the Festival of Britain in 1951.

 

In 1954 a conceptual scheme for Soho was published by Geoffrey Jellicoe, Ove Arup and Edward Mills. It was commissioned by Pilkington’s Glass Age Development Committee, which sought to stimulate new ideas in architecture and glass. The scheme explored new structural possibilities and issues of housing density, traffic growth and the depopulation of city centres as well as experimenting with many ideas from green roofing and energy use to pedestrian segregation and comprehensive development. The new development however was at the expense of Soho’s existing historic buildings and character. Proposed was the complete demolition of the whole area, and its reconstruction along the 17th and 8th street patterns.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1954 model for Soho Conceptual Scheme. Courtesy London Metropolitan Archives

 

Six 24-storey tower blocks surrounded by a landscaped park were to be set on a platform supported by reinforced concrete pillars, with a lower level of pedestrianised streets. The streets were to be roofed in with glass (like a giant shopping mall) and covered by a network of canals. Along these boats would run ferrying passengers across the huge pedestrianised area. Helicopter pads encircle the towers with space for 20,000 cars beneath. Though only conceptual it represented a radical vision of a London transformed through comprehensive redevelopment.

 

The reconstruction below allows us to see the impact the scheme would have had on views north, towards the National Gallery, from Trafalgar Square.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photograph by James Royall. Digital reconstruction by Lous Jobst at PHD for English Heritage

 

Although the Soho project never went ahead, piecemeal demolition did take place in Soho during the 1960s removing dozens of houses and local shops dating from the 17th and early 18th centuries. Concern from local residents led to the creation of the Soho Society in 1972, which successfully campaigned for conservation area status and the listing of many buildings, This retained the character of the area and meant subsequent development required assessment of existing buildings prior to demolition. The Society is still active today in challenging ongoing development pressure.

 

Although the Soho project never went ahead, piecemeal demolition did take place in Soho during the 1960s removing dozens of houses and local shops dating from the 17th and early 18th centuries. Concern from local residents led to the creation of the Soho Society in 1972, which successfully campaigned for conservation area status and the listing of many buildings, This retained the character of the area and meant subsequent development required assessment of existing buildings prior to demolition. The Society is still active today in challenging ongoing development pressure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Above one of the original images of the model of the 1954 scheme, available from London Metropolitan Archives, shows the scheme at high level with its circular dance hall surrounded by fluttering flags,  isolated from the city below.

 

Though 3D physical modesl still have an important role to play, particularly at local level, 3D digital city models are now not only enabling individual buildings to be seen in the much wider context, and quickly adapted and altered, but can now beginning also incoporate and animate many other types of digital data, including live data derived from social media, to contribute to a much richer understanding of a place.

 

 

  • Twitter Social Icon
The Bartlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, University College London