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Almost Lost Online -

a brief history of demolition and conservation in 20th century London

'Almost Lost' was an eight week exhibition commissioned by English Heritage (now Historic England) for Wellington Arch, London (Dec 2013 - Feb 2014). The exhibition was guest curated by Polly Hudson and developed over an 18 month period in collaboration with many specialists from a wide range of fields.  



The main aim was to provide a history of the building conservation movement and its impact on the planning system, using digital visualisation techniques. In doing so it allowed us to explore changing attitudes during the 20th century towards demolition of older buildings.


The opportunity also arose to demonstrate the potential value of new technologies for the conservation sector and to highlight the increasingly important, but rarely identified, role that both archives and historical research teams have to play in the intelligent cities debate. The exhibition also celebrated the achievements of the thousands of individuals who, over the last century have identified, recorded, campaigned for, and developed and implemented protection for older buildings. Without this work much of our historic environment, now recognised for its socio-economic value, would have been lost.


A further objective of the exhibition was to rethink the way conservation and designation are presented and discussed. Rather then celebrate the saving of a specific historic buildings using ground level photographs (restored and in use) we chose to select a series of iconic, connected, schemes proposed for the West End, including Whitehall, Piccadilly and Covent Garden, which without conservation campaigns would have been destroyed.


In each case we used archive material to digitally reproduce planning proposals at specific points during the 20th century often using photorealistically textured models inserted into current birdseye aerial views. Below we see a plan of the sites, and with it an impression of the impact on London that the the development of these, and the land that connected them, would have had.






























Image produced by Louis Jobst and  PHD for English Heritage using Google Earth Pro. 2013


The exhibition was produced in collaboration with six English Heritage departments. External partners included CASA, Dr Kiril Stanilov/The Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction University of Cambridge, Central St Martins, Crown Estates Archives, The Museum of London, Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) and London Metropolitan Archives, as well as conservation specialists, archivists, amenity societies, filmakers, digital visualisers and representatives from the built environment sector (see below).


Thirty two images including many specially commissioned digital reconstructions and maps were produced for the exhibition, along with four animated films and a 3D physical model combined with an Augmented Reality app. CASA's interactive flight simulator Pigeon Sim allowed visitors to flap their arms and fly across London at the end of the exhibition, before walking out onto Wellington Arch's spectacular viewing platform to see the city as saved today.The exhibition transferred to Alan Baxter Associates’ Gallery during April 2014.



Films and digital animations: Steve Evans at; Flora Roumpani at CASA; Martin McDonnell at Blackboxfilms.

Digital Reconstructions:

James Woodward, Louis Jobst, Meredith Hull, Gaia Pelizzari, Andrew Barkley, Nigel Dakin

Digital maps: Louis Jobst. With thanks also to Westminster Council'sConservation Department

Bloomsbury 1840 Model: William Dickinson (Central St Martins)

Augmented Reality: CASA, UCL - Kostas Cheliotis, Daniel Lam, Balamurgugan Soundararaj

Pigeon Sim: Created by George Mackerron for CASA, UCL.

Sound Guides: Courtesy of GUIDE ID

Graphic design: Camilla Maxwell Comfort for PollyHudsonDesign (PHD)

Exhibit research and design: PHD

Printing: Leach Colour

Plinth and case design, exhibition installation and management:English Heritage Exhibitions and the Wellington Arch Team

English Heritage specialist teams: Designation and Heritage Data Management, Designation Dept, English Heritage Archives, Swindon Planning and Conservation Dept London Historic environment Intelligence team, Heritage Protection Dept,Information and Management Technology, Corporate GIS team, National Collections Group

English Heritage Specialist Advisors:Emily Gee, Sebastian Fry, Neil Guiden, Tom Duane, Matthew Reynolds, Lindsay Jones and Nick Seal

Curation: Polly Hudson (PHD)

With special thanks to Martin Stiles, and to Max, Clive, Chris, Natasha, Tony, Rachael and Jen of the Wellington Arch Team.


With thanks also to the following organisations and individuals for their advice, encouragement and assistance:

Alan Baxter Associates, The Bartlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA) UCL, Battersea Power Station Development Company, Blom, The Building Exploratory,  Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction University of Cambridge, Centre for the Historic Environment Kellogg College University of Oxford, Crown Estates Archive, Central St Martins, Hawkins\Brown, London Metropolitan Archives, London 1840, Museum of London Archaeology, Museum of London, National Archives, Ordnance Survey, RIBA Library, RIBA V&A Drawings Collection, Royal Academy Archive, SAVE Britain’s Heritage, The Twentieth Century Society, The Victorian Society, Andrew Byrne, Andrew Hudson-Smith, Clem Cecil, Jason Crossley, Dan Cruickshank, Pierre D’Avoine, William Dickinson, Ian Dungavell, Tom Dyckhoff, Philip Engleheart, Frank Kellsall, Jeremy Linton, Stephen Murray, Will Palin, Peter Rauxloh, Flora Roumpani, Matthew Saunders, Andrew Thomas, Amy Smith, Jeremy Smith, Kiril Stanilov, Stuart Taylor and Adam Waterton.



Building Design, 3.12.2013., p30

The Independent, 4.12.2013., p30

Mail Online, 4.12.2013

Robert Elms, BBC London 94.9FM, 9.12.2013(scroll to 01:34)

BBC Online, 18.12.2013

BBC Radio London. Nikki Bedi, January 2014

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