Footnotes (by blog author while writing it up)

“Under a perpetual blanket of smoke”
Ebenezer Howard – Letchworth. The Garden City 1903
Tony Garnier – What is a city for – zoning 1904
Skyscrapers early years of C20th
H.G.Wells – The Sleeper Awakes 1898 – London in 2100
Italian futurists – machines
Antonio Sant’Elia – A manifesto of a futurist architecture 1914

La Citta Nuova

Russian Revolution – large buildings, skyscrapers from communism
Manhattan skyline – skyscrapers from capitalists
Germany – Mies van der Roe & Walter Gropius
August Perret – City of Towers – early 1920s
Charles-Édouard Jeanneret – Le Corbusier (crow like) – early 1920s
“Towards a new architecture” – Corbusier – 1923
“The City of Tomorrow” – Corbusier – 1925
This stupendous vision – an entirely new kind of society
Fritz Lang – Metropolis “as the most appalling nightmare” – 1920s
CIAM – avant garde architects on a Mediterranean cruise in 1933

Athens Charter – CIAM – 1933
1930s was a period of considerable housing renewal

“England is the 1930s was going through a fever of building activity” C19th slums were coming down to make way for some of the largest local authority housing schemes the country had ever seen”.

Quarry Hill modelled on Karl Marx Hoff in Vienna – 1935
Gerard Gardens Liverpool – 1935
Lawn Road flats – Wells Coates, shown but not commented on
MARS Group – Modern Architecture Research Group – 1932
Berthold Lubetkin, Denys Lasdun, Wells Coates, Maxwell Fry, Arthur Ling, Ralph Tubbs, Oliver Cox (Tom Cordell)
Tecton – sub group of MARS
Highpoint 1 – Tecton – Lubetkin
Finsbury Health Centre
Council flats in St Pancras the work of another three of MARS members – Connell Ward and Lucas at Chalk Farm (with thanks to Elain Harwood)

Description: Kent House
Grade: II
Date Listed: 11 February 1993
English Heritage Building ID: 477273

Location: Ferdinand Street, Camden Town, Greater London NW1 8ET

Kensal House – Maxwell Fry – late 1930s
MARS – total reconstruction of London – 1939
“By 1939 Le Corbusier was the most frustrated town planner in history”.
Adolf Hitler – gave Corb his chance – 1939
The second most frustrated town planners of the C20th.

World War II – 1939-42
Post war reconstruction – planning
Sir Patrick Abercrombie plan for the rebuilding of London – 1941
Arthur Ling (MARS), part of Abercrombie’s team.
Abercrombie Plan – 1943
W. S. Morrison – Minister of Town & Country Planning
“Homes for the People” – landmark film
Labour Election victory – 1945
Town and Country Planning Act – Lewis Silkin – 1947
C.D.A. – Comprehensive Development Areas

City of London
Stepney-Poplar (of which Lansbury was neighbourhood no.9)
South Bank
Elephant and Castl
Bunhill Fields
Lewisham Clock Tower

The Areas of Comprehensive Development are listed in the County of London Development Plan of 1951, pp.15-16

(with thanks to Elain Harwood)

New towns, Harlow, Stevenage, Basildon, Crawley
West India House – New flats at Stepney – First Post war London flats
CDA No.4 – Festival of Britain

Leslie Martin & Robert Matthew (MARS group)
Dome of Discovery by Ralph Tubbs (MARS)
Maxwell Fry & Wells Coates (MARS)
Basil Spence

C.D.A. No.2 – Lansbury Festival of Architecture – Frederick Gibberd

Churchill election Conservative (abolished 100% levy introduced by PW Labour Government)
Coronation – 1953, Comet early 50s
New London Airport – Frederick Gibberd
Hunstanton School – Alison & Peter Smithson
Unité d’Habitation- Marseille – Le Corbusier
Alton East & West
Keeling House – Denys Lasdun
C.D.A. – great holes appearing across London – 1956/57

refers back to 1947 Act about profits. 100% development levy.

The property developers – late 1950s – among the largest buildings London had ever seen.

Castrol House, Marylebone Road

Bowater House, Knightsbridge – Harold Samuels (developer)

Thorn Building, Basil Spence (architect)

Charles Clore, Jack Cotton, Felix Fenston, Maxwell Joseph, Joe Levy – Property developers

Felix Fenston demolished St James Theatre, King Street, Piccadilly, Westminster, London, SW1Y

The office block that replaced it was by Richard Seifert, itself then subsequently demolished.

Jack Cotton wanted to put a neon lit mini skyscraper on Picadilly Circus

Colin Buchanan scuppered it (Government official)

Hilton Hotel, Hyde Park (Charles Clore) – 1960
Hyde Park underpass – LCC planners
Vickers (Millbank) Tower – first building in London to overtop St Pauls
What’s that?
Empress State Building shown but not commented upon

Planners & Property Developers – City of London

London Wall (St Alphages House) – early 1960s

Heavily blitzed area, then a C.D.A.

Each of the blocks was allocated to a different property developer.

Charles Clore, Felix Fenston, Harry Hyams

Shell Centre, old FOB site, Shell put up the largest office complex in Europe on land owned by the people of London.

The devastation of the Northern Cities – 50 minutes in

“If you had actually gone round the provincial cities of Britain in 1960, cities like Birmingham and Glasgow, Newcastle and Bradford, you would have found that apart from areas damaged in the war, they didn’t look all that different than the way they would have looked 60 years before, at the beginning of the century”.

Worth reading: Britain’s Lost Cities by Gavin Stamp

The Slums

“the great drive launched by the Government in 1954 to get rid of the last of the slums”.

Frank Price in Birmingham (later Sir) early 1960s

Bullring Birmingham – Frank Price & Duke of Edinburgh – 1964

Rotunda Tower – Jack Cotton

Frank Price speaking to camera, as Mayor of Birmingham

T. Dan Smith – Newcastle

Colin Buchanan report – rings roads, multi storey car parks, pedestrian decks to separate people from cars – 1963

Euston Centre – Joe Levy – former Somerstown – cleared for a new underpass

St Giles Circus before Centrepoint HT @robnitm

Centrepoint – built to provide a new traffic roundabout.  By the time the scheme was complete, the roundabout was quite unnecessary.

Willie Frischmann – 2 mile high city in the sky

Park Hill under construction(?) long clip

The rot sets in good housing demolished

The main thesis of the documentary is that the planners and developers grew too close, the planners using the developers wish for vast profits, to carry out their (the planners) Modernist dreams of comprehensive redevelopment across the country.

“In 1960 a junior housing minister Sir Keith Joseph coined the emotive term “twilight areas”, which was to help to usher hundreds of thousands of such houses through compulsory purchase to extinction”.


Harold Wilson election speech 1964

“Under the Tories, policies and Tory preaching, you have found, the speculator who makes money, exalted above those who earn money by service to their fellow men.  You have found in this country the verb to have mean so much more than the verb to be.  So on October 15th we’re appealing to you, not only to get new measures and new policies and new men, but to get a sense of social purpose and a new scale of social values in this country of ours.”

Booker is appealing here to recognise that the scale of redevelopment had gone far beyond the original worthwhile ambition to level the slums and replace them with better housing, but been replaced by a pact with the devil in which the planners, seduced by the power and wealth of the developers, could achieve all their ambitions by giving free reign to these property speculators, who, conscience free, were merrily destroying the buildings in any area they could get their hands on, oblivious and uncaring as to the human cost of their profit driven schemes. – Ed


Arthur Ling (ref post war Abercrombie plan) – who had recently complete 10 years as Chief Planner of Coventry, talks about system building

In Glasgow they boasted the tallest blocks in Europe (Red Road)

In London they boasted the largest block in Europe (Aylesbury)

Park Hill shown (again) Sheffield

Pepys Estate Deptford (aerial shot) Hubert Bennett, architect to the GLC

Lewisham (Pepys Estate) January 1963 – early 1968 – 28.6 acres, mainly on site of former Royal Victoria VIctualling Yard of Navy. Georgian rum warehouses and officer’s houses retained.

Community: 1,500 dwellings at 155 p.p.a.overall.  Scissors maisonettes in 3 24-storey slabs and spine of 8-storey blocks connected by bridges, 65 flats, sailing centre and riverside cafe in rum warehouses.  First floor deck, bridging Surrey Canal, contains shops, pub, youth club, tenants’ clubroom, surgery, nursery school and play areas.  New old people’s home; existing primary school extended.  50 percent parking, mainly under deck; 25 per cent more in future.

Structure: Brick crosswalls and facings for all blocks up to 8 storeys. 24-storey slabs, r.c. crosswalls and precast cladding.

Cost: £6,000,000

Woodside / Burngreave (demolished) – Sheffield

Cardiff – Harold Samuel’s Land Securities Empire – Colin Buchanan was commissioned to build the roads

Glasgow – urban motorways

Barber credit flood, early 1970s

Richard Seifert early 1970s

Covent Garden – protests

He is also credited with protecting Covent Garden from major redevelopment plans in the 1970s and with overseeing the design of the Thames Barrier.

Land Securities – south side of St James Park – Basil Spence – Harold Samuels peerage under Heath

Queen Annes Mansions – Basil Spence – War of the Worlds (House of Lords debate)

“London was the greatest seeable, touchable man made thing…

Amalgamated Investments – Gabriel Harrison – threatened the Southwark waterfront

Commercial Union Building – City

Tolmers Square – nr Euston Centre, Joe Levy, saved by protests – 1973

Glasgow – that orphan motorway.  Charing Cross, office building now on top. Wikipedia claims it was never intended as a motorway but was the base for a building not completed for twenty years.

London – Balfron Tower

9 The white paper: Policy for the Inner Cities, 1977

This landmark in urban policy was issued almost 30 years ago by the Labour government. David Chapman of Urban Initiatives sets out its achievements: “It highlighted that the sources of the problems of inner cities lay outside the inner city, that the urban problem was due to the collapse of the economic infrastructure of the inner city. The effect of the urban-rural shift and de-industrialisation on inner cities was widely recognised. The white paper called for economic and social improvement via the encouragement of existing jobs, support to small businesses and the development of transport and training. Local authorities were to be the main agency for this task, and the setting up of quasi-governmental organisations was recommended to promote a more effective management through partnerships with the private sector and voluntary organisations.”

10 Government ideas that actually worked

T. Dan Smith – brought to book

Nat West Tower – Richard Seifert & Willie Frishmann – late 1970s

Balfron Tower

The film ends with the scene of a graveyard looking across to high rise housing.  See photo below:-

Sighthill housing estate, now partially demolished, Glasgow

See also The Glasgow Renaissance


If you happen to like the juxtaposition of Sighthill and the gravestones here’s another one:-

Sighthill, North Glasgow

Click on the photo for full sized version

At least Prince Charles and I still agree on architecture

By Christopher Booker

6:22PM BST 16 May 2009

Last week, the Prince of Wales returned to the annual dinner of the Royal Institute of British Architects to mark the 25th anniversary of the most famous speech he ever made, his attack on the dehumanised arrogance of modernist architecture symbolised by the “monstrous carbuncle” then proposed as the National Gallery extension.

After all these years, I hope it is not indiscreet to confess that I was one of those who helped him write that speech, having five years earlier made a two-hour BBC documentary, City of Towers, charting the story of how the Utopian modernism associated with the likes of Le Corbusier had inflicted such horrendous damage on Britain’s cities in the Sixties and Seventies.

Read on at the following link . . .

At least Prince Charles and I still agree on architecture

High-rise vandalism: who is to blame?

Richard West

Two questions remain unanswered by Christopher Booker’s marvellous TV documentary City of Towers, on the destruction of Britain since the war. Why has it taken , so long for public opinion, exemplified by the BBC, to wake up to the menace. of planners and property developers? And is the destruction of cities a universal phenomenon, as Christopher Booker implied in the film, or something peculiar to the British Isles?

. . . read on

The Spectator Archive 24 FEBRUARY 1979, Page 15

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