THE TRAGEDY OF LONDON’S SKYLINE – FEB 17

Londons Golden Borough - Telegraph 25th February 2017

Over the weekend I came across this image in The Daily Telegraph. In the foreground is a CGI of “Number One Blackfriars” (its not yet finished). Apparently this building is based on a vase designed by Alvar Aalto. In his book, ” Architecture Choice or Fate”, Leon Krier satirically suggested that architects might scale-up outlandishly modelled vases to make buildings. Here, without any hint of irony, it had actually happened.

But it is not the foreground that is the most depressing part, it is the real background: the proliferation of towers each of which is modelled not to be good architecture or to fit into the urban fabric but rather to scream for attention. London, the Unique City, the city of Georgian squares, terraces and vistas is being destroyed. British Georgian town planning is an important contribution to World Culture, and it destruction should be of international concern. Opposition is growing and criticism is more pointedly being directed at planners and developers. The 1970’s campaign against the destruction of Country Houses was effected. The notion of losing England’s symbolic buildings was a turning point for many in the 1970’s. If something similar were to be done for London today, could it also be as effective? With the ever changing skyline, with over 436 towers proposed, in planning, under construction or completed (New London Architecture – Telegraph 9th march 2016) when do we say enough is enough! We cannot ignore the on-going destruction of our cities and towns.

Design of Cities by Edmund N Bacon 1967

Referring to the engraved image Edmund N Bacon wrote in his book ‘Design of Cities';-

“The Tragedy of London

In 1829, when the Shepherd engraving, above, was published, London, of all the European capitals, had the most delicate design structure. The product of hundreds of years of enlightened land subdivision by many landowners, this subtle interconnecting square and the marvellous skyline shown in the engraving above was particularly vulnerable and subject to attack.

The tragedy of London is that the people of that city neither understood this aspect of it nor took measures to protect it from the forces that were to come. The result is virtual ruination of large parts of London by high-rise structures that have been allowed to pop up in all sorts of miscellaneous places, ruining all sorts of formerly fine views, and the mindless proliferation of such structures continues. Most tragic is the fact that still there is no plan to meet this problem in the future.”

This was written in 1967! 50 years ago! It is surely unnecessary to say more.