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Est. 1912

The London Society Valuing the past, looking to the future

Why do we exist? We believe that London's future must be shaped by contemporary culture as well as its rich and layered history. What we do Celebrate and enjoy the capital’s culture and architectural history. Debate how we plan a future that is beautiful, sustainable and fair. How we do it Engage Londoners with how the capital is designed and planned through tours, walks, talks and debates.

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Art Director


Lucy Smith, HTA Design LLP

Jessica Cargill Thompson

Blog Editor

Sub Editor

Mark Service

The London Society Registered Charity 206270 Mortimer Wheeler House, 46 Eagle Wharf Road, London N1 7ED President: HRH The Duke of Gloucester KG GCVO Chair: Peter Murray Vice Chair: Neil Bennett Secretary: Mark Prizeman Treasurer: Nick McKeogh

Executive Committee 2019 Adam Baldwin Jessica Cargill Thompson Darryl Chen Barry Coidan Michael Coupe Dave Hill

Jonathan Manns Clive Price Lucy Smith Eric Sorensen Sarah Yates

Staff: Director: Don Brown Administrator: Jane Jephcote Events Coordinator: Rowena Ellims

To contribute to the next issue, please email Views expressed within the Journal are those of the individual writers and not necessarily those of the London Society as a whole.

Cover illustration & end papers - Lucy Smith, HTA Design LLP 2

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Contents Chairman's Introduction — Page 4

Context Message. History provides the roots for great places, says Emily Gee — Page 58

FEATURES Industrial Revolution Exploring the potential of 'flatted factories' — Page 8

Beyond Bricks and Mortar Heather Jermy on preserving the essence of place — Page 60

Dogs' Life 1980s Docklands captured by photographer Mike Seaborne — Page 14

Saviours of the City Anne Thomas on the heritage guardians of the City of London — Page 62

Albertopolis: London's original innovation district Sarah Yates on the legacy of the 1851 Great Exhibition — Page 24

Constructing Places, Building Trust Jessica Cargill Thomson on the need to engage with the Old Kent Road before redeveloping it — Page 66

The Art of the Mapper London reimagined by illustrator Adam Dant — Page 28

REGULARS A London Notebook. Blackwall & the Isle of Dogs — Page 72

CASE STUDIES When the Music Stops. Will the soul of Tin Pan Alley be lost to Crossrail? asks Peter Watts — Page 36

London Online Members' picks of the best websites — Page 74

Floral Tribute Jessica Cargill Thompson hears how plants are reviving memories of an East London street — Page 38

From the Archives. What was the Society up to 50 and 100 years ago? — Page 76 Book Reviews — Page 78

The Successful High Street. Why thriving Peckham shows we need to adjust our values — Page 42

LONDON SOCIETY Review of 2018 — Page 86 Events for 2019 — Page 88 How to Join — Page 90 Corporate members — Page 91 Banister Fletcher Lecture report — Page 92 APPG update — Page 94

Barbers Beyond Boundaries. The art project redefining a high-street staple — Page 48 OPINION Organically Does It. John Myers encourages residents to take back control — Page 54 3

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Chairman’s introduction London Society Chairman Peter Murray introduces our new motto, and the theme for this issue of the Journal

Over the past year or so the Society has been giving a lot of thought to our purpose and how to explain it. There has, for some time, been a feeling that the Latin motto that has served us well for the past hundred years is in need of modernisation. Antiqua Tegenda, Pulchra Petenda, Futura Colenda doesn’t do it for a younger generation. Even the rough translation ‘look after the old, seek the beautiful, cultivate the future' sounds somewhat laboured. What we needed was an ‘elevator pitch’ – a ready and meaningful answer for when someone asks, 'What does the Society do? What is it for?' We didn’t want to change those basic tenets of the Society set out by our founding members, but we did want to bring them up to date. Just as the old Latin motto suggested a respect for the history of the capital in its cultivation of the future, we knew we should respect the Society’s own history as we developed its mission for the 21st century. To do so, we needed to look back at those early days. The founding fathers The first ever meeting of the London Society was held on 2 January 1912. The minutes record the gathering together of ‘a few men keenly interested in the artistic development of London and the protection of its beauty and character', among them such luminaries as architects Sir Aston Webb, Sir Edwin Lutyens, Raymond Unwin, and Arthur Beresford Pite, artist Frank Brangwyn, actor Gerald du Maurier (father of Daphne), newspaper proprietor Lord Northcliffe and retailer Gordon Selfridge. The primary concern and commitment of the Society was to address the problems of urban development, and it had a broad membership of politicians as well as professionals – architects, planners and engineers. It was not bound to the preservation of the past at the expense of the unfolding future; neither were its purposes purely aesthetic without regard for the social life of the city. An early leaflet of the Society describes its objectives as ‘to draw together all lovers of London, whether their interest lies in preserving its old charms or in influencing new developments, and to build up a strong public opinion by means of which Londoners can bring their influence to bear upon matters of artistic, antiquarian and practical interest.’


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An influential voice The Society's first major task however was slightly more prosaic if not equally ambitious: to deliver the Development Plan for Greater London. This was published in 1919, after the First World War, and set out a vision for London’s key arterial roads that was largely implemented over the next two decades. During that period the Society focused on promoting the value of regional planning as well as the

Lord Curzon, then Vice President of the Society, suggested that beauty was key to the Society’s agenda: ‘Our object is to make London beautiful where it is not so already, and to keep it beautiful where it already is.'

Credit: The Isle of Dogs, Published by Hoxton Mini Press


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replanning of the central part of the city. It also led the discussion about implementation of the Green Belt, first proposing it in its 1919 report as a means of curbing urban sprawl, then championing the idea in public debate. Another seminal London Society publication, published in 1921 and edited by Sir Aston Webb, studied the problems the capital faced at that time and came up with solutions; it was entitled London of the Future. When Patrick Abercrombie was approached to deliver a new plan for London he made clear that he would only take it on if he was able to follow the course taken by the London Society and work on the Greater London region as a whole. So, in his Greater London Plan 1944, Abercrombie criticised the ‘lamentable failure to realise a need for coordination in planning all around London' and praised the London Society’s Development Plan as ‘full of guidance for the future'. The Society’s history is very similar to that of the Municipal Arts Society (MAS) of New York, whose advocacy has helped to shape the city since its inception in 1893. Some of MAS’s early accomplishments include passing the city’s first zoning laws, contributing to the planning of the city’s subway line, and, like the London Society, promoting the idea of regional planning. So, whilst respecting the past, the London Society has never been a conservation society. It has always taken a balanced view of past, present and future. Both the London Society and MAS are believers in the idea of cities. Both reacted against the lack of planning and the unhealthy environments of 19th century cities, but believed in the benefits of agglomeration when properly designed. Unlike the Town and Country Planning Association, founded just over a decade before

us, the London Society did not reject the idea of the dense metropolis. Indeed our support for the Green Belt as a contained area for the development of the city, not only ended sprawl but spurred densification. Looking to the future So how do we respect the founding beliefs of the Society and mould them to suit today’s capital? We hold on to the concept that London’s future must be shaped by contemporary culture as well as by its rich and layered history. For centuries one of London’s great strengths has been its ability to adapt to change and to integrate the new with the old, an approach that has been enshrined in the London Plan where response to character and local context is highlighted. So after much deliberation, we redefined the purpose of the Society as ‘Valuing the past, looking to the future’ with a strapline that reads: ‘Engaging all Londoners in the debate about design, architecture and planning in the capital.’ This we felt respected the original aims of our founding fathers, while making them clearer and more comprehensible to a modern audience. Our new motto provides a simple way of describing what we are about and reflects the sentiments set out in the closing words of London of the Future: ‘In the reorganisation of London we cannot stand still, and we ought not to stand still; but we can advance with reverence and see to it that the immemorial spirit of London does not suffer amid the rush and stress of our modern life.’


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Industrial Revolution A report by architects Hawkins\Brown resurrects a solution to providing more industrial space in inner London – the 'flatted factory' Inner London is losing its industries. This is not because of a crisis in manufacturing; rather, competition with higher value land uses such as residential is reducing the land available for productive activities. The Mayor has recognised that this is having a detrimental impact on the economy and culture of London. The current draft London Plan encourages multistorey buildings that stack industrial spaces vertically and serves them with goods lifts. This 'flatted factory' is a building typology commonly found in other dense areas of the world constrained for land, and is now mooted in policy and development circles as a new solution to London's shortage of industrial space. However a risk-averse development culture has not yet accepted this as a normal proposition. In truth such buildings already exist in London, some continuing to serve their original functions more than 50 years after their construction. These little-known buildings from our past point to a future where working, producing and living can happily remain together.


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Prototype flatted factory design, inverted truss enabling large span and mezzanine floors


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Prototype flatted factory design, 12-storey factory blocks designed to house industrial units of all sizes

A plan-led approach

In 1943 the County of London Plan prescribed distinct zones of activity and recommended the dispersal of industry away from London’s inner boroughs. At the same time, it recognised that small factories and affordable workshops would need to be kept close to the housing of those they employed and gathered together in low-rent premises. The proposition was for light-industrial uses to be accommodated in multistorey flatted factories in the East End of London. A proposal, above, from 1948 demonstrates that this task was approached with an impressive design intent. The prototypical design by Z Borys and Philip Bells featured large 12-storey factory blocks designed to house industrial units of all sizes at affordable prices and included a shared transport yard below the elevated volume. The proposed building section was optimised to bring daylight into the depth of the factory floor. An inverted truss achieved a large span and cleverly integrated a mezzanine within its structure. The architecture is a strikingly refined example of early postwar modernism with expressive flourishes that identify it as a contemporary of the Festival of Britain. Similar to the airy slab blocks of neighbouring modernist housing estates, slim flatted industrial buildings were to be arranged in an open landscaped setting. A masterplan for Hackney from 1945, right, proposed clusters of multi-tenanted factories in the form of tall slab blocks south of the Town Hall along Mare Street.


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Creation and conversion

It took another 10 years, however, for London's first flatted factory to be realised – the modest but elegant Long Street workshops in Hoxton, designed by Hubert Bennett and FG West in 1959. The complex still accommodates light industrial units at ground level, although most of the other units have been converted to live-work flats, ostensibly to accommodate creative industry workers. Architects YRM (Yorke, Rosenberg & Mardall), famous for the American Embassy and Gatwick Airport, designed two elegant flatted factories in an uncompromising international modern style. Number 1-13 Adler Street in Mile End is a partly elevated block built for the rag trade. Completed in 1964 it is a good example of how a complex programme of different unit sizes was translated into a clear and honest design. The flatted factory features an interesting vertical arrangement of varying volumes that expresses the different uses on the building exterior. The building still accommodates some light industry in addition to a hotel and a college. Workshops on Ada Street, Hackney, near Broadway Market, are a nine-level slab block, completed in 1965. The building is home to a vibrant mix of creative studios, light industrial workshops, retail space and cafes. The well-proportioned volume sits in a generous yard, and its large decks not only provide for efficient vertical transport but are also places of social and professional exchange.

A masterplan for Hackney from 1945 proposed clusters of multi-tenanted factories in the form of tall slab blocks south of the Town Hall along Mare Street 11

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Number 1-13 Adler Street in Mile End

The best-preserved flatted factory in London is the elegant Central House in Mile End, above and far right. Designed by Lush & Lester in 1963, it was soon occupied by the Cass School of Art, Architecture and Design, an exceptional cultural and commercial asset in the heart of central London. While it was never used as factories, the robust and functionally flexible spaces suited the school for its everadapting studio and exhibition spaces, and were variously described as the 'Aldgate Bauhaus', and a 'magical, powerful, productive place'. Pointing to the longevity and adaptability of the building typology, Turner Prize winning artist Jeremy Deller said: 'The Cass may look like the past, but it is the future.' Indeed, in the face of demolition proposals, new plans have been drawn up to breathe new life into the structure. Although City offices will be occupying the former flatted factory building, this again proves the resilience and robustness of this rare postwar typology.

Workshops on Ada Street in Hackney near Broadway Market


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Legacy of adaptability and efficiency

In total the London County Council built just five flatted factory developments. Wider adoption was stymied by the general trend towards de-industrialisation throughout many areas of London. However four of the five original flatted factories have survived such structural changes in the economy, the only one to be demolished making way for a new council library at Mare Street/ Richmond Road in 2008. The LCC's flatted factories programme leaves a legacy of buildings that have proved adaptable to the needs of a changing economy. Their structures have provided a robust structural framework in which spaces, uses and users have changed. The Ada Street workshops show how functionally versatile this typology is. Their architectural ambition is described in the Architects' Journal in 1959: ‘Reputable architects were hired to plan the buildings in a true modern spirit: well-lit ventilated elegant buildings that expressed their industrial function through exposed concrete frame and honest use of materials.’ However what makes them exceptionally useful to the city is as a demonstration of how industrial uses can be stacked vertically and thus accommodated in a highly efficient use of land. Their urban form anticipates the densification of inner city neighbourhoods and integrates them into the contemporary urban structure of London. Although worn down by intense use, these existing flatted factories stay vital contributors to the local culture and economy. At the same time as protecting this chapter of London's industrial heritage, we must now write a new one in which the versatile typology of the flatted factory allows innovation and industry to thrive in an urban, inner city environment. Michael Riebel is a researcher at Hawkins\Brown Central House in Mile End


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DOGS' LIFE The Isle of Dogs of the 1980s was a place of conflict, upheaval and cataclysmic change. In these evocative scenes of everyday Docklands life, shot between 1982–87 and now published in a new book, photographer Mike Seaborne captured a place now buried beneath Manhattan-on-Thames. 15

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The Isle of Dogs: Before the big money by Mike Seaborne is published by Hoxton Mini Press 23

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Sarah Yates looks at the legacy of the 1851 Great Exhibition '… we should ensure that the Great Exhibition of 1851 should not become a transitory event of mere temporary interest, but that its objects would be perpetuated, that the different industrial pursuits of mankind, Arts and Sciences should not again relapse into a state of comparative isolation from each other, in which their progress is necessarily retarded …' Observations on the Application of the Surplus of the Exhibition of 1851 by His Royal Highness the Prince Consort, August 1851

The Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851


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‘Innovation’ has become the watchword of the global economy in the 21st century. While cities have always been places where people gather to discuss and debate ideas, the production of new knowledge – and from it, novel products, services and technologies – can give a city competitive advantage in this age of automation, disruptive technologies and global communication. Fundamental transformations in the way that we work, live and learn have started to lead to greater interdisciplinary collaboration, and physical location and proximity to other like-minded people have become ever more important in order to support the spontaneous personal interactions, sharing of ideas and inspiration that lead to advances in knowledge. From this has developed the idea of the urban ‘innovation district’: places where universities and research centres cluster, along with cultural and scientific organisations and enterprises large and small; designed to attract the most talented and highly skilled, and with a well-designed and diverse urban environment with high-quality public realm to promote open working and collaboration. New innovation districts are emerging across the capital – from the Knowledge Quarter at King’s Cross to the Cultural and Education District planned for the regeneration of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. But the origins of this idea in fact stretch much further back to the mid-19th century, and are still thriving today in the remarkable and unique ‘great estate’ in Kensington known familiarly as ‘Albertopolis’. This, the world’s first innovation district, was created and overseen by the nearly 170-year-old Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851. This world-renowned cluster today encompasses one of the UK’s top universities, Imperial College, and globally significant cultural and scientific institutions including the Science Museum, Natural History Museum and Victoria and Albert Museum, collectively attracting more than 30 million visitors each year. The Commission’s governing principle has remained at the heart of its purpose since

its foundation: to ‘increase the means of industrial education and extend the influence of science and art upon productive industry’ – or, as its Secretary, Nigel Williams, explains, ‘making things look better and work better through the combination of science and art', a mission reflected in the UK Government’s latest Industrial Strategy.

Where it all began

The Commission owes its foundation in 1850 to the singular vision of Prince Albert, its first President, and was established under his direct supervision to organise and stage the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations (‘The Great Exhibition’) in Hyde Park in 1851. Featuring more than 100,000 exhibits from around the globe in Joseph Paxton’s iconic Crystal Palace, the exhibition, known as the first ever world’s fair, enjoyed unprecedented success, attracting six million visitors in under six months. With visitors paying an entrance fee of about five shillings, plus a penny to use the flush toilets (a technological marvel of the age), the Great Exhibition generated a surplus of £186,000, estimated by some today to be the equivalent of up to £40m. Presenting his views on how these funds should be used, Prince Albert proposed the purchase of land on Kensington Gore and to ‘place on it four Institutions corresponding to the four great sections of the Exhibition: Raw Material, Machinery, Manufactures, Plastic Art.' In the end, the Commission bought 87 acres in South Kensington, principally market gardens, and the estate evolved in a rather different way to that originally proposed by Prince Albert, who died in 1861. Initially the land was leased to the Royal Horticultural Society to create large formal gardens, surrounded by exhibition galleries and, to the north, the Central Hall of Art and Science (renamed the Royal Albert Hall by Queen Victoria), which opened in 1871. As Nigel Williams points out, this building was originally intended, like the purpose-built 25

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A ‘great estate’ of knowledge

‘spaces for collaboration’ today, to be a ‘great meeting place of men of art and science – not primarily as a concert hall.' The Commission also helped establish what became the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Natural History Museum and, later, the Science Museum. The Royal Horticultural Society surrendered its lease in 1878, making way for the Royal College of Science, The Royal School of Mines, the City and Guilds College and the Imperial Institute, which all merged to become Imperial College in 1907. The Royal Colleges of Art and Music were also established in this period. In this way the estate encompassed all the spheres of knowledge, growing over time to create a great centre of learning and innovation.

By the late 19th century, the estate was almost fully developed, and featured the work of the leading architects and engineers of the day, including Alfred Waterhouse and Sir Aston Webb. The centrepiece was TE Collcutt’s Imperial Institute, completed in 1893, with its three Renaissance-style towers, of which one, known as the Queen’s Tower, survives. By 1891, partly through the sale of the museum sites to the Government, sufficient funds remained for the Commission to establish an educational trust to perpetuate its charitable aims. Having created an outstanding centre of excellence, the Commission continues to play a vital role in supporting innovation by providing grants, fellowships and scholarships for research in

Dickinson's comprehensive pictures of the Great Exhibition, Joseph Nash; Robert Haghe


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science and engineering, applied research in industry, industrial design and other projects – including the built environment – through a total annual fund of nearly £4m. Its alumni include 13 Nobel Prize winners and more than 150 Fellows of the Royal Society. This is funded largely through an investment portfolio, as while the Commission remains the main ground landlord – the Royal Colleges of Music and Art, Imperial College and the Royal Albert Hall are let on long leases – and retains ownership of some 40 residential properties,other freeholds were sold or transferred. The key principle in the management of the estate today is to continue to enhance its status and ensure its cohesion as a world-leading centre for excellence and cultural quarter. In February 2010, architectural practice DSDHA was awarded a two-year Research Fellowship in the Built Environment to develop a long-term vision for the estate, specifically the public realm around the Royal Albert Hall. In 2016 it received the Fellowship to explore the idea of the ‘Beautiful Everyday Journey’, to make cycling ‘a more pleasurable, exciting and accessible mode of transport’. Facilitating networks and

cooperation alongside research is regarded as a vital component to driving innovation – ‘the exchange of ideas by personal discussion,' as Prince Albert argued in his Observations – and the Commission has an active role in convening the leaders of the major legacy institutions of the estate to encourage effective coordination in placemaking and new development, working together to ensure Albertopolis maintains its status as a world-leading innovation district. It also has a unique international alumni network – with more than 70 new grant holders each year – and a major digital project to support both online and real-time networking and collaboration anywhere in the world among alumni was completed in spring 2018. Embodying the intersection of technology and creativity along with outstanding research over a century and a half, today the Commission and its estate – like the emerging innovation districts now appearing in cities around the world – seeks to support the brightest and best of each generation to advance human knowledge, and, through it, to benefit society as a whole.

For more information about the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 and the research it supports, visit: @Royalcom1851 Many thanks to Nigel Williams, Secretary, and to Jenifer Hewett, Senior Administrator, and Angela Kenny, Archivist, for their help, time and support in providing information for this article Sarah Yates is an editor and researcher and co-author of the New London Architecture reports Knowledge Capital: Making Places for Education, Innovation and Health (2018) and Great Estates: How London's Landowners Shape the City (2013) The London Society will continue its strand of events on the theme of Great Estates throughout 2019


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THE ART OF THE MAPPER In his intricate, subversive and often humourous maps, artist and cartographer Adam Dant exposes histories and psychogeographies of the capital that illuminate more than just the page. Now collected together in this large-format book, Maps of London & Beyond, Dant's drawings represent London variously by its coffee shops and squares, art gangs and rebels, while showing us neighbourhoods such as Covent Garden, Holborn and Soho like we've never seen them before. We begin with a map compiled by Dant's 1990s alter ego, the East End pamphleteer Donald Parsnips, that plays with the collective subconscious of the denizens of Shoreditch and discusses the creative possibilities of cartography.


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Extracts from Maps of London & Beyond by Adam Dant (Batsford, £30)


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Shoreditch in Dreams We all use the same maps, just as we all use the same streets. When we look at a map, we enter a work of art as a representation of common space. It is a pictorial zone where all interpretations are permitted because a map is a work of art that yields to multiple uses. To create a map from the criss-crossing patterns of commuters' journeys across the city might yield the same results as one would get from tracing the trails of ants around an ant farm. The notion of dream cartography – maps created from the recollection of the sleeping visions of local residents – may perhaps allow us to see what a group of people who occupy the same space really think and feel about their neighbourhood, thereby revealing a common reality more real than that which we think of as being reality. When several neighbours described seeing the local multi-storey car park near the site of Shakespeare's first theatre at New Inn Yard appear in their dreams as a quasi-Elizabethan, wattle-and-daub wooden 'O', I wondered which other local landmarks might assume a common visual form in their subconscious reveries, informed by our collective history. The pamphlets I left in local cafés, soliciting descriptions of dreams of the locale, took more than six months to yield enough usable material to allow for the construction of the map 'Shoreditch in Dreams'. … Perhaps some of the pictographic content of 'Shoreditch in Dreams' says more about the similarly frustrated personal desires of the residents than it does about the warped and psychologically transformed places where these dramas are enacted as part of their sleeping subconscious. The creation of this map of Shoreditch, according to the geographically specific dreams of its inhabitants, did, nonetheless, reveal the neighbourhood as the same place, both concrete and ethereal, which was once the setting for the dreams of Shakespeare, Marlowe, Webster et al.


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London Enraged Exploding from Westminster and nearby Trafalgar Square, flying missiles pinpoint the sites of London's most notorious metropolitan insurrections. The buildings and public spaces that have borne witness to and, in the case of the Fleet and Newgate prisons, fallen victim to these riots project from clouds of dust and smoke. Individuals key to this violent aspect of London history, such as Guy Fawkes, Lord Gordon and Wat Tyler, are overseen by William Blake's powerful figure the Angel of the Revelation, cautioning against a controlling British state that might seek to instill in its subjects fear of change and warning those whose oft pent up righteous rage is manifested in the traditional art of rioting.


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London Squared Opportunities for re-creating London as a planned, ordered city have always followed conflagrations such as the Blitz or the Great Fire of 1666. Invariably, such plans adopt the grid as the utopian structure of choice, as if the return of the capital into the hands of its symmetryobsessed Roman founders represents an act of restoring logic, natural order and integrity to the world. ‌ Just as the notion of a planned city is falsely believed to inspire an ordered, harmonious society, the jumbled, meandering medieval street plan of London elicits spurious notions of the 'organic' quality of its contemporary built environment, even if it is in glass and steel. ‌ When designing a city as a grid, inconvenient topographical features must either be incorporated into the rigid design or destroyed. In creating a map solely from London squares it is the intermediate streets knotted between London's famous squares that need to be eliminated. Such a plan, favouring the safe and salubrious parts of the capital over festering slums and gloomy back streets, exposes the sinister totalitarian ethos of planning a city in a place where an 'unplanned' city already has a valid existence. When London is remodelled as a grid according to its squares, it appears like a rack of postcards. It becomes a city that exists on an entirely superficial plane, a series of nicely ordered showcases for the display of treasured assets, where mystery and romance are boxed up.

Words and illustrations from Maps of London & Beyond by Adam Dant published by Batsford, ÂŁ30. The book includes an introductory interview by Spitalfields writer The Gentle Author See more of Adam Dant's work at 35

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Case Study


WHEN THE MUSIC STOPS Will Crossrail kill Tin Pan Alley? Photo: Trecca under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0 International

For a street that has been so instrumental – pun entirely intended – in the history of British popular music, there’s something rather unromantic and businesslike about Denmark Street. That feeling isn’t helped by its current condition, a hollowed-out shell of scaffolding and empty shop fronts as it awaits a vast Crossrail-abetted redevelopment nearby that might completely gut the street of any lingering soul, or possibly provide it with a new reason to exist. For even casual music fans, the current condition of a street that played an important role in the careers of the Rolling Stones, the Sex Pistols, Jimi Hendrix, the Kinks, Elton John and Bananarama – not to mention the entire library of pre-Beatles British songs from ‘I’ve Got A Lovely Bunch Of Coconuts’ to ‘Lambeth Walk’ – is some reason for concern. Campaigners are demanding that the developers retain the street’s defining musical character

when it reopens for business, but the sticking point will be what nature that character should take. I’ve been writing about Denmark Street for my forthcoming book, which will trace the central role the street has played in the London pop music since before the First World War. In doing so, it has been fascinating to see the way Denmark Street has learnt to adapt to the changes in the way music was played, recorded, written, published, performed and consumed. But what about the future? What role does a physical space like Denmark Street play in a fragmented, nostalgic, digital musical landscape? Does London still need shops that sell musical instruments, or should it be looking towards Spotify or iTunes for its future? When the development is completed, it will be interesting to see whether Denmark Street has retained its business-like appearance. That’s partly because the street, or Tin Pan


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Alley, was the traditional home to the business end of the industry; a place where publishers set up offices and around which managers, lawyers and booking agents clustered to talk about songs in terms of units and sales rather than pieces of popular art. They settled here because the Edwardian music industry was essentially a branch of book publishing: money came from sales of sheet music, and Charing Cross Road was the traditional street of London bookselling. Denmark Street was a cheaper alternative, 100m of Georgian terraces between a main road and a church built on top of an old leper colony. For more than 100 years, the music industry maintained a foothold in this short street, despite numerous changes of fashion and

Whole OWCH group at opening - Credit: Joe Okpako

fortune. Denmark Street survived two wars, a fire, several drug raids, teenagers, the internet and the Sex Pistols. But can it survive Crossrail? Peter Watts has previously written Up In Smoke: The Failed Dreams Of Battersea Power Station. His Denmark Street book will be published by Paradise Road in 2019

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Case Study


Scars still run deep through the unrelenting terraced streets of E11. Not just the impenetrable four-lane gash of the A12 that separates the neighbourhoods of Leyton and Leytonstone – sunk below street level and largely out of sight, though not out of earshot – but the collective memory of the acrimonious protests against its construction in the mid–1990s. The M11 Link, as it was known, was opened in 1998 as a direct route from the A102 at Hackney to the Redbridge Roundabout and the start of the M11. It had originally been mooted in the 1930s, then interrupted, first by war and then, once compulsory purchasing began in the 1960s, by escalating costs. Though conceived as a way of protecting the neighbourhood's residential streets from the traffic using them as a rat run, it inevitably meant sacrificing some of them. YouTube videos and oral histories bear witness to the brutal battles that were fought in late 1993 and throughout 1994 by residents and activists against police in riot gear – some of the most aggressive of the mid-90s' slew of road protests, resulting in more than 1,000 arrests. Some protestors chained themselves to a 250-year-old chestnut tree on George Green, others came from far and wide to occupy Claremont Road, one of the streets along the route of the new road, gathering on the roofs and digging themselves into the basements to make life difficult for the bailiffs and the bulldozers, earning the camps the nickname Leytonstonia. On the other side of the A12 to Claremont Road sits Grove Green Road, once neighbours, now pushed apart by an impenetrable barrier. Here, just half the street remains, the odd numbers lost to land used for site works, then gifted back to the community afterwards in the form of a (very) linear park. A ribbon of land more than 300m long but only the depth of a terrace house it's not broad enough for many practical uses save dog walking, and by 2018 had become filled with litter and bindweed, visually uninspiring, the A12 preventing it from linking anywhere with anywhere else, too noisy for quiet contemplation, and largely fenced off from the street. A collaborative project between Matter Architects and artist Lucy Harrison that comes to (literal) fruition in 2019 seeks not only to enhance the space but to address its deeper social history. With a grant from Waltham Forest's 'Making Places' fund, the houses that were lost will be brought back as ghostly outlines, their boundary walls marked out by lavender bushes, the bays where families grew up filled with wild flowers.


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FLORAL TRIBUTE In a residential neighbourhood in Leyton, a project marking the plot lines of demolished houses with flowers honours a lost history. Jessica Cargill Thompson reports

'The idea is picking up the historic boundary lines and making them reappear in strips of lavender' 39

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At the same time, the council's own road improvements (including the installation of a cycle lane and floating bus stops along Grove Green Road) will remove the park's current perimeter fences and brick planters, opening the space up to the street and letting it breathe. Using archive research and oral history, artist Harrison has worked with the

local history society collecting stories of the people who once lived in the houses, not just at the painful time of demolition but tracing them back to the road's genesis towards the end of the 19th century. Stories of past occupants will be etched into zinc plates, marking the relevant plots on plaques: No. 179, home to railway signalman Edwin Grindley and his family for the first half of the 20th century; Ponsford's garage

'Lots of the same people still live in the area and still feel aggrieved about the houses being demolished. They feel they've been treated in a heavy handed fashion.' 40

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at No. 193, where motorists would fuel up before heading out of the capital; and the sweet shop at No. 189. 'Because of the nature of the protests, it was quite sensitive,' says Roland Karthaus of Matter. 'Lots of the same people still live in the area and still feel aggrieved about the houses being demolished. They feel they've been treated in a heavy-handed fashion.

'The idea is picking up the historic boundary lines and making them reappear in strips of lavender.' Plots will then be sown with 400kg of wildflower seed (the budget didn't stretch to more bedding plants), some trees have been bought under a separate council tree-planting scheme, and a Friends group is being set up to oversee maintenance and through which people can adopt a plot. In a harmonious closing of the circle, one elderly couple who moved away before the 1990s are donating cuttings from plants that came from their original Grove Green Road back garden. 'We didn't want it just to be about the end period,' says Harrison. 'If you look at the time when the houses were built, around the turn of the 20th century, it was such a rapid growth of that part of London within a few years there was a sudden massive population increase. So we're trying to make it quite a wide thing looking back at the history and the area's development.' Is revisiting what for some might be painful memories therapeutic for the community as a whole? Can it help the community move on? 'It would be naive to say totally,' says Harrison. 'A lot of the community have moved on. Some people might not want to go back there at all. Not everybody wants to get involved. And a lot of residents who have moved to Leyton over the past 10 years probably don't even know there were houses there. 'However, the fact that it's a garden that we're making and something that will improve the weirdly designed and not well-maintained park that's there at the moment is making something positive out of it.' The London Society will be running a series of events on Parks and Green Spaces during 2019 Jessica Cargill Thompson is a writer, editor and urban researcher FIND OUT MORE Updates on this project and others in Waltham Forest's Making Places scheme at Read some of the Grove Green Road oral histories at 41

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Case Study


Peckham Vape On Rye Lane under a railway bridge is a narrow unit about 20ft long and 5ft wide, a confectionery store until Peckham Vape took over the space a year ago. Although redevelopment of the adjacent Peckham Rye Station will force many stores to close, Peckham Vape’s premises are part of the structure of the railway itself and so Peckham Vape only envisage short-term loss of business for themselves.


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THE SUCCESSFUL HIGH STREET Writer Christo Hall and photographer Stuart Leech have been documenting the inventive ways independent businesses find space to trade around one of London’s most diverse high streets. But can these be incorporated into local regeneration plans?

As part of a two-year photojournalism project, Subject to Change, London-based photographer Stuart Leech and I have chatted to hundreds of Peckham locals. Listening to them it struck us how much attention the council, the media, and others pay to innovative new developments such as Peckham Levels, Peckham Palms shopping arcade, and the remodelling of Peckham Rye station, and how little to some of Peckham’s most popular retail spots, which are no less innovative and often take the form of improvised micro retail spaces that provide for a variety of ethnic groups who live in the area. Through ingenious uses of space, including shared occupancy of larger shops and the utilisation of spare nooks and crannies in the urban infrastructure, small independent traders have maximised what is now a crowded and oversubscribed high street. At 1 Rye Lane, a 150-year-old former department store was turned into a nightclub and now houses a reggae CD store, a taxi office and a barber. Under Peckham Rye railway viaduct, a vape store is squeezed into a narrow disused railway space; micro mobile phone units subdivide a grocery store and butcher; and long-term streetfood and fruit-and-veg stalls fill narrow alleyways that were once driveways for department store deliveries. Much of this is also documented in Ordinary Streets, filmed around Peckham by Sophie Yetton and based on high street research led by Suzanne Hall at LSE Cities. The film found that such places provide more than just essential goods and services, they are financially beneficial too: ‘A mobile phone operator in Rye Lane would need 1-2 sq m of space but would produce a rental yield of £500 per sq m each month. That is comparable to Knightsbridge.’ A well-used shopfront that looks tatty and dilapidated to one person is genuine and welcoming to another. Regeneration is often disproportionately informed by the aesthetics and opinions of those who rarely shop in these spaces. However, the innovation and business success shown in and around places such as Rye Lane needs to play a central role in the future of London’s high streets otherwise rents for larger units will make only chain stores likely to prosper. This should be welcomed and incorporated into local regeneration strategies not, as is so often the case, ignored. 43

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Micro mobile phone stores Micro mobile phone stores require very little space as they function mostly as a service – fixing phones and cracked screens, making adjustments and improvements. Inside a grocery shop in the rundown, soon-to-bedemolished buildings on the forecourt of Peckham Rye station, Abdul (pictured in his grocer’s shop) has opened a small phone store, a cheaper alternative to a unit on a high street which can price out smaller businesses. He says: ‘I’ve been quoted £500 p/w for a space on Rye Lane. They’re hard to come by and they aren’t cheap. I won’t have this space for long but it’s a start.' Likewise Ibrahim, and his brother have run their phone store in shared space at 1 Rye Lane for the past 15 years.


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Ali Baba’s Barber Peckham’s strong West African demographic supports myriad hair, nail and beauty stores on Rye Lane, Blenheim Grove, Choumert Road and in the arcades off Rye Lane. Ali Baba’s Barber is one of many improvised units in the alleyway next to Peckham Rye railway bridge; others include a grocery stall and several food units. An African church uses space in the offices above WOW clothing store, while behind is a car park, restaurant, food stalls and a warehouse, making for an exceptionally mixed-use space. 45

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CrossFit Peckham The light industrial spaces and former warehouses of the Bussey Building, just off Rye Lane, and the adjacent Copeland Park are densely mixed use and cater for diverse needs including tattoo artists, African churches, galleries, cinemas, ceramic studios, yoga studios, an architecture firm and shared workspaces. One of the larger units in Copeland Park is occupied by CrossFit Peckham, a fitness gym that has been run by Gareth and Zade for the past five years. After a long search, they will soon be moving to another, larger unit in Copeland Park, part of a merry-go-round of agile proprietors constantly looking to adapt to their business needs. Despite similar moves by a meatpacking business and an African church, finding space in Peckham has become a struggle as the once undesirable area has become attractive and oversubscribed.

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See more of the Subject to Change photojournalism project at FIND OUT MORE The LSE Cities film Ordinary Streets is available to view on YouTube The London Society will be running a series of events on the theme of The High Street throughout 2019 47

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Case Study




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Open Barbers is the UK’s first Trans-led hair salon, which primarily engages with the LGBTQI community. Led by Greygory Vass and Felix Lane, Open Barbers aims to celebrate people’s appearance the way they want to be seen. In 2016, artist Amy Pennington undertook a five-month residency at the hair salon, funded by Arts Council England. During this time she drew 200 hair portraits of people who had just had their hair cut. The pictures trace their sitters’ hair only – no face shape, no identifying features – and have been compiled into a ‘Look Book’ for the salon. The Look Book is a catalogue of hair style ideas that clients can choose from, without the limiting associations of gender, age or attractiveness that hairdresser’s images normally impose. At the centre of all this lies the relationship between Amy and her subjects: ‘The portrait is a way of having a conversation.' The drawings point beyond the realm of appearance: they are the catalyst for a relationship, and a document of what takes place.


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Either way it's from space

After each portrait, she invites the person who has been drawn to give the work a title, based on what they have been talking or thinking about whilst being drawn. These titles draw attention to the relationships between the sitters and herself, and therefore the relationships at the centre of any performance of identity. Before they leave, she gives the sitter a carbon copy of the work. These tracings are partial memories of the process of the image – they don’t record every line that has been drawn, but they do include smudges and echoes of the movements of Amy's hand. A 100-copy limited edition look book was launched alongside an exhibition entitled Assuming too much which included all 200 drawings and a cardboard installation of a barber's chair and hairdressing paraphernalia.


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Queer magical realism

The London Society will be running a series of events on the theme of The High Street throughout 2019


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ORGANICALLY DOES IT John Myers on why London YIMBY is campaigning for local residents to take control of their street

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and nor was London. In fact, many of our prettiest places have grown up organically over centuries, without a plan and often with irregular rooflines that seem to terrify some planning authorities if you suggest them today.

coordinated build, it also meant homeowners were forced to bend over backwards to guarantee all the work happened at once – a near impossible task that has needlessly prevented provision of more attractive housing. If you want to see what happens when London does embrace organic growth and infill building, look no further than some of its most cherished neighbourhoods:

Our Better Streets housing campaign is calling for residents of each street to be able to choose collectively how to let their street grow better over time, setting a design code for the street and planning permissions for every building. That would let homeowners choose to extend or even replace if and when they want to, rather than being required to do it all at once. Although the well documented ‘Fitzroofs’ project in Primrose Hill allowed residents of Fitzroy Square in Primrose Hill to build a single storey addition to their properties as part of a


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Hampstead One of the best-known chocolatebox London villages, Hampstead grew up over centuries. Hovels were knocked down for grander Georgian buildings which were in turn replaced by mid-rise Victoriana. And yet it is eye-wateringly gorgeous in many places. Here we have John Constable’s house on Well Walk, near the Heath.


Originally farmland and then a royal park, Soho has been developed piecemeal for generations. It has had its seedy moments but that doesn’t detract from the charm of, say, Soho Square or Meard Street.


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Berkeley Square – one of the original pieces of garden-grabbing – is full of different buildings, as is the rest of Mayfair. The wealthy who built their houses over the centuries often didn't worry about it matching the house next door. And yet the overall effect can be stunning. Covent Garden Another piece of garden-grabbing – the clue is in the name – Covent Garden today is a muddled collection of townhouses, mansion blocks, tenements and warehouses. That hasn't stopped it becoming a place where many people would love to live.

Fitzrovia Parts of Fitzrovia, like the imposing grandeur of Fitzroy Square, originally belonged to great estates, but other parts have grown up without order. And yet Charlotte Street is sought out by tourists and locals alike.


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Primrose Hill You’ll notice that many of the buildings down the east side of Primrose Hill don’t match one another, unlike the grand Nash terraces of Regent’s Park to the south. And yet the hill where Blake famously ‘conversed with the spiritual sun’ continues to draw generation after generation. Oxford Street It might surprise you but there are still a few Edwardian beauties on Oxford Street that survived the war and the aftermath, like the old Waring and Gillow at 164-182 and of course the Selfridges building. Needless to say, they were built at different times, to different designs. Imagine if the rest of it looked like this.

Highgate Running down the eastern side of the Heath, are these different roof heights a disaster, or rather charming? In spite of its leafy setting, this neighbourhood has many more homes per acre than most of London. Marylebone Much of Marylebone is owned by the Portman Estate but it shows a glorious range of different styles and heights, together with some of the highest accommodation per acre in London. A quick stroll down Marylebone High Street will convince you that charm doesn’t have to appear all at once.

If you'd like to learn more about Better Streets – perhaps you’d like to create more space for your own growing family or increase your house value by getting much more ambitious permissions – get in touch at John Myers is the co-founder of London YIMBY


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Photo: Matt Brown under Creative Commons Attribution - ShareAlike 4.0 International

It is a principle of good urban design that before pencil reaches tracing paper, a designer needs a thorough understanding of the history and significance of the place. Great contextual development responds to history and our most successful places have history at their heart. Gillian Tindall’s seminal urban history, The Fields Beneath, continuously in print now for over 40 years, takes one London village – Kentish Town – and applies a thoughtful historical lens to encourage a rich and deep understanding of urban layers. This approach can happen in any place, and knowing that former field boundaries, rivers and earlier settlement patterns have influenced modern routes, street names and architectural design can enrich a development and the lives of people there now. At Historic England we were pleased to be long engaged in discussions that have transformed St Pancras and King’s Cross railway stations, both Grade I works of architecture and infrastructure. For many years these termini were down at heel but they are now firmly at the heart of a thriving neighbourhood. At King’s Cross, a robust industrial heritage including the Regent’s Canal, railway works, warehouses and the triplet of gas holders have meaningfully shaped the redevelopment. New uses into redundant structures demonstrate the possibility of keeping the integrity and character of the historic environment even if grain stores become art colleges, gasometers become housing and pocket parks, and canal basins morph into joyful fountains.

A little to the west, the future redevelopment at Euston can take heed. Here, the 1960s witnessed a tragic conservation loss when Euston Station and its extraordinary entrance, the vast Greek propylaeum that announced the arrival of the railway age, was demolished and rebuilt, rejecting not only the historic architecture but the context of its surroundings. If we accept that the best of London draws on historical context to create wonderful new places, then with the arrival of HS2 there is a remarkable opportunity here. Reopening links to the historic surrounding neighbourhoods as well as honouring the lamented Euston Arch in some way as part of Euston’s placemaking could mean a new station befitting Stephenson’s great heritage. For London’s future to have meaning as a great world capital the past is the magic ingredient. But this heritage needs to be inclusive – not just the architecture of the establishment but the fabric of all of us who have played a role in our capital’s past. Listing is


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CONTEXT MESSAGE History provides the roots for great places, says Emily Gee

Photo: Ewan Munro under Creative Commons\ Attribution - ShareAlike 4.0 International

one crucial way of identifying significance and it is important to recognise London’s diverse environment before contemplating change. The National Heritage List has been strengthened in recent years to capture a broader range of special interest as found in buildings and sites that bear witness to less represented histories: Brixton Market, the Royal Vauxhall Tavern and the former Ada Lewis Women’s Lodging House, for example. Conservation areas and local lists similarly need to tell the stories of our communities across their breadth and depth, and the best do. These designations provide policy hooks to protect significance and encourage quality design which can help make good places a part of everyone’s landscape. A more inclusive London will be one that respects and builds on our diverse urban history while recognising the community cohesion that a shared understanding of place can encourage.

Emily Gee is London Planning Director at Historic England


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Places change. Across generations and centuries our cities and towns grow, evolve and develop, moving forward to respond to fashions and tastes as much as function, politics and economy. We see this pattern in all its guises across London: from Georgian mews once filled with hay and horseshoes, now luxurious family homes, to the once teeming docks of Canary Wharf, now home to towering office blocks. Take the Tower of London: built by William the Conqueror it was once the most forbidding structure in the city, but it was overwhelmed by Thomas Telford’s St Katharine Docks in the mid-19th century and dwarfed 70 years later by Tower Bridge. The towers of the 21st century are now constructed in steel and glass, with Sir Norman Foster’s ‘Gherkin’ starting the trend for an increasing number of ever higher and more creatively nick-named structures – the Walkie-Talkie, Cheese Grater and Shard. Yet all these structures, ancient and modern, are icons of London and of Britain, significant for their place in the history of the city and its people, essential for telling its story. The towers of the Thames are just one of an endless supply of examples showing how history, heritage and culture are not static, and never have been. Nor should they ever be. London’s growth shows no sign of slowing and Londoners’ appetite for unique modern architecture is as strong as their desire to protect significant historic buildings and create affordable residential communities. None of these things need be mutually exclusive; the key to successful growth is understanding place – its history and culture, what came before and how

Heather Jermy urges us to look deeper than the city’s physical structures to find the essence of a place. Only then will we understand what’s truly worth preserving


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that could work better in the future. We need to be not just responsive and respectful to heritage, but also to look at the history that survives (and often thrives) then use this as the seed to grow the idea of change, whether through adaptive re-use of a listed building or by looking at longlost historic street patterns as an influence for new development. There was an interesting turn of events following the Great Fire in 1666. Once the smoke had cleared and the damage could be surveyed, five masterplans for the rebuilding of the city were prepared. The designers were an eclectic mix with submissions from architects Sir Christopher Wren and Valentine Knight, scientist Robert Hooke, writer John Evelyn, and cartographer Richard Newcourt. The responses were just as varied, from boulevards and plazas to repetitive grids and squares, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Yet none came to fruition. Whilst Charles II was reviewing the plans (he favoured Wren’s) and contemplating sources of funding, the people of London started rebuilding on the same plots using the same medieval street patterns. Of course the practical reasons for this population-led rebuilding are clear: the immediate need for commerce and residence. However, I can’t help but wonder if the sense of familiarity and reflection of what came before was comforting in the wake of such tragedy. Instead of a grand new masterplan, a soft approach was adopted, widening existing roads, limiting building heights and encouraging the use of stone and brick over timber. These late 17th century

buildings have now largely been lost, either through need to expand upwards or further tragedies such as the Second World War, but we can still experience the surviving street patterns today and should be grateful that the grand sweeping away of London did not take place: a lesson to be equally taken on board today. How, then, to progress? Not through holistic preservation of the past, which by its nature can inhibit growth, nor pastiche or facadism, which confuse the context of what remains and turn cities into museums. Instead we must truly understand what is important about places and how they have evolved, carefully unpicking the tangible heritage – the stone that was carved by a known medieval mason or the unique staircase designed by a noteworthy English architect – from the intangible, such as the openness and tranquillity of a Georgian square, or the changing communities of neighbourhoods like Brick Lane. Only once we appreciate the importance of what we have can we make sensitive but progressive decisions about what can be adapted, extended, constructed and even demolished, all of which will contribute to the ongoing story of London.

Heather Jermy is a partner at specialist heritage architects and consultants Purcell


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SAVIOURS OF THE CITY In the City of London, the balance between development and heritage has never been more sensitive. Just look at what the Evening Standard called 'London’s Soaring Skyline.’ It's amazing to think that it was less than 20 years ago that the Eastern Cluster around St Mary Axe and Leadenhall Street emerged and the City expanded. The City planners receive an average of 1,250 planning applications a year. In the past five years, five planning applications have been granted for skyscrapers more than 140m tall, and 30 for between 50m and 150m, mostly under delegated powers, without being debated by City councillors in planning committee or by the Conservation Area Advisory Committee. As well as having a wealth of heritage, the City is also the world’s leading financial centre with a robust and comprehensive Victorian rail and underground network to service commuters; there will therefore always be a need for office development for those working in the City. So how do we balance conservation and development?

The City of London has perhaps the country's greatest concentration of heritage structures, dating back to the foundation of London itself. So how do its guardians operate to protect its interests? And where could we do better? Anne Thomas, former chair of the City Heritage Society, explains

setting up of the 1967 Civic Amenities Act, later the Planning (Listed Building and Conservation Areas) Act 1990. The act sought to protect not only buildings, but areas of special architectural or historic interest. By 1976, eight Conservation Areas had been designated in the City and a Conservation Area Advisory Committee (CAAC) established to look at any new development proposals that might 'enhance' or 'harm' a conservation area. As the CAAC did not originally represent residents, Director of the Fire Protection Association and Conservationist, Douglas Woodward founded the City Heritage Society in 1973, the amenity society for the whole City, recognised as such by the Civic Trust. Unlike the CAAC it aims to look at all City planning applications, not just those in conservation areas. (Douglas was awarded a CBE for his work in the City of London.) Members of the CAAC, which meets every three weeks in Guildhall, are drawn from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), RIBA, national and city societies, the Architects’ Livery Company, and representatives from the City of London Ward Clubs. However, as the City’s 26 conservation areas together cover just a third of the Square Mile, only about 10 per cent of applications ever come before the CAAC. Although City Heritage now has a representative on the CAAC, unless a particular member brings up a planning application not on the agenda, high-rise buildings outside the

Formation of the CAAC In the 1950s and 1960s, planners' desire to re-build a 'modern' London led to extravagant road-widening plans. The widening of Lower Thames Street in the City and the destruction of the magnificent Coal Exchange and other historic buildings contributed just as much as the more famous campaign against the destruction of Covent Garden Market to the 62

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conservation areas are not brought before the committee. Protective powers Even so, the views of both CAAC and City Heritage are effective. City Heritage opposed the Mies van der Rohe skyscraper proposed for No 1 Poultry in 1982 on terms of townscape as well as height, leading to its ultimate rejection. It seems fitting that its neighbour, Edwin Lutyens long-vacant former Midland Bank headquarters, now sensitively converted into an hotel, received the 2018 City Heritage Society Annual Award for Conservation. City Heritage committee members have always protected the historic lanes and alleyways in the City and, with CAAC, have protected open spaces and churchyards, making the City an attractive place in which to work.


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It also, together with the Painter-Stainers’ Company, selects the best conservation project for an annual award, presented by the Lord Mayor, to encourage good design. The Worshipful Company of Chartered Architects, founded in 1984 (a decade after City Heritage) by Stuart Murphy, City Architect and Planning Officer, James Thomas his former Deputy in the City Corporation of London, and others, is also keen to promote good design in the City. Having inaugurated an annual awards scheme for refurbishment projects, recently they have given their main awards to new buildings.

the City has always responded to development proposals, rather than initiating them. The City may have high-rise buildings of character, but development is uncoordinated, harming conservation areas and straying ever westwards towards St Paul’s. Two other concerns remain. Firstly, the thousands of commuters expected in the City with the opening of Crossrail, meaning we may need to consider a high-level walkway, partial pedestrianisation, and new green spaces. Another 6,000 are expected at ‘The Diamond’, the new 250m high skyscraper planned at 100 Leadenhall. Architects SOM have worked closely with the City planners to create a new pedestrian route, but circulation remains an urgent problem and more imaginative public realm may be needed across the City. The second concern is for spaces outside conservation areas. In Lower Thames Street it is extremely difficult for a pedestrian to cross the road, and air pollution is still a major issue.

Take the planning initiative One policy that has not encouraged good design is the protected views policy relating to the ‘St Paul’s Heights’. While successfully prohibiting any development that might destroy long and short-distant views of St Paul’s, it has allowed some buildings with corners and roofs sliced off. This has not made for good design. Although there is a City Plan, 64

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Riverside revival And then there are the great car parks at Blackfriars and by the City Livery Club, where there were once historic wharves and warehouses. Liverpool (now a World Heritage Site) and Swansea retain warehouses by the riverside as museums and restaurants, and offer much from which we can learn. There are various proposals to complete the Thames Walkway through the City, including a floating Thames Path and a ‘Culture Mile’ to the Barbican. Perhaps there will one day be schemes beside the river for a worldclass, low-rise Opera House or Shakespearean Theatre, and a museum at Queenhithe, the Custom House, or Old Billingsgate revealing the City’s history as the leading port in the world. Perhaps there will also be an increased number of conservation areas in the City. Meanwhile, as applications for development in the City become even more persistent, there is a continued need to improve the quality of new development, and to repair and restore the built environment we have inherited, to

the high standards we all continue to work towards in the CAAC and City Heritage Society. This is an edited extract from a talk given to the Worshipful Company of Chartered Architects. Since then, the City of London Corporation HAS increased the number of pedestrian areas in ‘The Square Mile’, and HAS designated a 27th, mainly residential, Barbican and Golden Lane Conservation Area. It may be that the CAAC may need to appoint a new heritage member to their committee to counter the increasing ‘harm’ from pedestrian movement and skyscrapers to the City’s churchyards, Livery Hall gardens and open spaces throughout the City.

Anne Thomas is Former Chairman of City Heritage Society and Former Chairman of City of London Conservation Area Advisory Committee

Photo by Kid Circus on Unsplash


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CONSTRUCTING PLACES, BUILDING TRUST Jessica Cargill Thompson on the need for using fine-grained understanding of neighbourhood identity and meaningful public engagement to rebuild trust


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'I'm absolutely fuming,' says Dave (not his real name) as he holds forth from his barstool in the Lord Nelson pub on South London’s Old Kent Road. 'We're never consulted on any of this… none of it's for us… Do they ever come and talk to us?… They promise us one thing then just do what the developers want anyway… What's the point? It just makes me really angry.' This is a condensed version of an actual conversation I had recently, but it's a refrain I've heard at every local Area Action Plan consultation session I've attended over the past two years while exploring the identity of the Old Kent Road for my MSc research. I've heard it at similar meetings around other regeneration schemes. I've read it in the media – national and social. I've seen it in reports by august organisations, and in the work of highly respected academics. In short, we have reached a monumental breakdown in trust between local authorities and local people, between the gatekeepers of London's neighbourhoods, and those who live in them. It goes in both directions: just as local people no longer believe their council is on their side, local authorities, and the developers they offer their land to, appear no longer to value local communities. A report in 2016 by the Centre for London, supported by Barratt, cites 'decline in trust' as one of the main reasons people oppose new residential development in their area. Of course there are multiple complex and deep-grained social, economic, and political reasons why we find ourselves in this predicament. One possible route out, however, is through community engagement. Getting engaged All developers and local authorities will tell you that they do 'community engagement'. Often what they mean is that they've pinned some plans up in the local tenants association hall for a couple of afternoons and got some of the suits from head office to come down to explain the plans and (not) answer queries. They've issued surveys with questions like 'would you like better quality homes?' and used 'yes' as a mandate for demolishing the lesser quality ones that people still live in without providing a replacement they can afford. They may hold 'consultation forums', which can provide an opportunity for local people to ask questions, but which can also be intimidating, poorly publicised, held at inconvenient times, and vulnerable to being hijacked by more vocal community members and lone activists with their own agendas (every neighbourhood has them). All this tends to take place to discuss existing plans. Which, at the risk of sounding pedantic, is technically 'presentation' rather than 67

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'engagement'. What's missing is listening to and learning from the experts – local people. People who know the area’s social history, how people live, what they need and how they use the public realm. People like Dave. Engagement means constructing a fine-grained, highly nuanced picture of an area’s identity, through the simple act of talking to local people. It means creative collaboration on future plans. Crucially, for local authorities and developers, it would also mean incorporating what is heard and learnt into planning policy and visible physical outcomes. Not ignoring it. Urban Room Old Kent Road On the Old Kent Road, currently the subject of a widespread draft Area Action Plan that heralds dramatic change, community group Action OKR is in talks with Southwark Council about setting up an Urban Room as a space for more effective community engagement. The idea is that the enterprise would act as a critical friend to the council and developers, an independent two-way communication channel between community and authority that will engage local residents and businesses in planning the future of the Old Kent Road. Small steps towards mutual trust and understanding. This is a highly mixed neighbourhood: more than 800 businesses and manufacturers; residential tower blocks and listed Georgian terraces; a busy multicultural high street as well as windswept car park-based retail; more than 50 churches; a traditional white, working class social history; a strong West African community; and a major arterial road. Such complexities cannot be represented in bird's-eye masterplans and quantitative data; they demand a more qualitative approach to understanding what is there. The plan at the time of writing is to use an empty councilowned shop on the Old Kent Road as a hub. A highly visible, democratic space that's easy to find even if you aren't looking for it, and less intimidating than a large public meeting. Ideally this would hold information on everything planned and mooted for the Old Kent Road, find ways of communicating these in an accessible way, host creative events and workshops, collect local information and opinion, and feed this back to the local authority. If enough resources were forthcoming, it could break this vast, complex Opportunity Area down into manageable, human-scale sections and help develop fine-grained local regeneration plans.


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Rather than expecting everyone in this diverse and widely spread community to come to it, it would also go out to them. Continuing the conversation in pubs, in schools, with lunch groups, at bus stops‌ As well as support from local people, Urban Room OKR has attracted £15,000 from the GLA's Crowdfund London initiative, and in-kind support from Southwark Council. After the catastrophic handling of regeneration of the borough's Heygate Estate and Elephant & Castle area, councillors say they are keen to up their community engagement game. Arguably it is the sort of thing that should be properly funded with paid staff, not reliant on volunteers, and be set up as a matter of course, not once an Area Action Plan is close to being rubber- stamped. The 2014 Farrell Review ( advised 'every town and city without an architecture and built environment centre should have an 'urban room' where the past, present and future of that place can be inspected.' I would add to 'inspected' the words 'discussed, analysed and participated in'. This is not about objecting to development. It is about creating a fine-grained picture of a neighbourhood and using this to inform how it is developed in the future. It's about maintaining and evolving local identities, making more meaningful places. It's in the interests of local residents, local authorities, and global developers. And it's in the interests of the future of London.

Jessica Cargill Thompson is a member of Action OKR, a community group setting up an Urban Room for public engagement on the Old Kent Road Find out more at and also on the new council-run website The Old Kent Road will feature in the London Society's 2019 series of themed events on high streets 70

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A London notebook By Geoff Tuffs

Blackwall and the Isle of Dogs Friday 1 September 2000 DLR to West India from where I shall walk to Blackwall. Over to my right are two towers under construction next door to No 1 Canada Square. Billingsgate is sited on Aspen Way and with an insipid name like that I could be in suburbia but clearly I’m not. Way ahead is a McDonald’s golden arch and below a pale wide sky is the enormous space of east London hereabout. After Blackwall station, I turn right into a wide, busy road with no name as yet, which is bordered by a long stretch of old dock wall some 12 to 15 feet high. I turn left into St Lawrence Street where there’s a short terrace of cottages of the same name opposite the curiously named Gaselee Street, the only bit of old, apart from the dock wall (along Prestons Road, I now discover) I’ve seen so far. A short but now redundant dock entrance brings the Dome massively into view across the river on the Greenwich Peninsula and I’m able to walk past new flats at the end of a quay where I’m rewarded by a panoramic sweep of the Thames at high water looking up river to the old Greenwich power station with Flamsteed House just visible on its hill in Greenwich Park. A Thames sailing barge passes close enough for me to identify it as the Lady Daphne and in turn it passes another barge sailing downriver over towards the Dome, both sailing comfortably under power with all sail furled. Behind me, close to, are several old houses which have riverfront back gardens. These properties provide some relief to the relentless modernity of all the other property I’ve seen. I return to the road then immediately cut off down Cold Harbour, which is setted in part and presents an agreeably quaint aspect, and contains the old houses, the backs


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of which I have just viewed from the river. These include ‘Isle House’, a substantial, detached two-storey yellow-brick house, late Georgian I would say and having wide overhanging eaves and steps up to the front door. Before Cold Harbour bends back to Prestons Road, I find the The Gun, where I believe we had a beer years ago when we lived at Heathfield House. I carry on into the Isle of Dogs rather than trying to locate Blackwall proper, if indeed Blackwall has a ‘proper’ – I’m reminded of Gertrude Stein who, referring to some place or other, made the observation that when you got there, you found there was no there there! I’m in Manchester Road now and I walk as far the junction with Marsh Wall and East Ferry Road; the Queen of the Isle pub is on the corner. An Asian bloke hoots me and asks for the whereabouts of a hotel, but I don’t know. There are more new flats and a short riverside walk at the end of Stewart Street, at the back of which is the squat and strange Isle of Dogs Pumping Station. This is a newish building, pedimented with a river façade containing what looks like a jet turbine in the centre flanked by two squat half columns which have grotesque and garishly coloured lattice-work capitals. There seems to be an ancient Egyptian cut about this building, but I’m unable to say exactly why. Verily, London can always pull a surprise.

Geoff has been writing his London notebook for 46 years; excerpts first appeared in the Journal of the London Society in 1998


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Deserter Blog: Humorous ramblings, and lots of pubs. Tagline: 'Shirk, rest and play' Diamond Geezer: Indefatigable daily observational out and about around London The Great Wen: The blog of hugely knowledgeable writer Peter Watts Ian Visits: Geeky places and offbeat events 'the more obscure the better' A London Inheritance: Exploring London via vintage photographs Londonist: Quirky facts and historical minutiae mixed with what's on listings London Reconnections: Really thorough, well-informed, in-depth stuff for transport lovers


In a departure from our regular series on How to Build Your Own London Library, scanning our bookshelves for old favourites about the capital, this issue we have gone high tech and have gathered together some of our favourite independent London websites and blogs, and a few that members have recommended


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Look Up London: Blue Badge Guide Katie Wignall shows us the city from a different angle MayorWatch: News and comment website run by Martin Hoscik covering the London Assembly

Brockley Central: One of the best of the community notice board sites From The Murky Depths: Those depths being Greenwich and South East London

Spitalfields Life: People and their stories, from The Gentle Author

Inside Croydon: News and views from this feisty outer-London borough

Local heroes

853 blog: Holding borough councillors to account in South East London

Leytonstoner: Championing Leytonstone from before it was cool. Sister site to Kentishtowner, Gasholder (King's Cross), Seventhsister, and others

Barnet Eye: Relentless anti-Tory rock ’n' roll polemics Brixton Blog: Community newspaper covering Brixton. Also available in print form as the Brixton Bugle

TOP TIPS Dave Hill of independent news website On London ( offers some advice for publishing online: 1. Define your subject matter clearly. 2. Think about who you are writing it for. 3. Try to write new stuff fairly regularly, even if you don’t do it that often. 4. Use Twitter, Facebook, etc. to promote your latest articles/posts. 5. Don’t publish misleading, selective or inaccurate material – we have newspapers for that sort of thing! As for making money…you probably won’t! Google ad revenues are tiny unless you get a lot of hits, and the ads can make your site look ugly. Be warned: effective crowdfunding campaigns require a lot of preparation and effort. I’m very proud of mine, and grateful to everyone who contributed, but it was knackering!


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FROM THE ARCHIVES Mark Prizeman revisits past Journals to find out what the London Society was up to 50 and 100 years ago

50 years ago: Greenbelts, London Estates and early thoughts for a Congestion Charge A report on a ‘Greenbelt Drive in Surrey’ with maps and commentary given by the County planning members and Officers of the County who planned the route, concludes that: ‘Surrey is indeed to be congratulated on the beauty of its countryside and the care they are taking to preserve so much for the delight of future generations.’ A couple of visits to interesting London buildings housing other societies are noted along with a talk by Stuart Weir given to the Society on De Beauvoir Town in Hackney that is reported in full ‘by way of an experiment [as we] are only half way through our researches into the past of the area, and my talk is one way of finding out just how much we have discovered – and how interesting it is,’ part of an ongoing lecture programme on the London Estates. A talk by the Editor of the Builder, Ian M Leslie, recounts his covering the London Society Meetings for the paper. ‘We always regarded the Society’s influence as being a wonderful example of the voice of public conscience in amenity matters, and it was remarkable how many times its influence made itself felt.' Illustrated by photographs of the Shell Centre, the Royal College of Physicians and the Vickers Building at Millbank, a piece on the addition of towers to the London skyline stated: ‘High buildings in London have always caused concern, either because people want to put them

up – or want to to pull them down. The Collcutt Tower at South Kensington is among the latter.’ ‘...much of the [Builder’s] pages were taken up with preservation Campaigns. This had had something to do with the influence… of the late Raffles Davison [a founder member of the London Society and ‘one of the great perspective artists of his time’]. The great wave of building that followed on the end of the War had made developers careless of amenity, a state of things that, in our excellent English way, produced a counter-revolution in the form of militant preservationists, of whom many were members of this Society.' Martin also notes that the Builder’s involvement with the late 1920s Society Campaign for the Charing Cross Bridge would have cost less than what actually was done and would have supported an early form of the Congestion Charge, banning inessential traffic from Central London.

December 1968 and March 1969 This year the Society will again be running a series of events on the London Estates. See the whole programme and book at


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100 years ago: A sell-out talk on the Channel Tunnel, and those pesky city-building Victorians Wartime editorial commentary by Henry Leaning discusses many possible planning initiatives that could be taken: ‘We have undoubtedly several areas in the heart of London that would amply repay for reconstruction from every point of view, such, for instance, as Soho, the district around Waterloo Station, and the land on both sides of Victoria Street.' A lecture by Sir Arthur Fell MP on ‘London and the Channel Tunnel' had an overflow audience with distinguished attendees noted. A section of John Dryden’s 1666 poem Annus Mirabilis, which prophesies the rebirth of a new city from the fire, is taken by the Society as being applicable to the ‘present time' - September 1918 revealing the view of the ravages of the Victorians as being as destructive as the Great Fire. Little did they know… A report in the Evening Standard asks for all the ‘useless and massive‘ railings around St Paul’s and all gardens and parks to be removed to make them look better and be accessible. The second Editorial ‘The Emblems of Victory' justifies the Sociey’s pet project for the replacement of Charing Cross as being a fit memorial. Old Southwark is discussed in a paper by Mr. Fredk. Winkley: ‘No part of London carried less obviously on its face the record of its history than Southwark; there was so little that

appealed to the imagination and sense of beauty.' A list of 12 City churches threatened with demolition was published in the Gentleman’s Magazine in 1834, of which half survived ‘the fangs of the destroyers'. London Society co-founder David Niven earlier had pleaded for the saving of St Olave’s church in Southwark – squashed in 1926 under the Hay’s Wharf building. The imminent publication of London of the Future – a compilation of 12 essays edited by Sir Aston Webb and published by the London Society in 1920 – is noted along with the comment on the repressed wartime publication of the Society Plan, that it would have probably confused the Germans even more. Temporary blots on the landscape, high-speed Tube links, saving London squares and short courses on town planning & housing all jostle around the perennial problem of the Society’s slogan: ‘Before the war there was much discussion at our committee regarding a suitable motto for the Society, and this discussion has been revived. Suggestions from members will be appreciated.' And 100 years later, we’ve come up with a new one.

September 1918 and January 1919


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Book Reviews

Cook’s Camden: The Making of Modern Housing By Mark Swenarton (Lund Humphries, £45)

Cook’s Camden: The Making of Modern Housing By Mark Swenarton Jonathan Manns

Cook’s Camden is a comprehensive, inviting and ultimately appreciative work of scholarship on the borough’s council house building programme from 1965-1973. Well evidenced and attractively designed, it concisely assesses both aspiration and delivery through the lens of those who shaped the programme. In doing so, it simultaneously functions as an introduction, reference and guide. The book takes its name from Sydney Cook, Camden Borough Architect from 1965 to 1973, who oversaw a period of expansive and progressive public-sector building which pushed the boundaries of design. In 1965 the newly formed Borough of Camden was the richest in London and had a clear left-wing leaning: housing was an expression of its power and politics. A new policy of ‘municipalisation’ (buying existing properties) rather than construction was then introduced in 1973, which marked the beginning of the end; even the architects' department disbanded in the 1980s amid a backlash against such projects, fuelled by cost overruns and the recessions of the 1970s. Cook’s team of young architects were empowered to challenge and innovate. A small group of early-career professionals were untypically put at the forefront, including Neave Brown, Peter Tabori, Gordon Benson and Alan Forsyth. Cook’s stewardship would heavily influence the careers of each. Brown, as his most famous acolyte, was so tarnished by the association that he never worked in Britain again, yet he is now the only architect to have all of his British work listed and was awarded the Royal Institute of British Architects’ Gold Medal in 2017, some three months before his death. Swenarton’s book is, in this regard, a reflection of how times change.

Municipal Dreams: The rise and fall of council housing By John Boughton Peter Watts Built: The hidden stories behind our structures By Roma Agrawal Sarah Eley A Place for All People By Richard Rogers and Richard Brown Lettie McKie Black Lily By Philippa Stockley Anna Sullivan Rings Around London: Orbital motorways and the battle for homes before roads By Wayne Asher Neil Bennett Project Interrupted: Lectures by British Housing Architects Lettie Mckie

The London Society and John Sandoe Books We have partnered with the independent bookseller John Sandoe Books so that members can order books reviewed in the Journal and on the website, as well as a carefully chosen selection of other interesting titles about the capital. Books can be held at their King's Road shop for collection, or posted anywhere in the UK or abroad. The London Society will receive 10 per cent of the sale price of most of the books ordered through the shop. To browse the titles or to order, visit 78

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The passage of half a century has provided the opportunity to look beyond the segregated traffic, bare facades and dark-stained wooden windows, to paint a more optimistic picture. Swenarton’s richly detailed historical analysis, illustrated by plans, sections, sketches and photos, reveals what makes this cadre so unique for their time and what was at the heart of their work: a focus on outside space (arranged around terraces, streets and squares) with internal layouts which maximise the sense of light and openness. Cook’s Camden robustly covers the background of key schemes including the political battles which accompanied their birth and the aftermath. A helpful touch is the timeline of projects against national and local government parties, politicians and borough staff. There are also interviews with surviving members of the team, richly layered with half-memories and anecdotes. This lends an engaging, human quality, which brings the analysis to life. Recollections of Sydney Cook by Neave Brown, Frank Dobson and others add an intimate and personal touch. Much consideration is given to larger schemes such as the Babylonian Fleet Road (196667/1978), Battlestar Galactica-esque Alexandra Road (1967-69/1979), layered Highgate New Town (1968-74/1979), Polygon Road (1969-71/1976) and Maiden Lane (1972-75/1982). Yet Swenarton also looks at the work of architects such as Alan Colquhoun and John Miller, whose infill schemes show thought of a different scale. A list of all 38 new-build housing projects initiated under Cook and those responsible, in addition to a map showing their geographical spread, make it suitable not only for the coffee table but for more adventurous use on-the-road.

Swenarton, quite rightly, does not claim that every element was perfect. Waxham in Gospel Oak could easily provoke the same hostility it did when built, whilst Maiden Lane suffered like many schemes of its time from poor social and environmental management. Accessibility and fire regulations were different, as was the emphasis on the private car. What Cook’s Camden does manage to celebrate, though, is an approach to thinking about the design and delivery of homes. It reminds us about the importance of place, the interaction between people and the power of belief in the role that design can play in improving lives. This remains as important now as ever before.

Reviewed by Jonathan Manns Jonathan Manns is a Board Director at Rockwell Property


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Municipal Dreams: The rise and fall of council housing By John Boughton (Verso, £18.99) News that a book has been commissioned on the back of a popular Twitter account is often a cause for eyebrow-raising annoyance peppered with professional jealousy, but that wasn’t the case when Verso announced they’d be publishing the first book by John Boughton, who tweets as @municipaldreams. That’s because Boughton’s tweets – and his superb blog of the same name – are on the history of social housing, about which Boughton has become a sort of house historian. On his blog, Boughton studies in detail a different housing estate with each post, describing its social history and architectural appearance before, in most cases, exploring the various ways it has been neglected by local councils committed to Thatcherism, either by force or ideology. In Municipal Dreams, he takes a broad overview of the history of council housing from the Victorian era to the present day. Although there are occasional forays overseas to see how things are done elsewhere, his history is largely confined to England and increasingly to London, where ‘the spate of high-profile housing struggles in recent years testify to the dysfunction of the London housing market.’ Boughton is a reassuring guide through this story. He’s a sincere and convinced advocate for state-built housing and rightfully sees no shame in the ambition and idealism exhibited by post-war planners, but is neither blind to occasional failures nor so politically motivated he cannot accord success where deserved. This balance is particularly relevant in the later sections, when the consensus regarding the moral need and positive benefits of state housing was ended by Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government, whose beliefs were effectively embraced by Tony Blair’s New Labour. Boughton fumes throughout this sorry era, but also gives credit on the few occasions it has been earned. London is a major part of this story, starting with the pioneering Boundary Estate in Shoreditch, which opened in 1900 and now offers two-bed flats for a monthly rent of more than £2,000 to City bankers. Boughton takes in numerous London

estates, from the vast and rather dull Becontree Estate to the wonderful post-war estates built in Camden by Neave Brown, (see Cook's Camden review). Historical nuggets are liberally applied – a particular favourite was the news that at Stalag Luft III, the Second World War PoW camp from which the Great Escape took place, a group of prisoners took a break from depositing earth down their trousers to debate Abercrombie’s County Of London Plan. It’s the post-1979 section that feels most important though. Boughton carefully and painstakingly takes us through the various government interventions that led to the ‘residualisation’ of council estates – that’s the process by which social housing became repositories for the poorest and most desperate of society. As Boughton points out, this was not the original intention of state-built housing but it was one that was guaranteed to create a race to bottom – thus creating the selffulfilling prophecy that council estates, in and of themselves, are breeding grounds for crime and deprivation. While he’s unimpressed by New Labour’s record on housing, Boughton reserves most scorn for David Cameron’s 2016 promise to ‘blitz’ poverty by demolishing 100 of the ‘UK’s worst sink estates’, noting that the conditions Cameron decried were directly caused by the policies Cameron advocated. That brings us to the place of social housing in London’s deranged housing market. Boughton looks at various important recent London stories, including the crazed destruction of the Heygate Estate, the shameful artwashing of the Balfron Tower, Lambeth’s attempts to demolish Cressingham Gardens and Central Hill, and the campaign to protect the residents of the New Era in Hackney. He finishes with the horror story of Grenfell, pondering the role the tragedy may yet play in causing a major shift in our housing policies. Even if he underestimates the role the issue of housing played in the surprise result of the 2017 general election, Boughton ends on a note of cautious optimism, with the suggestion that the construction of public housing may once again be the subject of


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Built: The hidden stories behind our structures Roma Agrawal (Bloomsbury, £20)

a political consensus thanks to ‘the failure of the free market to provide good and affordable homes to all those who needs them’. If that still feels some time away – Labour are still not looking ready for government, the Conservatives are still afraid to admit that the flagship policy of Thatcherism, ‘right to buy’, has been a national disaster – he is surely correct that the case for a return to state-built housing will soon become too pressing to ignore.

Roma Agrawal’s passion for her subject, the structures that make up the built world we live in, shines through in her book. Agrawal takes us on her journey of discovery of the wonders of structural engineering, beginning with her experience of Manhattan’s towering skyscrapers, a city she visited as a child when her engineer father took up a job in the US. Simply titled ‘Built’, Agrawal starts her book with an exploration of force and the way it flows, as this influences the form that structures take. Hand drawn illustrations, which are peppered throughout the book, keep the reader’s mind on track and help to simplify concepts. The subsequent chapters explore the building blocks of clay, metal and rock, building up into the sky and down into the earth, tunnelling through and bridging over, and the essential delivery of clean water and the taking away of sewerage.  Quite rightly, Agrawal puts engineers at the heart of our built environment, as without their expertise, architectural designs could not be realised: ‘Imagine, for a moment,’ she writes in her final chapter, ‘a world without engineers… what do you see? More or less nothing… Engineering is a big part of what makes us human.’ Her book is therefore as much a history of humans and the built environment that we have created from Roman to modern times, as it is an accessible introduction to structural engineering. Agrawal is keen to encourage women to work in the traditionally male dominated world of structural engineering.  She highlights the work of Emily Washington Roebling who completed the complex Brooklyn Bridge when her husband became too ill to carry on, suffering from decompression sickness, also known as ‘the bends’, a result of moving from high to low pressure environment in the construction of the caissons for the bridge piers. However while her chatty written style makes this book accessible to a wide audience, she refers too often to herself as nerdy in an almost apologetic way.  I think that she simply has curiosity and enthusiasm about the built structures around us, which is inspiring and should be celebrated.

Reviewed by Peter Watts

Reviewed by Sarah Eley

Peter Watts is a London writer, and author of Up in Smoke: The Failed Dreams of Battersea Power Station (Paradise Road). He blogs at

Sarah Eley is a Senior Planner at HTA Design LLP


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A Place for All People By Richard Rogers and Richard Brown (Canongate Books, £30) There are some architects whose reputation precedes them. And then there is Richard Rogers, the original starchitect. From the first moment of this excellent coauthored autobiography the reader is plunged into Rogers’ Technicolor world of optimistic, egalitarian, wildly experimental and unapologetically modern architecture. It is impossible not to emerge starry-eyed and breathless. He and Richard Brown tell the Rogers story in a fun, accessible style that mixes personal anecdote, highlights from his career, a potted history of 20th century architecture, and political commentary. It is readable and enjoyable even for those who aren’t normally interested in architecture. Given the ‘high-tech’ nature of his work one can be forgiven for forgetting that Richard Rogers, now in his 80s, is roughly the same generation as the Queen (who has turned 92). That means, when it comes to the history of modern architecture, he has been around for a lot of it personally. For millennials it’s like the memoir you wish your grandparents could have written, giving a fascinating personal insight into the story of post-war redevelopment and the cycles of decline and regeneration, boom and bust, Tory vs Labour, that have characterised Britain since the 1950s. All this is seen via the evolution of his own practice, highlights of which are among the most intriguing chapters in the book. It all starts with 22 Parkside, the Wimbledon home that he and his first partners built for his parents. The house, recently renovated and bequeathed to the Harvard Graduate School of Design, is actually two buildings; single-storey boxes separated by a courtyard and set back from the road in the middle of ultra-conservative Wimbledon village. Now Grade II* listed, the buildings have yellow painted steel frames, pvc-coated aluminium panel side walls dotted with portholes, bookended with glass end walls, the whole structure being held together with a neoprene jointing system. The story of 22 Parkside’s conception introduces the reader to the genesis of what becomes Rogers’ calling card: flexible, sustainable buildings typified by wide open spaces and filled with light. They draw on innovations inspired by industrial buildings to fulfil their function with an aesthetic that boldly articulates this engineering. The trajectory of how he reaches this is told via a series of case studies and influences that culminate in the rollercoaster story of equal parts success and controversy that is the Pompidou Centre. Rogers is at pains to impress upon the reader that architecture is a team sport. Throughout the book he credits 82

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his partners, from Renzo Piano (with whom he collaborated on the Pompidou) to Graham Stirk and Ivan Harbour (now partners in his practice). This is a commendable attempt at myth busting his own legend but comes off as a little disingenuous. Rogers’ practice is all about his personal brand, he might not always be the only brains or, as he freely admits, the best draughtsman behind his now global operation but he is the figurehead; the success of his business depends on this just as much as on portholes, cantilevers and primary colours. Lord Rogers of Riverside is an awkward title for such a forthright socialist to possess, and it shows. As the book moves on to his years of political influence in the Blair government, the writing becomes extremely anxious to show Rogers in the best possible light. Anecdotes of skirmishes with Prince Charles, agonising over whether to accept his place in the House of Lords and opposition to the war in Iraq seem carefully chosen to dispel accusations of champagne socialism, but the long list of elite corporate clients in the RSHP portfolio jars with his calls for a more equal society. The book rightly celebrates Rogers’ huge influence over the development of modern architectural language and planning policy. There are parts of this book repeated almost word for word from his 1995 Reith Lectures and 1990 Desert Island Discs interview. It is filled with an incredible array of ideas for the future but he does occasionally let his political opinions get the better of him, particularly in the last chapter where the tone becomes irritatingly preaching. The book’s most interesting observations are on the role of good architecture as a civilising influence on society. It is his consistent belief in the possibilities of sustainable design, his drive for innovation and his advocacy for public space that redeem his more verbose political statements. He comes across best as a knowledgeable, articulate and passionate architect with vast experience and insight into how we can shape our built environment for the benefit of all people. This isn’t quite the manifesto for ‘our human future’ that a quote on the back cover claims but it is still an inspiring read, reminding us of the power of a Rogers-like optimism in the face of seemingly insurmountable urban challenges.

Reviewed by Lettie Mckie

Lettie Mckie is Head of Learning at New London Architecture and the City Centre

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Black Lily By Philippa Stockley (Pimpernel Press, £8.99) Set in 17th Century London, at the time of the plague and Great Fire, London Society member and Evening Standard writer Philippa Stockley’s latest novel follows the hardships of a young girl, Zenobia, but also tells dark stories of London itself. The narrative is sometimes told as recollection, and we first meet Zenobia near the end of her story. Of her upbringing, we learn: 'She was born in a roomy, dilapidated building at the north end of Smithfield, in a worthless part of London that the Great Fire inadvertently spared, to a Turkish father who traded spices and her unmarried mother, the girl who cleaned the rooms.' Her mother’s tale is heart-rending, and Zenobia has the strength to face everything that comes at her. Not without help, she meets some kindhearted men struggling against life's inequities, offering the reader a glimpse of an underworld beyond the delicate gloss we often use when viewing times past. Through them, Zenobia also meets Black Lily: "So far in Zenobia’s young life she had met few grown-up women who were not servants and certainly never a black one in a cloth-of-silver gown and wig from which ostrich feathers with diamond-studded quills plashed and sparked, giving her the appearance of having a fountain on her head.' Although not the main character, the eponymous Lily Bonnyface is certainly the most exotic. Equally intriguing is the shadowy figure known as ‘John Crace’, who is slowly revealed as the story unfolds. 'After the Fire, crooked builders and other chancers who seized on London’s desperation to rebuild the city had flourished. It was exactly what John Crace had done – and flourished spectacularly.' Could this be a reflection of some property developers today? Peeling back the layers of London’s history offers inspiration for many stories. 'As the afternoon lengthened towards dusk, the Ratcliffe Highway was busy, thronged with curious faces. Having crossed the city, skirted the Tower and headed east again, along East Smithfield until it turned into the Highway, Lily was desperate to turn south as soon as she could, to

lose herself in the maze of slums and docks of Wapping.' A lasting impression was made from the description of the riverside East of the City wall where Zenobia finds refuge with a blind woman after a flight from danger. The rotting timber building overlooking the foreshore, the glare of the light by the river contrasting with the claustrophobic streets and the muted echoes of working docks. London has changed so much that the imagination is the only home of such places now. Stockley’s fertile imagination has created a story of sadness and trial in a harsh and unforgiving London in the 17th Century. Throughout, the women of the story display incredible resilience, using their wits and intelligence to make their lives better. Mixing historical fact with remarkable characters, and the greed and the exploitation that surrounds them, makes our survival to this day seem all the more remarkable. An easy read, Black Lily is an ideal companion when rattling along in the Tube under the streets where this story is set. The many characters are intertwined in a web of intricate connections that will keep readers guessing.

Reviewed by Anna Sullivan 83

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Anna Sullivan is an Associate at HTA Design LLP

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Rings Around London: Orbital motorway and the battle for homes before roads By Wayne Asher (Capital Transport, £25) This 180-page book sets out the history of the proposals to provide London with five orbital rings of urban motorways, documenting the 50-year debate between the road builders, their supporters, and those Londoners who fought them off. It is difficult now to imagine the magnitude of the impact motorway rings A, B, C, D and E would have had, but as the largest civil engineering project since the Second World War, they would have cost between 60,000 and 100,000 people their homes, almost the number that were lost during the war itself. The author, Wayne Asher’s first book, A Very Political Railway, examined the near death of the North London line – from an orbital road alignment proposal – and its rebirth as a key part of the London Overground rail network. Asher, a former journalist and evidently a thorough and organised researcher, has methodically visited archives across London, and spoken first-hand to many of those involved on both sides of the argument. The narrative clearly demonstrates how over time the ‘Predict and Provide’ system of building roads was shown to be a flawed and circular argument, with the provision of new road capacity never able to beat traffic jams. The story starts in the 1920s and 30s with no less a figure than Sir Edwin Lutyens co-authoring a report on how to solve London’s burgeoning traffic problem through the construction of many miles of new roads, including wide American-style orbital parkways. It feels odd from this distance that this particular problem was isolated as the most pressing, ahead of housing need, but one of the compelling statistics embedded in this book is a remarkable tenfold increase in cars in London between 1912 and 1934. Following the Abercrombie plan of 1944, which clearly laid out the orbital motorway rings, the narrative then charts the interaction between public authorities, thankfully never quite geographically large enough on the ground; their consultants working behind the scenes, often in secret; the powerful and well-funded roads lobby, still alive and well today; and the voices of resistance, from the first

few isolated pockets to the later, increasingly wellorganised and vocal groups. The Treasury makes, for once, a welcome appearance, always pushing back at the cost and questioning the real benefits of the massive investments required. Without the poor governance, and resulting obstacles to road investment exposed by this book, it is clear that London would have been a transformed place - with Camden, for instance, losing a tenth of its built-up area. As the author sets out, it was a very narrowly won war, with the individual battles extending over several decades. The tide began to change in the late 60s and 70s as projects such as the Westway began to be constructed, with road and public transport planning remarkably only coming together under the one roof of the the Greater London Council from 1969, and the start of formal counter-argument against ‘Predict and Provide’. For me, one hero of this book is the late economist Michael Thomson who single-handedly refuted through reasoned evidence, not protest, the road lobby’s arguments for more and more roads. It’s a dense read, a book you feel you should take notes upon as you go through. Conscious of the constraints of publishing specialist books, the narrative would have been helped by more explanatory diagrams with perhaps a timeline; and whilst well illustrated, more commissioned maps and pictures. Get yourself a copy of the 1944 Abercrombie Plan, Sir Colin Buchanan’s misunderstood 1963 ‘Traffic in Towns’ government report, and this book and you will be able to imagine the fate London only just escaped.

Reviewed by Neil Bennett Neil Bennett is a Partner at architects Farrells, and vice chair of the London Society


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Project Interrupted: Lectures by British housing architects (The Architecture Foundation, £18) Therapy for the jaded Londoner Project Interrupted is an antidote to housing crisis despair. Published by the Architecture Foundation via a successful crowdfunding campaign, its premise is simple but highly effective: five architects recorded talking about their experience of building urban housing. This approach puts design, not policy, in the foreground, focusing on schemes at a micro level to address the macro issue of housing in London. The format works because it’s not didactic. Rather than push any particular agenda the book gives a platform to a range of people who have spent much of their professional lives building housing, allowing their huge collective knowledge and experience to speak for itself. Each lecturer talks with honesty, passion and knowledge about the most significant schemes of their careers, making each chapter feel like an individual case study. It’s a rare and refreshing chance to learn about the ideas and ambitions of some of our most notable housing architects, and the results are inspiring. Politics isn’t ignored entirely, though. The title Project Interrupted positions Thatcherite policies as the fatal tipping point, with the 21st century schemes of Peter Barber, Farshid Moussavi and Witherford Watson Mann bookended by lectures on the postwar social housing of Neave Brown and Kate Macintosh. The inclusion of iconic schemes such as Brown’s Alexandra Road in Camden and Macintosh’s Dawson’s Heights in East Dulwich allows the reader to dive nostalgically into the stories of their design, construction and 21st century afterlife, whether they end up being listed or threatened with demolition. The contemporary schemes can then be read in context, from Barber’s homeless shelter Holmes Road Studios in Kentish Town to Moussavi’s mixed housing scheme in the Parisian suburb of Nanterre. The reader can enjoy learning about the details of a particular brief and the architect’s response to it whilst simultaneously expanding their understanding of the climate in which the architect was working and the wider forces fuelling London’s housing crisis today.

Barber’s lecture is witty and erudite. He weaves in anecdotes of schemes with insightful commentary and is the most outspoken agitator in the book. His frustrations with the current planning system are channelled into an inspiring vision for the changes he would implement: ‘I would like to see radical new planning policy designed to encourage compact, continuous, urban form – a densely packed, convivial, congested city of intimately scaled streets … in short a socially and ecologically sustainable urbanism structure by idealism, rather than nettwitch neurosis.’ The concept of the architect as an arbiter of social change is a recurrent theme. Moussavi presents her own practice in the light of the philosophy of Spinoza, explaining the concept of the micropolitics of buildings – where each individual design element is an agent for how a person will experience the whole. Witherford Watson Mann frame detailed accounts of their approach to complex urban sites, including ones in Peckham, with the overarching vision ‘housing is first of all the work of imagining the city.’ This pertinent sentiment is echoed by Barber: ‘Housing accounts for 70 per cent of all buildings in London. It’s what our city is made of.’ Collectively the lectures give hope because they reveal the energy and talents of people working in the field, despite the overwhelming frustrations of the current system. The schemes themselves stand as proof that ingenuity prevails in housing architecture despite its many challenges. One cannot help but emerge inspired by these architects’ deep understanding of place and people.

Reviewed by Lettie Mckie


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Review of 2018 A year that saw the launch of our Saturday planning school and a heated debate on Brexit 'Affordable Housing and the Planning System from Margaret Thatcher to James Murray’ talk with Alex Lifschutz

As membership of the society continued to grow, so did our activities. In 2018 the London Society staged its biggest-ever programme of events, with more than 60 talks, debates, Saturday schools, walks and building tours, attended by a total of nearly 3,000 people. The programme saw several major themes, with the various strands curated by experts who gave up their time to help the Society. Colin Wilson, Strategic Planning Manager for the GLA (currently leading the regeneration plans for the Old Kent Road), contributed to a well-attended series of talks on ‘Planning for 10 Million’, including a sell-out debate on regeneration held at the new offices of architects Squire & Partners in Brixton (and finishing in its stunning rooftop bar). Eric Reynolds of Urban Space Management not only shared his experience of setting up the now world-famous Camden Market in the 1970s, but chaired several talks on the markets of the capital. Eminent architectural historian Alan Powers gave a presentation on the 1930s and led a series of walks and tours for members – including a bus tour of London suburbs taking in some fine examples of interwar civic building. And Matt Brown – editor-at-large of the Londonist and author of, amongst other titles, Everything You Know About London is Wrong – curated our ‘London Icons’, a series that included tours of Willow Road, Romford Garden Suburb and Highgate Cemetery. Members were also treated to guided walks of Camberwell, industrial Dagenham, new developments in Nine Elms and Battersea, and Canary Wharf. We heard from some more of London’s old and new Great Estates, as Simon Loomes of Portman and Steve Norris of Soho Estates told us about the challenges they face and the plans they have to transform their neighbourhoods. 86

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There were tours of the Gala Bingo Hall in Tooting – an unbelievable art deco wonder – and the Travellers Club in Pall Mall. Architects Hawkins\Brown showed us round their work at Hackney Town Hall, the Bartlett and Here East, Stratford; Hugh Broughton was our guide to refurbishments of the 1950s TUC Building; and Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios took us behind the scenes at the Southbank Centre. Members also saw inside some of London’s most interesting architects’ and designers’ studios, including Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands, Alan Baxter, Make, Allies + Morrison, and Kohn Pedersen Fox. Then there was the return of our Saturday Morning Architecture and Planning Schools, this year held in conjunction with the Sir John Cass School of Art, Architecture and Design in Aldgate. A stellar line up of lecturers gave members some fascinating insights into the architectural development of the capital over the past century, and explained how planners work, from development of the site through to urban masterplans. There will be further schools in 2019. In September we held the London Brexit Debate at Conway Hall, where more than 200 people listened to a passionate, but well-mannered, argument about the effects of Brexit on the capital. Dave Hill from news and analysis website OnLondon chaired. With events more popular than ever and more than half selling out it’s useful to know that the members’ priority booking privilege allows you to book tickets before they go on general sale. Finally, our thanks to our speakers, chairs and curators, who put together such lively programmes, to the firms who have hosted our events, and to all the members who came along, contributed their own expert knowledge and made them such fantastic occasions. We couldn’t have done it without you!

'Regeneration & Good Growth’ talk with Colin Wilson (LB Southwark), Cllr Claire Coghill (LB Waltham Forest), Lisa Taylor (Future of London), Tim Gledstone (Squire & Partners)

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Behind the Scenes: The Bartlett School of Architecture with Hawkins\Brown

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Events for 2019 An even bigger events programme for the year ahead

The Society’s new motto of ‘Valuing the past; looking to the future’ will be apparent in everything we do in 2019, with lectures, talks, debates and panel discussions that will look at the future of London through the lens of our city’s history. Among the main themes under scrutiny this year will be the use and development of parks and open spaces. Our green space is the envy of other capitals, but government cost-cutting has had a negative impact on local authorities’ maintenance budgets and at the same time there is local resistance to the increasing number of private events in our larger public parks. As well as talks and visits around the subject, we’ll be running an ideas competition asking how parks can meet the needs of visitors and residents, and how they might raise the funds to do so. We also have a great series of events on the evolution and challenges to London’s high streets. It’s a truism that London is a collection of villages and neighbourhoods, and at the centre of each is a vibrant high street. What are their strengths and weaknesses? How do they evolve and change in order to survive? What can be done to keep these centres thriving? And we’ll look at the building of London with a series on engineering and infrastructure – whether that’s the development of such established structures as Waterloo Bridge, Brunel’s Paddington and Tower Bridge, or what needs to be built to meet London’s demands as its population continues to increase, and its priorities change. Following several successful and highly enjoyable joint events in early 2018, we have again teamed up with London Historians, this time to announce the ‘winner’ of our open vote for London’s worst public sculpture. We’ll also be hosting another provocative debate asking whether moving the capital out of London might actually be a good thing for us, and the rest of the UK; and we’ll be continuing our look at some of London’s Icons and Great Estates.


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As always, you’ll be able to see behind the scenes of some notable new buildings and redevelopments of old classics on the Society’s architect-led tours. More on these will be sent out in the Society’s regular email newsletter (sign up at And we’ll continue our monthly guided walks, exploring different parts of the capital. We will also be working with the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) London on a series of debates around the subject of planning: Daniel Moylan (one of the main speakers in our 2018 Brexit debate) will argue that the current planning system is broken beyond repair and needs to be replaced; Christine Murray, editor of The Developer, will chair a panel discussion on how we can build our urban places to be inclusive for all of society; and there will be debates on air pollution and on the proliferation of privately owned public spaces or ‘POPS’. In spring and autumn there will be new classes in our Architecture and Planning Saturday schools. These have become very popular fixtures in our calendar and early booking is advised. Over the past two years, more than half the events that the Society has run have sold out. Don’t forget, all our members enjoy priority booking before tickets go on general release, as well discounts of up to 50 per cent.

To keep up to date with 2019’s busy events programme visit londonsociety.orguk/events, and don’t forget to sign up for our regular newsletter. You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter and/or LinkedIn to receive all the events news as it happens.


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Join the London Society How to Join

If you are passionate about our city and want to be part of the debate about its future, the London Society is for you. We live in a multi-layered city – exciting, dynamic, forward-looking, and with a rich history that sets it apart from most other cities in the world. But at times the capital can also be infuriating, the pressures of success provoking problems with housing, infrastructure, crime and poverty. The London Society exists to provide a forum for discussion about how we might make the capital a better place in which to live and work, letting the history of past developments and innovations inform the debate on its future. Your membership helps the Society to stage its expanding events programme, featuring popular talks and walks, feisty debates, Saturday schools, practice visits, and building tours. It offers an opportunity to meet like-minded Londoners and to engage with experts. As a member you get priority booking and discounted rates for our events, the chance to see inside important buildings (some not generally open to the public), invitations to social events held in some of London’s most interesting locations, regular newsletters and an annual journal. Individual membership costs just £30 for a full 12 months, with special discounted rates for students (£20) and families (£45 for up to four people). You’ll find full details at

‘The London Society: valuing the past; looking to the future.'


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Our thanks to our Corporate Supporters Corporate supporters play an important role in the London Society, providing much-needed funds for our administration and membership recruitment.

- your company logo on the Society website and within the Journal and other publications - invitations to attend meetings of the All Party Parliamentary Group on London’s Planning and Built Environment (usually held at Westminster)

By becoming one of our supporters, your organisation and stakeholders will be engaged in the debate about London’s future, asking what sort of city its citizens want. You also have excellent opportunities to hear from and network with other like-minded individuals, and to meet professionals and non-professionals with an interest in the development of the capital. And as the Society is a registered charity, donations are tax-deductible.

- a digital copy of Planning in London, the quarterly magazine produced by the London Planning Forum - the opportunity to organise events (such as building tours, talks or presentations) for Society members, or to sponsor drinks at the Society’s other events The minimum donation to become a Corporate Supporter is £1,000.

In return Supporters receive: - up to five free tickets for all talks, lectures, debates and our Summer Party

If your organisation would like to help the work of the Society by becoming a Corporate Supporter, email for more information.

- an unlimited number of members’ rate tickets for all walks, tours and other events - five copies of each issue of the London Society Journal and of each new Society White Paper


Architectural Clay Products


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Banister Fletcher Lecture The 2018 annual Banister Fletcher Lecture: Let the people build This year given by Ben Derbyshire, president of the RIBA and Chair of HTA Design LLP. Report by Barry Coidan

population in a humane and invigorating environment. Superdensity First London needs to embrace significantly higher housing densities. Ben talked about ‘superdensity’ of 350 dwellings per hectare as achievable providing a comfortable environment by building not high-rise but mid-rise, integrating towers with street-based typology to promote street life and build on London’s tradition of mixed communities. There needs to be a wider range of housing typologies, we should harness space above public buildings and develop new funding streams for longterm management. Where new development is proposed, nothing should be ruled out, including doing nothing. The community needs to be engaged and, yes, balloted. We need policy and process that sustain outcomes, aiming for markedly mixed neighbourhoods.

In setting the scene Ben painted a less than rosy picture of London’s housing. We have a broken housing market. The supply of new homes is well short of the target of 66,000 a year set by the Mayor of London. Rent takes up far too much of people’s take-home pay – averaging around 57 per cent with ‘Buy to Let’ landlords unwittingly exploiting those who can’t afford to buy. You could characterise London as a divided city. Divided over new developments with opposition to almost any – the haves excluding the have-nots. Yet there’s space to build. London’s housing density compared with other major capital cities is much lower: outer London boroughs average 16 dwellings per hectare. London is also ageing in terms of its population and major infrastructure. Ben’s manifesto ‘Let the People Build’ drew on the city's energy and creativity to show how London could accommodate its growing

The Green Belt The London Society can claim to have helped instigate the Green Belt, calling for ‘A Green Mantle' in the 1920s – more like a corset keeping London’s sprawling masses from spoiling the Home Counties. What was created is not a modest piece of green real estate as it extends out 35 miles and covers 516,000ha. It's not always green, or tidy, and much of it is inaccessible to the very people who are meant to benefit from it.


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semi-detached homes, can provide homes for Londoners. At this point Ben became a numbers machine: there are 5-10ha around each of these suburban stations, average density 22-25 dwelling per hectare (dpHA). In these places we can comfortably build to a density of 100-160 dpHA. With an average net increase around the stations of 500 dwellings, we would have a net increase in outer London boroughs of between 43,000 and 86,500 homes. Then there’s suburban intensification within a kilometre of existing urbanised stations, which could furnish an additional 250,000 dwellings. This would be achieved by encouraging homeowners to sell off part of their large gardens as plots for development using ‘Plot Passports’ and generating up to £200k per plot. Along with ad hoc uptake delivering another 500,000 dwellings across London, you’re well on the way to providing housing for all who need it.

Could we live in the Green Belt? Certainly, was Ben’s view. It can be energy positive, generate biodiversity, and be fully recyclable, supported by local sustainable economies. Such development would require a fraction of those 500k plus hectares. The RIBA publication Ten Characteristics of Places Where People Want to Live stressed that planning is an active verb. It is not about stopping building, damping innovation or creativity. It is the design of the built environment. 'Beautiful by design’ is not some throwaway slogan – it should translate into real places. Ben proudly showed pictures of Hanham Hall, a scheme by his practice HTA. Built within Bristol's Green Belt, it is zero carbon and biodiverse, with allotments and greenhouses. What about an Urbaceous Border? You don’t need green fingers but it might help. Like Peter Barber's hypothetical street-based, linear city 100 miles long, 200m wide and four storeys high, wrapped around London. This vision would provide 2 million homes, factories and schools all connected by a super duper fast monorail... and preserve the Green Belt. When can I move in?

Expo no-show It was a shame that Ben finished on a less than upbeat note. When he became President of the RIBA in 2017, he had proposed that London should have a Housing Expo that would highlight new ways of delivering homes for all London. It would explore how we could use the creativity of the city, its SMEs and design firms along with the big builders. The idea was launched by the RIBA and the Design Museum. The three-stage project would culminate in a permanent exhibition in 2021/22 putting London at the forefront of new thinking on housing. But it was not to be. Ben asked, if it works elsewhere, why not in London?

Air rights A Government consultation document is seeking views on the use of potential valuable living space above the roof. London company Apex AirSpace is building in the air. In Camden there are 475 potential roof spaces providing 2,485 new homes, which is 28 per cent of the borough's housing target. Given the political will, the right regulations and finance, building on top of existing suitable properties this could provide 180k new homes across the capital. Homes in gardens I’m not sure what John Betjeman would have to say about Ben’s ‘Supurbia.’ A veritable transformation of suburbia by using the sites around the 173 outer-London stations, which were deliberately built away from town centres. Making use of overlooked small sites and developing creatively those large suburban gardens in the postwar typology of ample

A longer version of this report, along with links to the reports mentioned, can be seen on the London Society blog The 2018 Banister Fletcher lecture was delivered on 5 November 2018, at Jarvis Hall, RIBA, Portland Place, London W1


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APPG update London faces a seemingly inexorable demand for new homes and there is increasing support for new ways of thinking about how we might deliver these. For Rupa Huq, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for London’s Planning and Built Environment, ‘the bulk of any MP’s advice surgery is housing in one form or another'. When the All-Party Parliamentary Group for London’s Planning and Built Environment met on 27 July and 19 November 2018 it sought to tackle two of the most prominent opportunities for meeting housing need: the green belt and factory-made housing. Report by Jonathan Manns

Green Belt: Time to bust the myth and start building?

view was shared by Lord Taylor who argued that the green belt ‘has become massively distorted in people’s minds'. He also stressed his support for these to be mixed developments as ‘if you only build affordable homes you don’t build good communities'. Sean McKee and Vinita Dhume looked more to the future. McKee supported the release of land where there was a clear social benefit, particularly for homes that would be available to rent, as opposed to buy, and for key workers. Dhume stressed the need for a regional approach that better reflected London’s functional economic area. Manns was then recognised by Huq as beginning the current debate about London’s green belt with his paper Green Sprawl (2014) and credited with motivating much of the critical thinking that has since followed. He emphasised the extent that views of the countryside have changed over time whilst our aspirations, in terms of urban planning, had remained similar. ‘There has been a disconnect between the shared cultural imagination and the rational evidence-based attempts of planners to consider the built environment as a whole. The result is a debate that’s been framed between ideological justifications for the status quo and practical ones for review,’ he said. ‘If we’re going to rethink the green belt, we must do it strategically, predicated on best practice. We shouldn’t think of the green belt in isolation but in the context of the built and natural environments that we want to create. We

Rupa Huq, MP for Ealing Central and Acton (Labour), APPG Chairman, introduced the session. The keynote speaker was Siobhain McDonagh, MP for Mitcham and Morden. She was followed by Paul Cheshire CBE (Emeritus Professor, LSE), Lord Taylor of Goss Moor (Liberal Democrats), Sean McKee (Head of Policy, London Chamber of Commerce and Industry), Vinita Dhume (Senior Associate, Levitt Bernstein) and Jonathan Manns (Board Director, Rockwell Property). McDonagh made the case for her campaign to release well-connected, scrappier land within the green belt to accommodate new development. This would involve the dedesignation of green belt land within 45 minutes’ travel time of London’s Zone 1 and within a 10-minute walk of a train station, except for Sites of Special Scientific Interest or Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Her motivation is the distress caused by ‘imminent homelessness’ that she hears at her weekly advice surgery and a perceived need to ‘bust the myth’ of the green belt, which makes us ‘get emotional about England’s green and pleasant land’. Paul Cheshire was keen to explain the link between the scarcity of land and increasing house prices. He also wished to emphasise that the green belt was introduced in 1955 ‘to stop the building of houses and nothing else.’ This


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London’s Green Belt currently measures 516,000 ha – over three times the size of the Greater London Authority area, of which 22 per cent is so designated. There are 14 London boroughs with more Green Belt land than is otherwise set aside for housing. It would take less than 2 per cent of the Green Belt to accommodate a million more homes.

solving London’s housing crisis. Discussion was facilitated by Siobhain McDonagh MP (Labour, Mitcham and Morden), Jane Richards (Director, WSP), Anthony Thistleton (Director, Waugh Thistleton Architects) and Jeff Endean (Housing Strategy Manager, LB Lewisham). Gavron began by stressing that the 1960s was an era of council building and prefabricated housing whilst things today were completely the opposite. It was her view that ‘industry is poised for a step-change but we can’t do this without massive political leadership'. She argued that prefabricated housing should not be seen as temporary, to avoid concerns about quality, and that the Mayor of London should appoint an independent advisory unit to assist in the delivery of factory-made homes. Local Authorities would also need to be empowered throughout the process, not least in terms of development contracts, because too often ‘however much the Housing Department wants to innovate, they’re held-up by the Procurement Unit’. Jeff Endean made clear the nature of social challenge: Lewisham’s housing targets had recently doubled, and house prices risen 82 per cent over the past decade alongside rents.

can then agree a policy approach which seeks to achieve this.’ Responding to the discussion, Lord Best (Crossbench) expressed the view that solving the housing crisis should trump political allegiances. Ruth Cadbury, MP for Brentford and Isleworth (Labour), agreed and made clear that ‘looking at the green belt has to be put on the table as a solution to the using crisis, but not unless we can address land value capture.’ Emma Dent-Coad, MP for Kensington (Labour), indicated scope for development at greater density on the basis that ‘not everybody wants to live in a terraced house.’ Taking the tragic fire in her borough as an example, she impressed that ‘if you listen to the Grenfell residents, they loved that tower.’

Factory-made housing: how to harness the benefits of prefabrication

Rupa Huq MP introduced the session to discuss how modern methods of construction are changing the way we build and deliver housing in London. The keynote speaker was Nicky Gavron (Labour, London Assembly Member), author of the Designed, Sealed, Delivered (2017) report for the Greater London Authority on the potential contribution of offsite manufactured homes to


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need to focus on procurement to ensure there is a focus on design quality and long-term costs rather than up-front costs or quality.’ In summing up, Huq expressed enthusiasm, and brought attention back to the scope to reduce the real cost of housing. ‘I think even the pot plants outside will be paid for by our children’s children’s children’s children,’ she quipped, gesturing towards the entrance of Portcullis House.

Half of the borough’s homeless were previously renting in the private sector and the council now spends £3m per year on bed and breakfast accommodation. ‘Our aim,’ he said, ‘is to do things better and cheaper for the benefit of ordinary people.’ This was reiterated by Siobhan McDonagh who emphasised that ‘what frustrates me is that we’re not getting on and doing it.’ In her constituency, she flagged, ‘over a third of those in temporary accommodation are housed outside London, in places such as Birmingham.’ Anthony Thistleton was upbeat about the ability of factory-made housing to help meet the challenge. ‘We call this a construction revolution because we’re changing our whole mindset,’ he said. There was also substantial opportunity for this relatively niche industry to innovate. ‘We should,’ he proposed, ‘be doing things again and again and improving on it. That’s why the iPhone X is so much better than the iPhone 2.’ Jane Richards was optimistic that, with a clear direction, this was possible. She flagged that ‘in an ideal world you would start out on day one knowing what you want to produce,’ but ‘having spent 15 years working on modular schemes I don’t think one was modular on day one.’ There is nonetheless huge scope as the industry expands, not least because ‘if you’re being efficient with your production, once you get the economies of scale, the costs come down.’ Responding to the discussion, Emma Dent-Coad MP raised concerns ‘about the long-term durability’ of factory-made homes. ‘If the lifespan is 60 years, what’s the quality going to be like in 50 years?’ she asked. ‘What about the fire resistance and structural integrity of the building?’ Endean reassuringly agreed: ‘We

The All-Party Parliamentary Group for London’s Planning and Built Environment was established by the London Society in 2015. The Society now provides the Secretariat in partnership with Local Dialogue and New London Architecture. Jonathan Manns is a Board Director at Rockwell Property, and London Society Executive Committee member


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Profile for London Society

London Society Journal 2019  

London Society Journal 2019