Currently showing blog posts for: February 2018 - . Go BACK to view all posts.
Peter Murray

 

Dave Hill, formerly the Guardian’s award-winning London commentator, is behind the ‘On London website, and online publication that seeks to report and explain how this extraordinary and complex city is changing in these momentous times. Here he explains what the site is trying to achieve, and why he’s running a crowdfunding campaign to provide extra resources.

London’s infinite capacity for change and renewal, its endless churn and swirl, are central to its appeal – at least, they are to me, who escaped into the city from small town attitudes in 1979 and have never wished to leave.

Yet the speed of its evolution in recent years has created concern as well as excitement. London’s population and economy have boomed, but these signs of success have also engendered problems, anxieties and resistance.

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Peter Murray

 

For the Society’s February walk Peter Hayes conducted a tour of the City of London’s ‘pedways’. Finbar Bradley of Innes Associates went along for a stroll….

From the moment we met at the Barbican tube station and he erupted with his theatrical personality, it was clear to see on the faces of the surrounding audience members that Peter Hayes was going to be a delight. The eight pages of notes that I mustered tell a tale not only of entertainment but embellished knowledge and fantastic contemporary history.

We started on the upper deck Beech Street highlighting the benefits which could be granted from raising the pedestrians above traffic level. The area was a wasteland following the second world war and many schemes were proposed on the site of the Barbican from the County Council [Modernist] and the City Corporation [conservative]. The most important incident occurred with the implementation of the London Wall dual carriageway by the LCC and the implementation of Pedways to allow pedestrians to traverse the road.

The LCC had requested therefore that the architects of Powell Chamberlain and Bon continue the pedways through their vision; a suggestion that was greatly welcomed. Their incorporation was in somewhat of a contradictory manner however as these pedways were no longer used to separate the roads and the pedestrians. Peter points out some interesting water features and highlights that the City walls never had a moat and that in his opinion these are a Barbican construct to “give the pedways a reason to exist.”

Continuing along the Barbican “High streets” a look at the ruined medieval/ roman remains of the city walls present themselves as Peter enlightens us on some of the other ideas which existed at this level. Originally the plan was that each office would only be allowed an entrance at Pedway level and not at Ground Floor. A great example of this is the Museum of London Which is only approachable at this level still today; “a purest building”. Furthermore, Kiosks were placed on pedway level however it appears that in doing so, this created two competing markets. The street level market has since won out.

By the time we reached Terry Farrell’s Alban Gate, we start to see the carving up of pedways past. An old connection removed and in its place, a gaping hole to the south of Alban Gate. Replacing this is a new corten steel section, delightfully opening a view to the ruins of the home for the blind below which required an uncomfortable lean over a hand rail to view below. Surrounding this area is in Peter’s opinion, the main reason why the pedways failed. The Brewers Hall and the Salters Hall along with others in the area did not open up to the concept and instead, retained their ground floor entrance leaving the pedways broken and disjointed.

As proof of this, we are taken on a whirlwind tour of pedways lost, including pedways which end with fire escapes from victorian buildings, granite lined innards of commercial buildings and reminders that areas are no longer part of a public right of way. A proposed map of the pedways from 1963 can be found with a quick search and perhaps highlights another issue in planning as it was proposed that a pedway would cut through St. Paul’s Cathedral! I urge you to visit the pedway adjacent the junction of London Wall and Old Broad Street, still brandished with the arms of the City of London. It is tremendous to see that these areas still exist in some guise.

We finished with a fanfare of church bells as the glimmers of spring sunshine cascade from the glistening buildings above and a pristine view over the River Thames. The pedways made their way to this location and abruptly end with no real reason to their termination. Running along perpendicular to our view however, the pedways sibling and absorber of much of its funding: the Thames paths.

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Peter Murray

 

On 6 February the Society met at the offices of Studio Egret West to hear Peter Guillery, Senior Research Associate at the Bartlett School of Architecture give an illustrated overview of the origins and development of the Survey of London and discuss their recent projects in Clerkenwell, Marylebone and Whitechapel. Xuhong Zheng of Hawkins Brown was in the audience.

The Survey of London is 124 years old and provides detailed architectural surveys and accounts of areas of London. Peter explains that it does not aim to provide a full spectrum overview of London, but instead aims to use buildings to explain how the city has developed, to provide an historical perspective to contemporary debate and to influence change through understanding. Charles Robert Ashbee, founder of the Survey, was alarmed by the demolition of buildings in East London at a time when there were no statutory protection on historic buildings. It is interesting that he believed “old buildings could enhance the lives of ordinary lives of Londoners”, in a similar way to how open spaces in cities can enhance our lives.

Peter showed us a variety of illustrations and extracts from different volumes of the Survey, conveying the detailed and thorough research carried out. Some drawings illustrate construction details whilst others reveal the history of alteration, division and extension of buildings such as No. 20 Cavendish Square. The project aims to maintain readability and to communicate something original through primary research, as well as using many secondary sources such as historic maps and deeds registries. It also captured buildings that were soon to be demolished, such as around St Mary’s and Morris Walk Areas. The Survey volumes are available online as well as in print from British History Online.

I was most intrigued by the Survey’s current project at Whitechapel that focuses on exploring new methods of research and more public engagement. A participatory website https://surveyoflondon.org/ was launched in 2016 that asks the public to share their memories, photos and stories of the area. The interactive map also allows us to explore the history of different buildings in the area. The project is a fantastic way of encouraging more people to engage in the diverse and fascinating histories of the buildings, streets and neighbourhoods, collaborating with local groups and communities.

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Peter Murray

As one of the Society’s main themes for this year is the 1930s, we thought we’d support the Modernism in Metro-Land blog’s efforts to crowdfund a guide to the architectural delights of the north-western end of the Metropolitan line. Here the book’s author, Joshua Abbot, tells us about the project and how you can donate and get your hands on a copy of the book.

“Metroland is a country with elastic borders that each visitor can draw for himself as Stevenson drew his map of Treasure Island” Metro-Land Guidebook 1924

I started Modernism in Metro-Land in 2011 whilst living in South Harrow. I began noticing some of the buildings in the area, like Rayners Lane station and the art deco former Grosvenor Cinema, and began to be interested in them and the idea of Metro-Land. Metro-Land has become synonymous with a wistful sort of suburbia, all privet hedges and mock tudor. In fact Metro-Land is actually full of exuberant art deco cinemas, stark modernist houses and brutalist megastructures. Created by the expansion of the Metropolitan Railway at the start of the 20th century, transport links would bring modernism to the suburbs, from Charles Holden’s Piccadilly Line stations to Wallis, Gilbert and Partners Egyptian themed factories by the Great West Road.

The website has expanded, much like London itself, to encompass not just the Metro-Land towns of Wembley, Harrow and Pinner, but other suburban centres like Greenford, Enfield and Edgware, often overlooked when talking about the Capital’s architectural heritage. Modernism in Metro-Land has now teamed up with crowdfunding publishing company Unbound, to produce A Guide to Modernism in Metro-Land, a pocket guide to the modernist buildings of the suburbs.

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Peter Murray

 

Until Thursday 1 March you can catch a free exhibition at Surrey Quays Shopping Centre, commissioned by British Land, celebrating some of the rich heritage of Canada Water, Rotherhithe and Surrey Docks.

The landscape and history of this neighbourhood have been shaped over the centuries by water. Once low-lying marshland, this riverside location became a globally important commercial and maritime hub, with links to every part of the world.

Curated with the help of local people and organisations, the exhibition highlights some of the key episodes in the history and heritage of this unique riverside and waterside community – with striking historic images, snapshots in time of places and personalities, and personal memories and voices of local people.

British Land, who is working in partnership with Southwark Council to develop plans for a new town centre at Canada Water known as the Canada Water Masterplan, recognises that the history and heritage of the local area have shaped the place we know today, and should continue to inform its future. It commissioned this exhibition, with the generous support of local people and organisations, and especially a local advisory group to provide input, to be able to bring together and celebrate some of it in one place.

You can find more details of the exhibition and other events taking place here

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Peter Murray

 

Big Capital. Who is London for?

by Anna Minton

Reviewed by Darryl Chen

Available from John Sandoe Books

Anna Minton is angry. From government policy to foreign investment, from property professionals to shady landlords, from greedy developer to greedy local council, a spectrum of forces has created the crisis in which we now find ourselves, where housing has gone from being a human right to a financial product. Big Capital sets out the complexity of its shape and causes, however trades balanced argument for polemic in a litany against the ills of regeneration.

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Peter Murray

 

On Tuesday 23rd January Eric Reynolds of Urban Space Management spoke at Allies + Morrison’s offices on the history of the capital’s markets, providing an insight into what is involved in the regeneration of these spaces with case studies of his personal experience. Hannah Smith reports.

Eric provided a brief history of some of the largest London markets, with interesting facts dating back hundreds of years, a more recent fact was that 250,000 turkeys were sold by one wholesaler at Leadenhall market in the 1930’s! Also, interestingly, the original specification that there had to be six or more people gathered together for a space to be classed as a market, they are places we take for granted, where we meet and bond, browse and buy.

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Peter Murray

The Society’s recent sold-out walk with Blue Badge Guide Angela Morgan visited the rejuvenated markets of Spitalfields, Brick Lane and over to the foodies’ paradise of Borough Market. Hannah Murphy went along.

“It was market-morning. The ground was covered, nearly ankle-deep, with filth and mire; a thick steam, perpetually rising from the reeking bodies of the cattle, and mingling with the fog, which seemed to rest upon the chimney-tops, hung heavily above… Countrymen, butchers, drovers, hawkers, boys, thieves, idlers, and vagabonds of every low-grade, were mingled together in a mass…” (Oliver Twist)

On Saturday 27th January, we gathered around the Goat Statue in Bishop’s Square, Spitalfields, to learn about the significant role that street markets have played throughout London’s history. Our tour guide, Angela Morgan, quickly explained that just as a goat climbs a mountain with grit and perseverance, the residents and stall holders of Spitalfields have had to fight to remain culturally relevant in a society that is constantly changing. We discussed rapidly rising business rates and rents, which were pushing SME’s out of the area in search of more affordable rents.

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Peter Murray

 

The debate with the London Historians on the topic of Architectural Marmite will be a lively one, with strongly held preferences voiced with passionate rhetoric. It will be fun but also raise serious issues that engage with our other key topic of the current programme – the draft London Plan. In order to cater for the expected population of 10 million by 2030 London is going to have to build a massive 66,000 new homes a year – impacting on many people’s back yards. The Plan calls for high quality design, but many Londoners will wonder quite what that means. Sarah Weir Director of the Design Council says that “Good design is about more than aesthetics. It is about delivering for its users, and for everyone affected by it.”

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Peter Murray

 

One of the strands of talks and events that the Society is holding this year is on London Icons. Here Matt Brown, the curator of the strand, explains what he’s setting out to achieve.

Is there another city on the planet with as many icons as London? We have architectural icons, like Tower Bridge, Wembley Arch, the dome of St Paul’s and (the tower popularly known as) Big Ben.

Numerous inhabitants — real and fictional — instantly remind us of London whenever we hear their names: Charles Dickens, Queen Victoria, Sherlock Holmes, Mary Poppins, Peter Pan… We have iconic double-deckers and iconic black cabs. Our iconic phone boxes and post boxes are found all over the country but are particularly associated with London. Where else in the world will tourists pose beside street furniture?

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