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Old October 21st, 2013, 04:59 PM   #1
MusicMan1
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Why does Britain refuse to reconstruct lost architecture?

Just before I begin, I myself am British/English, so I am not a foreigner criticising Britain's architecture
However, the question I wish to ask is: Why, as a nation, do we refuse to reconstruct the buildings that were lost either to the second world war, or to 50s/60s/70s town-planners who seemed to be living on another planet. For crying out loud, if Poland can afford to rebuild Krakow and Russia St. Petersburg, why the hell can't we afford to reconstruct Exeter, Coventry, Gloucester, Southampton, Leicester and parts of Bristol (although the majority of Bristol is still intact/ attractive)? The first three cities were generally on a less ornate scale than the baroque style cities of central Europe anyway!
Is it because we as a nation are so obsessed with doing things so cheaply, (and having to reconstruct it in 30 years anyway, hence wasting even more money) and being supposedly "progressive". Just so people know, I don't necessarily hate 20th/21st century architecture, with Art-Deco and Art-Nouveau architecture being two of my favourite architectural styles. (Less-so on Art-Nouveau mind, can get a bit nauseatingly frilly in large doses!) I also like a lot of contemporary architecture as well, although it can be a little sterile/unartistic at times.
The architecture/ details that has blighted our cities the most, in my opinion, are either the undetailed 60s/70s "infill" buildings on many high streets (which aren't even really brutalist), as well as the hideously poorly-planned brutalist shopping centres/bus stations. However, there is also the terrible public-realm, i.e the clutter, double yellow lines etc, that really spoils the environment of many of our urban centres.
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Old October 21st, 2013, 05:03 PM   #2
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Just to add: I am aware that some cities have/ are planning to build traditional style areas, examples including Bath's Southgate centre, Canterbury's Whitefriar centre, as well as Chester's planned Northgate centre, maybe Gloucester's Kings square and Bristol's possible Castle park/Dutch house/old city redevelopment? Mind you, these are mostly still pastiches, though they are a definite improvement and do add to an areas attractiveness.

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Old October 21st, 2013, 05:33 PM   #3
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Alot of buildings lost unfortunately as grand and beautiful as they were, weren't fit for purpose.

Also, Britain's population was so high a quick answer was needed to re house those after the war.

In the 50's, 60's housing was so imperative that it had to be constructed quickly and in high density. Over the years this dwindled and lower density housing estates were able to be developed.

Since the late 90's up to now we have seen hundreds of tower blocks demolished as they are no longer needed.

It was effectively a stop gap.

Britain itself has always been at the forefront of architecture and it's cities hold more types then they're compatriots elsewhere.

We love to build and we love to innovate.

We still crave our best structures and designs but we also know that we must evolve.

Yes it's led to some nasty buildings but it's also kept Britain as the worlds highest regarded construction industry.

British Contract docs, building regs and so on are adopted world wide.

When you have a population as big as the UK in such a small area, sacrifices have to be made and after World War 2, we had no option.
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Old October 21st, 2013, 05:36 PM   #4
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Not to mention the Labour Government of the time decided to waste the UK's Marshall aid to rebuild at home like France and Germany did... and instead blew it all on trying to maintain the Empire post 1945.
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Old October 21st, 2013, 05:45 PM   #5
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Quote:
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Alot of buildings lost unfortunately as grand and beautiful as they were, weren't fit for purpose.

Also, Britain's population was so high a quick answer was needed to re house those after the war.

In the 50's, 60's housing was so imperative that it had to be constructed quickly and in high density. Over the years this dwindled and lower density housing estates were able to be developed.

Since the late 90's up to now we have seen hundreds of tower blocks demolished as they are no longer needed.

It was effectively a stop gap.

Britain itself has always been at the forefront of architecture and it's cities hold more types then they're compatriots elsewhere.

We love to build and we love to innovate.

We still crave our best structures and designs but we also know that we must evolve.

Yes it's led to some nasty buildings but it's also kept Britain as the worlds highest regarded construction industry.

British Contract docs, building regs and so on are adopted world wide.

When you have a population as big as the UK in such a small area, sacrifices have to be made and after World War 2, we had no option.
I appreciate your reply, but I'm not really talking about residential areas (although I understand why such projects were needed as opposed to rebuilding historic architecture). I'm not saying that we shouldn't innovate with architecture, but to me, it just seems that come 1950, nearly all sense of art in architecture was lost/ dropped in favour of "innovative" engineering based styles. Your own city Birmingham, was redeveloped as an absolute hotch-potch mess in the post-war years: I understand there wasn't always the money to rebuild on an ornate scale, but sure rebuilding well is better than rebuilding poorly, and having to rebuild it again!
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Old October 21st, 2013, 07:44 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MusicMan1 View Post
Just before I begin, I myself am British/English, so I am not a foreigner criticising Britain's architecture
However, the question I wish to ask is: Why, as a nation, do we refuse to reconstruct the buildings that were lost either to the second world war, or to 50s/60s/70s town-planners who seemed to be living on another planet. For crying out loud, if Poland can afford to rebuild Krakow and Russia St. Petersburg, why the hell can't we afford to reconstruct Exeter, Coventry, Gloucester, Southampton, Leicester and parts of Bristol (although the majority of Bristol is still intact/ attractive)? The first three cities were generally on a less ornate scale than the baroque style cities of central Europe anyway!
You kind of messed up here. To make it clear, Kraków has not been reconstructed. It was not damaged during the war in the first place. The city is going through heavy renovations/revitalizations though. Yet it is not the same scale of work.
Warsaw and Gdansk were indeed reconstructed, but that happened hefty of years ago, just after the war. No comparision to nowadays times whatsoever. So to be honest, Poland is not reconstructing anything on a mass scale. Even current quite wealthy Warsaw has some serious issues with single reconstructions.
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Old October 21st, 2013, 08:31 PM   #7
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You kind of messed up here. To make it clear, Kraków has not been reconstructed. It was not damaged during the war in the first place. The city is going through heavy renovations/revitalizations though. Yet it is not the same scale of work.
Warsaw and Gdansk were indeed reconstructed, but that happened hefty of years ago, just after the war. No comparision to nowadays times whatsoever. So to be honest, Poland is not reconstructing anything on a mass scale. Even current quite wealthy Warsaw has some serious issues with single reconstructions.
Pardon my ignorance, I was confused as to which cities in Poland were/ weren't reconstructed. I am aware that Warsaw was reconstructed to an extent.
Anyway, to get back to the premise of the thread. Just so people know, I am not exactly advocating that we rip down the Gherkin/ Shard/ Lloyds building for example: these buildings are indeed very architecturally interesting, and to an extent artistically designed. Nor am I saying that we should get rid of all brutalist style architecture either: Some very good examples of the style in the country include Coventry Cathedral, Liverpool Catholic cathedral, as well as another brutalist style building in the Liverpool shopping street (can't remember the name/ street mind).
The places I believe that should be restored, are those that currently have architecture contributing nothing to the overall architectural quality- we would be more than capable of doing so. All we would need to do is study what was there previously, and rebuild, or at least similarly rebuild it, so it is not done as a "pastiche".
I'm not for a moment saying that we shouldn't have new, contemporary style buildings in our city centres at all, many of the newer ones work very well, for example the Liverpool One, Bristol's Cabot Circus, as well as the Birmingham Bull Ring, to name a few. I think that we simply need, as a country, to find a balance between architectural restoration, and innovation.
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Old October 21st, 2013, 09:12 PM   #8
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Just to make MusicMan jealous :
Freshly reconstructed houses in Dresden's city centre :

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Old October 22nd, 2013, 08:34 AM   #9
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'British' identity (whatever that is) is less defined by historic buildings and more by innovation, experiment, fashion and novelty in architecture.

Conservation philosophy - when you see something that looks old, you can be assured that it is actually old - generally speaking. In some countries old buildings and new ones sometimes look the same and I think the old ones lose their value in that situation.

We do occasionally reconstruct - Holborn Viaduct stair building is a recent example. St Ethelberga's church in the city was reconstructed after an IRA blast. We, like European cities often rebuild to heal emotional scars. After the war Germany and Poland healed their scars by reconstruction - possibly an element of trying to collectively forget the war happened. In the UK we wanted to imagine a better future and forget the dirty, dingy bleak past and imagine a clean, healthy and bright new world... !
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Old October 22nd, 2013, 04:27 PM   #10
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I imagine that if London hadn't in fact stayed in big part intact (as much as it was destroyed, still it was not a big deal relatively to some other European capitals) then British also would do some reconstruction. Symbolically, Big Ben were intact to it was not so imporant.

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Just to make MusicMan jealous :
Freshly reconstructed houses in Dresden's city centre :
As much as new/old Dresden is great I have a doubt about those houses exactly. Specifically about all those countless windows at the attic. Is it really exact reconstruction or to much of a copy past of an architect?
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Old October 22nd, 2013, 04:48 PM   #11
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I appreciate your reply, but I'm not really talking about residential areas (although I understand why such projects were needed as opposed to rebuilding historic architecture). I'm not saying that we shouldn't innovate with architecture, but to me, it just seems that come 1950, nearly all sense of art in architecture was lost/ dropped in favour of "innovative" engineering based styles. Your own city Birmingham, was redeveloped as an absolute hotch-potch mess in the post-war years: I understand there wasn't always the money to rebuild on an ornate scale, but sure rebuilding well is better than rebuilding poorly, and having to rebuild it again!
Art in Architecture historically was on cills of windows, door's, roof's etc.

When technology developed what we saw was more or less 100% of the outer skin of a major building be designed as a piece of art.

Then construction developed more. You needed to be on time. You needed to be in budget. You have the health and safety act, insurances and mainly you have people with no clue about architecture or construction deciding on what's built and where.

Many parish councils and town planning committees now refuse homes and other constructions because they don't look like what we are accustomed too. You try and put pargetting on a building, it'll get rejected. Neighbours have a masisve say also. 99% of neighbours in the UK have no knowledge on construction or architecture.

This is a major problem within UK planning. To many can have a say and normally too many have no idea what they are talking about, which means now it is the norm to be safe and to build safe. (Unless you're in a major city).

You might say Birmingham was developed in to a hotch-potch mess, which I agree with to an extent, however at the time it was modern, it was the fastest growing city in Europe. Its residents had the highest income in the UK.

The Government then stopped its growth unmercifully. It forced companies out of the city. It stopped the construction of office buildings and offered incentives for people to move to other cities.

London hated Birminghams success in the 60's and sorry to say it went into the duldrums until it began to fight back in the late 80's early 90's.

Birmingham now had architectural wonders such as The Cube, Selfridges, New Library and New Street Station.

If these were burnt down in 100 years time and never rebuilt I have no doubt someone in 200 years time will ask exactly the same question as you have today.

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Old October 23rd, 2013, 12:36 AM   #12
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One thing to note is that very few of England's cities had the kind of architectural unity seen in many European cities.

To an extent, they were a hotch-potch of styles long before any bombs dropped.

Look at some of the pre-war pictures of Coventry, here, for example
http://news.bbc.co.uk/local/coventry...00/9159406.stm

Of course it's easy to say they were a more appealing selection of random buildings compared to now, but even if looking at what's there now might make people want to weep, almost all would understand not trying to rebuild them as they were before. Had they done so straight after the war, it might have been ok, but with such a gap it would just seem unusual.
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Old November 20th, 2013, 12:44 PM   #13
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The problem in Exeter's case is that many buildings damaged during the bltiz were just cleared away. Some fine Georgian terraces and crescents were burnt out but were still standing structurally but it was just all bulldozed before any thought was given to the reconstruction of the city. Luckily enough a substantial amount of Georgian Exeter remains and is one of the plus points of the city. The second problem was the post war planner demolishing most of what was left after the war. Many fine Tudor and Victorian buildings were demolished in order to build indoor shopping centres and ring roads but i'm sure we all know about town planners in the 50's, 60's and 70's. The main difficulty of today reconstructing the city as before the war is, as someone else has said on here, that the pre war city was the result of a centuries of sporadic piecemeal developments on small burrage plots resulting in a variety of architectural styles. Thats what made Exeter such a facinating city. The council now seem all hell on intent on ensuring that Exeter is the main shopping centre South West of Bristol and ahead of Plymouth. I can see why because its brings investment and employment to the city and admittably they are succeding at this, but this philosophy has resulted in buildings such as the Princesshay development with large footprints requiring car parks and service yards totally against the character of the old quarter of the city where the buildings are on small burrage plots. This will be very difficult to overturn. The roles of city centres have also changed since pre war. City centres are now expected to provide leisure facilities, buildings that encourage night time activity, etc. I actually also don't think restoring a city with fake architecture is the way forward anyhow. Exeter for example is a very old city with a proud history. Like it or not the blitz and the post war rebuild is part of the history. Yeah some mistakes were made by planners but theres no point in masking this history with pastiche developments to please a few tourists. The people living in the city will always know that such developments are fake. Actually in the architecture modules in my surveying course at university we were told English Heritage's policy is to encourage modern development that is sympathetic to old buildings but not to replicate traditional styles and i actually agree with this approach. I agree with restoring buildings which is are still standing, but not reconstructing former buildings from scratch basically. For example in the local newspaper recently the Bishop of the Exeter Cathedral has spoke of his intent for the Roman Bath houses buried beneath the Cathedral Green to be exposed and utilised as a tourist attraction. Again this i agree with as its not a fake rebuild. Whats needed in Exeter's case is to remove the cheap post war buildings and replace with innovative contemporary buildings and try and demonstrate perhaps how modern and old buildings can blend together. There is still enough fine pre war buildings remaining but what lets the city down is the post war buildings. The modern buildings of the last 20/30 years are actually quite acceptable in quality in achieving a blend between the old and new. Its just the post war stuff inbetween. This is slowly but surely being addressed but with Exeter's location in the South West the investment is not as great as those in the South East or Manchester, Birmingham for example so will be a work in progress for at least another 20 years in my opinion.
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Old December 5th, 2013, 02:09 PM   #14
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The problem in Exeter's case is that many buildings damaged during the bltiz were just cleared away. Some fine Georgian terraces and crescents were burnt out but were still standing structurally but it was just all bulldozed before any thought was given to the reconstruction of the city. Luckily enough a substantial amount of Georgian Exeter remains and is one of the plus points of the city. The second problem was the post war planner demolishing most of what was left after the war. Many fine Tudor and Victorian buildings were demolished in order to build indoor shopping centres and ring roads but i'm sure we all know about town planners in the 50's, 60's and 70's. The main difficulty of today reconstructing the city as before the war is, as someone else has said on here, that the pre war city was the result of a centuries of sporadic piecemeal developments on small burrage plots resulting in a variety of architectural styles. Thats what made Exeter such a facinating city. The council now seem all hell on intent on ensuring that Exeter is the main shopping centre South West of Bristol and ahead of Plymouth. I can see why because its brings investment and employment to the city and admittably they are succeding at this, but this philosophy has resulted in buildings such as the Princesshay development with large footprints requiring car parks and service yards totally against the character of the old quarter of the city where the buildings are on small burrage plots. This will be very difficult to overturn. The roles of city centres have also changed since pre war. City centres are now expected to provide leisure facilities, buildings that encourage night time activity, etc. I actually also don't think restoring a city with fake architecture is the way forward anyhow. Exeter for example is a very old city with a proud history. Like it or not the blitz and the post war rebuild is part of the history. Yeah some mistakes were made by planners but theres no point in masking this history with pastiche developments to please a few tourists. The people living in the city will always know that such developments are fake. Actually in the architecture modules in my surveying course at university we were told English Heritage's policy is to encourage modern development that is sympathetic to old buildings but not to replicate traditional styles and i actually agree with this approach. I agree with restoring buildings which is are still standing, but not reconstructing former buildings from scratch basically. For example in the local newspaper recently the Bishop of the Exeter Cathedral has spoke of his intent for the Roman Bath houses buried beneath the Cathedral Green to be exposed and utilised as a tourist attraction. Again this i agree with as its not a fake rebuild. Whats needed in Exeter's case is to remove the cheap post war buildings and replace with innovative contemporary buildings and try and demonstrate perhaps how modern and old buildings can blend together. There is still enough fine pre war buildings remaining but what lets the city down is the post war buildings. The modern buildings of the last 20/30 years are actually quite acceptable in quality in achieving a blend between the old and new. Its just the post war stuff inbetween. This is slowly but surely being addressed but with Exeter's location in the South West the investment is not as great as those in the South East or Manchester, Birmingham for example so will be a work in progress for at least another 20 years in my opinion.
I do mostly agree with you- we do need to be innovative with architecture, and we can't deny what has happened in the past, i.e the Exeter blitz and shoddy redevelopment programs. As you say, the city does mainly need to move on and showcase good quality contemporary architecture next to the surviving historic buildings, as it would be pastiche, and "fake" as you say.
However, I do believe that a few buildings of particular landmark significance that were lost to the war should be rebuilt, as it would simply bring some pride back to the city, and showcase what Exeter had to offer. I do like a lot of Exeter's more contemporary buildings as well, such as the Princesshay centre for example. I even think a couple of the red-brick postwar buildings at the top of the high street are actually quite nice! (Not all of them mind!) I can agree that Sidwell street, Paris street and South Street are absolutely horrible though!
It is a shame that Exeter, as a "secondary city" in the South West won't be a attracting a great deal of development funding, but at least the problems are slowly being recognised and dealt with. I like the idea of digging the Roman Bathhouses too, could make for a very interesting attraction!
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Old December 5th, 2013, 03:03 PM   #15
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Why does Britain refuse to reconstruct lost architecture?
For the same reason it knocked down a lot of perfect sound victorian terraces in the 1950's and 1960's. Money. The UK has always been money over anything and if someone can make enough money by leveling something, they will, still goes on and there are plenty of modern examples in London. Once they can stop knocking down victorian, only then can they starting thinking about reconstructing what was lost.

These were demolished in the late 50's:

Notting Hill Gate then:



Notting Hill Gate now:



North Paddington



Now:

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Old December 5th, 2013, 03:47 PM   #16
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I think a lot of the reasoning is practical and economic, along with a desire to be innovative and seen as a player on the world stage. I also think we don't like to be seen as 'fake' and for something to pretend to be something that it isn't. Today you can use modern materials for the structure and clad it in a skin that looks from a bygone era, but by and large we don't do that as it feels like a lie.

In my home city, which I'm sure you've guessed is Coventry, the inner city needed redeveloping even pre-war, as the roads and alleyways needed widening for a changing world. Of course the buildings could have been recreated alongside the new roads, just further apart, but a lot of the older buildings just wouldn't have been suitable in terms of size etc for the needs of the modern world either and the materials for construction either scarce or more expensive, and when you need to rebuild an entire country when its pretty much bankrupt this is a major issue. Some of the post war recreation is still ongoing in Europe nearly 70 years later.

For example, in one of the historic areas remaining in the city a fire destroyed a old watchmakers cottage and top shop. A developer put in a plan to build a few sympathetically styled houses on the site, which was blocked and a more expensive plan to recreate the top shop passed. There are a few large scale housing developments occurring at the moment, filling in some of the old factory sites, and these are selling as quickly as they are built. The recreated top shop is empty. For balance there is also some current work underway on a place called Far Gosford Street, which is recreating the old look of the street. However, many of these structures are still standing so are in fact just being refurbished in a way and it is quite expensive and taking a long time, but it does seem to be making the area busier.

I'm a big detractor of much of the post war redevelopment, with things like the ring road and the precinct/Broadgate just laid over the street plan and ignoring how it would interact with it. I guess they just thought if they could get a few things built they could then say it didn't fit in with the old stuff and so that would need replacing too, thus incrementally getting more and more of their own plan put in to make it coherent. The destruction from the war just gave them a massive opportunity to do more than they could have otherwise hoped. For example, major cities like Paris which practically rebuilt the entire city due to the massive influence of single individuals seem to work, yet had only part of those plans been done it'd be an incoherent mess. Gibson/Lyng would have actually destroyed a great deal more of the old architecture had they been allowed, including the old Cathedral.

In terms of building design its also unfortunate that those planners who had an opportunity to do such large scale redevelopment which nowadays could only be dreamed off had been brought up as children during WWI/II, during times of austerity, rationing and low supplies. Ornate decoration and intricate design were seen as wasteful and unnecessary, and despite the desire of many of them to be seen as railing against the establishment in fact their designs are prime examples of how the opinion and education of the state about efficiency and wastefulness influenced them heavily.

I also think we don't like the idea of 'fakery'. We have Spon St, which is full of old buildings which many locals love, but few realise its 'fake', with the (authentic) buildings taken from other areas of the city centre to prevent them being knocked down. It's essentially a dumping ground for old architecture. One of the chuches which make up the famous Three Spires is pretty much a 18/19th century rebuild. There are plenty of other places in Coventry which still has a surprising amount of old stuff, but it's quite spread out and so doesn't manage to create the feeling of a place like York. Personally I'd rather see those authentic buildings moved into a central area around the cathedral and old churches, allowing redevelopment unhindered by their presence in their current locations, than to recreate buildings that look historic but aren't. It feels like you're ripping people off. It also allows them to be more of an asset, as they create a critical mass that can be used for tourism which currently in situ they're too disparate to achieve.
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Old December 5th, 2013, 05:03 PM   #17
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In my home city, which I'm sure you've guessed is Coventry, the inner city needed redeveloping even pre-war, as the roads and alleyways needed widening for a changing world.
Do you think they actually needed widening and if they were not widened, the city would have suffered economically? For example, do you think Barcelona's Bari Gotic is poorer or less commercial because it kept its alleyways and narrow streets? Do you think Soho in London which can barely fit one car down any given road should have been demolished?
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Old December 5th, 2013, 06:02 PM   #18
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Do you think they actually needed widening and if they were not widened, the city would have suffered economically? For example, do you think Barcelona's Bari Gotic is poorer or less commercial because it kept its alleyways and narrow streets? Do you think Soho in London which can barely fit one car down any given road should have been demolished?
Almost without a doubt it would. Pre-war Coventry was quite small (even now for a city of its size its quite compact) and heavily industrial. A lot of the factories, which made up much of its economic output, were actually very centrally located and transporting the goods other than those next to the railway would have been nigh on impossible.

The areas you talk of are tourist areas, or filled with entertainment. Coventry at the time was a working, industrial centre and had much different needs. Tourism and entertainment services weren't massively in demand in the Midlands at the time, nor were they expected to grow to the extent they have, so to abandon that economy and the skills the people in the area had in favour of a, at the time, niche area would have been economic suicide.

Since that time there has been a massive decline in manufacturing and an increase in tourism and services, plus an expansion outwards to decentralise offices and shopping in retail, business and science parks. With that hindsight maybe in the current climate keeping the older, narrower streets would have helped access this income stream, but its unlikely to have survived to be in a position to take advantage of it if it had.
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Old December 6th, 2013, 05:53 PM   #19
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For the same reason it knocked down a lot of perfect sound victorian terraces in the 1950's and 1960's. Money. The UK has always been money over anything and if someone can make enough money by leveling something, they will, still goes on and there are plenty of modern examples in London. Once they can stop knocking down victorian, only then can they starting thinking about reconstructing what was lost.

These were demolished in the late 50's:

Notting Hill Gate then:



Notting Hill Gate now:



North Paddington



Now:

Shocking needless demolitions
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Old December 6th, 2013, 06:07 PM   #20
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[QUOTE=MusicMan1;109435144]
However, I do believe that a few buildings of particular landmark significance that were lost to the war should be rebuilt, as it would simply bring some pride back to the city, and showcase what Exeter had to offer. I do like a lot of Exeter's more contemporary buildings as well, such as the Princesshay centre for example. I even think a couple of the red-brick postwar buildings at the top of the high street are actually quite nice! (Not all of them mind!) I can agree that Sidwell street, Paris street and South Street are absolutely horrible though!
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I don't see how reconstructing a building from a previous generation could bring pride back to the city. The existing generation would have no connection to these buildings and they would know they were fake. It would only benefit the tourists.
Yes i quite like some of the post-war architecture on the high street. Those parts have actually aged quite well. The other streets you list are awful though. Cheap and nasty concrete buildings. Thankfully Sidwell Street and Paris Street are going to be demolished soon in the next large scale city centre project.

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Originally Posted by CovAD View Post
I think a lot of the reasoning is practical and economic, along with a desire to be innovative and seen as a player on the world stage. I also think we don't like to be seen as 'fake' and for something to pretend to be something that it isn't. Today you can use modern materials for the structure and clad it in a skin that looks from a bygone era, but by and large we don't do that as it feels like a lie.

In my home city, which I'm sure you've guessed is Coventry, the inner city needed redeveloping even pre-war, as the roads and alleyways needed widening for a changing world. Of course the buildings could have been recreated alongside the new roads, just further apart, but a lot of the older buildings just wouldn't have been suitable in terms of size etc for the needs of the modern world either and the materials for construction either scarce or more expensive, and when you need to rebuild an entire country when its pretty much bankrupt this is a major issue. Some of the post war recreation is still ongoing in Europe nearly 70 years later.

For example, in one of the historic areas remaining in the city a fire destroyed a old watchmakers cottage and top shop. A developer put in a plan to build a few sympathetically styled houses on the site, which was blocked and a more expensive plan to recreate the top shop passed. There are a few large scale housing developments occurring at the moment, filling in some of the old factory sites, and these are selling as quickly as they are built. The recreated top shop is empty. For balance there is also some current work underway on a place called Far Gosford Street, which is recreating the old look of the street. However, many of these structures are still standing so are in fact just being refurbished in a way and it is quite expensive and taking a long time, but it does seem to be making the area busier.

I'm a big detractor of much of the post war redevelopment, with things like the ring road and the precinct/Broadgate just laid over the street plan and ignoring how it would interact with it. I guess they just thought if they could get a few things built they could then say it didn't fit in with the old stuff and so that would need replacing too, thus incrementally getting more and more of their own plan put in to make it coherent. The destruction from the war just gave them a massive opportunity to do more than they could have otherwise hoped. For example, major cities like Paris which practically rebuilt the entire city due to the massive influence of single individuals seem to work, yet had only part of those plans been done it'd be an incoherent mess. Gibson/Lyng would have actually destroyed a great deal more of the old architecture had they been allowed, including the old Cathedral.

In terms of building design its also unfortunate that those planners who had an opportunity to do such large scale redevelopment which nowadays could only be dreamed off had been brought up as children during WWI/II, during times of austerity, rationing and low supplies. Ornate decoration and intricate design were seen as wasteful and unnecessary, and despite the desire of many of them to be seen as railing against the establishment in fact their designs are prime examples of how the opinion and education of the state about efficiency and wastefulness influenced them heavily.

I also think we don't like the idea of 'fakery'. We have Spon St, which is full of old buildings which many locals love, but few realise its 'fake', with the (authentic) buildings taken from other areas of the city centre to prevent them being knocked down. It's essentially a dumping ground for old architecture. One of the chuches which make up the famous Three Spires is pretty much a 18/19th century rebuild. There are plenty of other places in Coventry which still has a surprising amount of old stuff, but it's quite spread out and so doesn't manage to create the feeling of a place like York. Personally I'd rather see those authentic buildings moved into a central area around the cathedral and old churches, allowing redevelopment unhindered by their presence in their current locations, than to recreate buildings that look historic but aren't. It feels like you're ripping people off. It also allows them to be more of an asset, as they create a critical mass that can be used for tourism which currently in situ they're too disparate to achieve.
Totally agree with every word of this. Thats interesting that Coventry plucked historic buildings and re-built them elsewhere. Is there anywhere around the cathedral these buildings could perhaps be 're-built' again?
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