Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Well, It was a Good Idea at the Time!

BBC Town Planning Programme circa 1961

Short clip of a rare documentary, on the future of town/city planning, focusing on the Barbican Estate area of London, which was the most heaviest bombed area of London during the Second World War. It talks of an expanding city, but the general consensus in the 1960s was, expanding and constructing upwards was the key to solving the problem of overcrowding and the general population rise from the "baby boom" era of 1945 and onwards. This was the age of the high-rise tower block, for which most have lived in infamy and are no longer with us, due to ill-planning or have descended into council sink estates, unloved, despite an air of security, unless you lived on the ground floor. However, not the Barbican Estate in central London, I'll get to that in 2 paragraphs time.

The programme is presented by Michael Calthrop. Not much about him on the net. That's all I know. Not seen in the clip, was also taking part were American Historian Lewis Mumford, who I guess would be discussing about his idealism about "organic cities" as quoted from his book at the time "The City in History"(1961) and Percy Johnson-Marshall a British town/city planner, who the following year, planned the University of Edinburgh's Comprehensive Development Area in the 1960s, who was a lecturer there himself, and taking from the credits, helped produce this documentary too.

The Barbican Estate area was and still is, an in-demand place of earnest living, and expensive. It's in the very heart of London, the district of The City of London, so it's crammed full of facilities like an Arts Centre and shops. Unlike similar examples of "Brutalist Architecture" (raw concrete buildings) elsewhere in the UK, which became no-go areas because of a lack of facilities. The most know towers like Shakespeare, Cromwell and Lauderdale have all become Grade II listed buildings, infact the whole estate is Grade II listed.

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