The plan was to give the entire ground plane of London over to cars, and have pedestrians live on a terrace, one level up. But in the absence of a totalitarian post-war redevelopment authority, with absolute power to remodel London, the job would need to proceed in piecemeal fashion. As a result, only pieces of the grand plan were realized: London Wall; The Barbican; The National Theater — not enough to encourage shop keepers and lazy pedestrians to make the big move, from the ground to the new noble plane, five meters off of the ground.
However, it was not only its fragmentation, and slowness to come to fruition, working against the grand terrace. Even if it could have been realized, it would have been stultifying boring. This 1967 byelaw controlling the use of these “walkways”, bans sitting on balustrades, musical instruments, or the mere sight of a bicycle, such a thing being classified as a “vehicle”. Yes, that old “breathing-ban” thinking, alive, I believe, still in Singapore and parts of America, led to the designing of moonscapes, and they remain moonscapes even today. There is more life in the troll zone underneath London’s National Theater, than up where people are meant to be chatting and reading their papers. Iain Borden has identified the SLOAP space below, as belonging to London’s skaters.
But suppose the new ground plane had been conceived as a lively place, with music, skaters grinding the balustrades, and with people cycling? Rather than hoping to lure lazy old fogies up two flights of stairs, society’s agile could be lured up with bike ramps, the promise of fun, and some chaos. Drivers and old codger pedestrians, would be free to live in London as they do now, while the cyclists and skaters pursue a hedonistic and more active life in the air. It’s just a thought.