Potential new life for a failed vision

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.

Credits: “Possession of bicycles to be banned in the heart of the City” on City Cyclists and @iambrianjones Related post: All the Smithsons needed were cyclists


  1. tk says:

    Ah you had to throw that Spore ref in there to bait me out of the woodwork. Well, congrats, it worked.

    Spore has a kind of cognitive dissonance relating to its ‘authoritarian’ reputation. So yes, while there are still lots of ‘breathing bans’, no one pays much attention – the populace or the government!

    So for example while M2M sex is illegal and the government refuses to strike the Law (inherited from the Victorian Brits) off the books, they have publicly said they will no longer prosecute it, ever. The continued existence of the law is to merely reassure the “moral majority” (i.e. fringe dwelling religious crazies) that they’re being listened to. If you believe my gay friends and colleagues, Spore has the wildest gay scene in SE Asia, and there’s a large Pride rally here every year.

    There are “no cycling” signs in every underpass along the excellent riverfront (which you’ve cycled on), and on every freeway overpass. And a $1000 fine for flouting the rules. But… in over 4 years I’ve never seen a single cop on the riverfront or on any cycling / ped path. I’m probably up to at least five hundred thousand in fines by now… if not a mill. The city street-sweepers (who ride tricycles mounted with rubbish skips) even sleep in the underpasses when not working. Similarly, cycling on the footpath will never incur a fine.

    The kids who hang out outside various nightclubs, binge drinking before going inside, don’t get hassled by cops. The city has just started leaving out more rubbish bins on weekends so the kids don’t leave their Absolut and Jager bottles lying around for the joggers to trip over in the morning. Still plenty of vomit to have to step / weave around though… Try walking through any Australian CBD with an open bottle of beer…

    JTC is the biggest of the Government’s development agencies. They control a lot of the commercial buildings and estates around where I work, including a great little enclave of modernist 3 storey walkups near work (Chip Bee Gardens). There are signs saying ‘skating is welcome (and it’s a great skating area, lots of rails and ramps), but we take no responsibility if you break your arm or skull’.

    Spore is investing tens of billions in new rail lines (unlike… say… Melbourne or Sydney…). They’re now providing proper bike racks at stations, under cover and with the ubiquitous cctv (some things won’t change…). I can now ride my foldie 5 mins to the nearest station, where you’re supposed to fold up and carry or roll it. But I take it down the escalators (unfolded), ride through the ticket concourse to the lift, catch the lift down to the platform and ride onto the train. No one bats an eyelid. Try that in London…

    And finally, the roads. Despite its reputation for micromanaging every aspect of its citizens lives, the Spore government (and judiciary) have left the roads as the last frontier. It’s like the wild west out there… http://instadrive.tumblr.com/

  2. Steven says:

    Seems it is time I moved back there. Do mention my name if provided a suitable opportunity. Let them know I’m Mr. Lee’s biggest fan—as anyone would be after reading Plato’s Republic.

  3. tk says:

    Lee the father or Lee the son? the old man is pretty much senile now, i doubt he’d remember you, though they still do wheel him out every now and then. the son is more technocrat where the father was autocrat, but yes, it’s still a plutocracy – which seems to be a pretty good solution for the modern city-state. and he has a pleasing oxford-english accent. unlike our wailing banshee of a PM.

    as for positions – you could offer yourself up as project architect for the nascent rail corridor development. plenty of mixed use retail / commercial / residential building opps, above street wave forms, desire lines and mixed modal transport. a BIG job…

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