In the war with russia, Britain is one of our strongest allies. At the same time, we can benefit not only from the partnership of the present, but also from the experience of the post-war reconstruction of this country and its cities. This is what Peter J. Larkham, urban geographer, morphologist, and planning historian talks about in the material.
There were cities in the country that were destroyed almost completely, and there were those almost untouched. But all of them still needed reconstruction. For this purpose, in the 1940s, legislation and planning procedures in Britain were reformed. For example, issues of national parks and protection of historical buildings were settled. At the same time, it would be a mistake to think that the restoration ideas introduced after the war came about after World War II. In fact, some concepts were conceived even before that.
It was decided to transform the cities considering the challenges of the time, such as the increase in the number of cars, as well as the needs and requests of the residents themselves. There was a political vision of what the rebuilt city should look like, in particular its center. Those who did not follow these approaches did not receive funding. In addition, cities competed, in particular, for expensive specialists. There were not enough professional urban planners in the country, so, it was mostly architect and planners, as well as surveyors who worked on projects.
Reconstruction plans were promoted through exhibitions: people could see what they wanted to make their city in the future. They also wanted to make them proud of the reconstruction in this way. However, the architects sometimes lacked feedback from the community. After 1947, there was a demand to pay more attention to the technical aspects of the plan, and that is when it became difficult for ordinary residents to understand them.
The projects' implementation took longer than expected. In particular, this was because structural steel was used for the reconstruction. It was an important part of exports, so the use of this material in the country was strictly regulated by the government.
The most attention was paid to the restoration of London. Particularly because it was not only the capital of the country, but also a whole trade empire. Many different plans were developed for its restoration, both for the city itself and for the entire county. People discussed the blueprints and even the materials that were proposed to be used for the reconstruction. And on the one hand, this pluralism of opinions benefited London, it helped to find the best solutions. On the other hand, it also had disadvantages. Thus, the London planning authorities’ plan actually competed with that of government consultants. And there were also informal plans. This caused a lot of confusion, especially among the citizens.
Another problem was that projects of different scales were done in the wrong order. For example, the regional plan should have been approved first, on the basis of which the architects then made plans for cities and villages. And it turned out the other way round.
Eventually, it is possible to single out several major plans for the reconstruction of London:
- Greater London Plan
This is a government commission project developed by Patrick Abercrombie. One of the key innovations of the plan was the functional zones and the relocation of more than a million Londoners to eight satellite towns of London, planned to be built in the green space. The architect wanted to introduce a certain economic decentralization and disperse the population. He was convinced that a healthy community was a combination of different social and economic groups of people, so he criticized the interwar idea of suburban residential areas, which would spoil such diversity.
By the way, the Ministry of Reconstruction criticized this plan because in some places it was irrelevant to modern needs.
- County of London Plan
It came with the previous plan, and they have the same author. However, this project was more justified in terms of statistics and theory. In addition, it included ideas on how to deal with traffic congestion, substandard housing, lack of recreational and other public spaces, environmental and other problems.
The project included a scheme of social and functional zones separating green spaces. Considerable attention was paid to transport, three ring roads were designed. The national and international functions of the city, such as its role as a financial center, as well as its manufacturing and trade capacities and its cultural heritage, were also considered.
The plan was widely known, it was viewed by more than 54,000 people. The city districts offered their amendments to it. And the biggest issue was that the project was difficult to implement without an overall national plan.
- Royal Institute of British Architects Plan
It was an unofficial plan for the broader reconstruction of the region. Interim ideas were published in a booklet that was handed out at a regional planning exhibition at the National Gallery in 1943. This project identified seven factors necessary for the redevelopment of the region. Most importantly, it called for the creation of a national plan, and, first of all, for the meeting the needs of the people. In addition, it covered the city reconstruction, the location of industry, the preservation of historical and cultural assets, and the request for reconstruction communication. Districts would have been separated by railroads and green spaces, and each of them would have had its own schools, hospitals, shopping malls and administrative buildings.
However, this plan was short and lacked detail, and the diagrams were rather general and sloppy.
- City of London Plan by Holden and Holford
Charles Holden was a famous architect, but he had little experience in planning, so the practical component of the plan had to be provided by William Holford. The project was presented in 1946, and it was strongly criticized by the public. In some places, it contradicted Abercrombie's ideas, such as the decentralization of urban life. Holford and Holden believed that because of the importance of the city, the number of offices in the center could increase. Some buildings were proposed to be demolished to build roads, some to be made higher.
What lessons does Peter J. Larkham advise Ukrainians to learn from this?
Reconstruction can be divided into several stages:
- to determine what was there before the destruction;
- to understand exactly how the city was destroyed: what is the scale of the disaster, the type;
- to solve urgent problems such as clearing debris, providing temporary housing;
- to develop a plan, revising and improving it all the time;
- to build the planned. It can take more than a dozen years;
- years and decades later to assess what was achieved and how it was achieved. Something may have to be changed again;
- and finally, to think about building new, more resistant buildings not only to physical destruction, but also to climate change.
- It is necessary to understand whether there is a reliable planning system that can cope with the need for large-scale and rapid reconstruction. This also applies to legislation, such as land acquisition, redistribution of funds, compensation for losses and damages.
- It is also worth to prioritize what to restore first.
- It is necessary to analyze at what level the plans need to be developed, does it concern a separate city, region, or the entire country? And then it is necessary to determine whether it will be the reconstruction of the old or the creation of something radically new? Who will make the decision?
- Reconstruction takes years and decades, so you have to be ready to change plans. For example, because new architectural approaches, forms, or building materials will appear.
- The public needs to be involved in the discussion of the plans. This will help to consider all needs, to keep the public interested in reconstruction, and to get people's support. And this means that it is also necessary to think over the mechanisms of how to involve them.
- The provision of resources also needs to be carefully planned: to realistically assess finances, provision of construction materials, and qualified personnel.
- The cities that have not undergone significant destruction will pick up the trend of change in the wave of reconstruction. Unless they do so, they will be left behind in the new economic and urban system.
- Reconstructed cities will look different, but we must build for the future, not for the past. It is necessary to consider the issues of energy efficiency, greening and sustainable development.
You can listen to the full story at the link.
And also read the stories of the reconstruction of Coventry, Warsaw, Berlin, Hiroshima, Le Havre, Samarinda and villages in the Netherlands.