The controversial development plan for the Barbican border,

London Wall West, hasn’t gone away


Bastion House, so reminiscent of the revered Seagram Building in New York by Mies van der Rohe, is to be demolished along with the white-tiled Museum of London and the rotunda in the junction of London Wall at Aldersgate Street.

And the demolition could begin very soon…


Time doesn’t seem to be on the side of Bastion House and the former Museum of London building. The City of London Corporation, a local government authority tracing its history back over more than 950 years in charge of the City of London, the ancient Roman city and now one of the world’s leading and most successful and prosperous financial centres, has plans for a major redevelopment for what it has called London Wall West. Objecting to the Corporation’s plans is Barbican Quarter, a group of locals, lovers of the Barbican who aren’t, they say, opposed to redevelopment, just these plans.  The Barbican Quarter’s argument is to retain, reuse and retrofit the site. The City’s plans for 750,000 square feet of new office space  releasing (according to the Barbican Quarter’s studies) a massive 45,000 tonnes of CO2 by demolition of the existing buildings, don’t need to be approved in order for the City to demolish.  The remaining tenants of Bastion have their marching orders for the end of March and if the City waits until later in 2023 the current Certificate of Immunity will expire and its possible that Bastion House and/or the Museum of London building will receive a spotlisting saving them from the bulldozers. The City, who can’t find the plans of Bastion, dispute the objectors’ assessment of the carbon price to be paid by demolition and rely on its own Whole Life Carbon Assessment. Further the City attributes to the space it will set aside for the public realm recreation and learning within the site a value of £38million, arguing that the new development will enhance the cultural life of the City.



There was to have been a world-class music centre on the Museum of London site. That was the original plan. The Corporation would invest £288m in the project intended to add substance and kudos to its “Cultural Mile”. The Museum of London’s move to Smithfield market is still going ahead but instead of a new concert and music venue the Corporation’s plan for what it calls London Wall West is a massive commercial development. Here’s the link to the City’s plans  The Corporation wants to raise money for the Museum’s move.  The pandemic and lockdown means the £288m investment is now unaffordable



Museum of London from adjacent to Barber Surgeons Hall, a patch of ground, which, according to some pagans, has never ever been built upon.


The Corporation hasn’t made an architectural model of its development, which makes it difficult for non-architects to visualise the scale of the new development.  Barbican Quarter has made a model and you can see it here in its video.



In its initial architectural brief for the site following the abandonment of the concert hall idea, the Corporation aspired to a development that be a leader for the post-pandemic office.  Hybrid working isn’t going away.  Offices are changing and are going to change more.  An office built along pre-pandemic lines may be a costly white elephant. Few people live in the City of London, just over 8000, businesses and workers have to choose to commute to the City, so it needs to offer more, needs to lead. Shouldn’t the Corporation in its striving to keep the City relevant be building that office of tomorrow?

And in May 2023, when the City’s plans for the development are quite likely to be in the process of consideration, in what has to be a candidate for the Irony of the Year award 2023, the Lord Mayor is hosting at Mansion House the Net Zero Delivery Summit with the Egyptian COP Presidency.

Rowan Moore, architecture critic of the Observer, author and 2014 Critic of the Year in his Observer article “The Museum of London: a fundamental clash as the City of London dreams on”, contrasts the objectors’ view that the cost in terms of lost architecture and the release of CO2 should be to “retain, reuse and retrofit” rather than to demolish and build what, in the eyes of the objectors, are office buildings that hark back to the old office culture, a utility that no longer exists.

And now the Twentieth Century Society is taking up the challenge to save these buildings.


The campaign against the Corporation of London’s plans for London Wall West


There are always people who object and it’s not unreasonable to figure that a good number of the people who might be troubled by the Corporation’s plans are the residents of Mountjoy House and Thomas Moore House, the blocks of the Barbican nearest to the site of Bastion House and the Museum of London. That people facing years of noise and disturbance are concerned doesn’t make those concerns illegitimate and the Corporation certainly hasn’t made that argument. Barbican Quarter has focused its objections on the need for very large office blocks and the carbon cost of demolishing Bastion House and constructing new buildings.


Bastion House from the Barbican High walk


We must never forget that it was the venerable Corporation of London that was responsible for the building of the Barbican, a bold and modern design that has become a glorious globally-known icon. It’s a spirit and imagination that few institutions could match and in ensuring that the City of London and the environs of the wonderful Barbican remains a centre where people and businesses want to be, those same animating characteristics are needed as much as ever.

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