A controversial development plan for the Barbican border
London Wall West
Bastion House, 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.
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.
There had been a plan to build a world-class music centre on the Museum of London site. The Corporation would invest £288m in this 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 https://londonwallwest.co.uk The Corporation wants to raise money for the Museum’s move. The pandemic and lockdown means the £288m investment is now unaffordable.
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 Corporation hasn’t made an architectural model, which makes it difficult for non-architectural to visualise the scale of the new development. Barbican Quarter has made a model and you can see it here in its video.
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. The Corporation can’t find the plans of Bastion House and there’s controversy about the CO2 price of the plans.
In the original architectural brief the Corporation aspired to development that sought to lease the way 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?
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.