"The last truly utopian planning project in London"

Posted by Tory Historian Wednesday, February 18, 2009 , ,

Tory Historian went to the Barbican today (on the Circle Line from Westminster and it did not take all that long – what is the world coming to) but found that the Le Corbusier exhibition, much discussed in the media, does not actually open till tomorrow. Bad planning and an unusual misreading of the programme. Never rely on media write-ups, is a good motto and Tory Historian should have remembered it.

So it was off for a cup of tea to the remarkably unpleasant and unattractive old-fashioned canteen-like Waterside Café. The little booklet on the Le Corbusier exhibition and attendant programme says:

The last truly utopian planning project in London and greatly inspired by his [Le Corbusier’s] aesthetic, the Barbican presents the perfect backdrop to discover the man and his legacy.
That is the precise sentence as printed; therefore Tory Historian takes no responsibility for the shoddy grammatical structure. The content is of interest, though.

Le Corbusier is probably one of the evil geniuses of the twentieth century, a man with whose legacy we are still contending. His notion that people’s lives can be wrenched out of their accepted grooves, arranged and organized according to some grand plan devised by those who know best fitted in well with many other, more political than cultural views of the time. The appropriateness of the Barbican, one of London’s ugliest structures, hosting the exhibition had already occurred to Tory Historian.

It is, however, interesting that this monstrous, unattractive in any weather and shambolic building should be described as “the last utopian planning project in London”. Want to know what a twentieth century utopia was intended to be once all those who opposed it had been carted off to the concentration camps? Well, go to the Barbican and try to navigate your way round it, not forgetting the unattractive eating places and the incomprehensible lifts.

Then look across the water at St Giles Cripplegate, a mediaeval church, much rebuilt and enlarged through the centuries with which Milton, Cromwell, Frobisher and, even Bunyan were connected. It survived the Great Fire but was gutted by German bombs in 1940. The outside survived even the Blitz and was restored using the plans of the reconstruction of 1545, after another fire. Utopia loses to history. Long may that continue.

1 Responses to "The last truly utopian planning project in London"

  1. Corbu is one of the great villains of the 20th Century.

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