For our edification: how the English intelligentsia saved London architecture
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For our edification: how the English intelligentsia saved London architecture

8 October , 11:27Culture
In the 1960s, the British government was going to demolish the entire center of London in order to build a kind of an English Stalingrad there, of concrete and glass, but the intervention of the intelligentsia stopped this process.

Legendary British radio host Seva Novgorodtsev published a very informative post about how the English intelligentsia defended the English architectural heritage and won, albeit with losses:

“Sometimes it seems to me that there are no classes in society - the proletariat, the peasantry, the bourgeoisie, the aristocracy - but there are simply people whose tastes are proletarian, peasant, bourgeois or aristocratic. A person's tastes, his aesthetics determine his position among other people. The proletarian who listens to Miles Davis and reads Brodsky is not a proletarian for me, but a noble offspring who adores pop music - not a nobleman.

That is why I get so upset when I come to Russia. In the cars sounds a shallow chanson, and new buildings of the same architecture sweep by. Nowadays it is fashionable to scold the Fatherland, and I am not an exception. Only my homeland is not Russia, from where I left without citizenship, but Britain, which accepted and presented my passport. Therefore, I will scold Britain.

"England", the visiting Russians say with a breath, "is respect for traditions". Hell no. And that's putting it mildly. The British government of the 60s was going to demolish the entire center of London and build our English Stalingrad, of concrete and glass. The classic buildings of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Treasury, the Covent Garden market, St Pancras, Paddington and Victoria stations were going to be dismantled. The same was planned for other cities.

The intelligentsia, that is, according to our rule, a group of people with certain tastes, went into mortal combat. Today, a monument to the poet John Betchman stands at the restored St Pancras train station. He, of course, fully deserved a monument as a poet, but it was erected for a completely different reason. John Betcheman saved the station as an outstanding monument of Victorian architecture. The destroyers only managed to knock down the station clock, the thing is also unique. I mean, you can't repeat it.

The fighting intelligentsia managed to defend a lot, but the losses were great. The magnificent Coal Exchange and Bering Bank in the City, the Imperial Institute in Kensington, the beautiful Central Library in Birmingham, the magnificent Eaton and Trentham Hall buildings.

In 1974, the Victoria and Albert Museum hosted the Destruction of English Estates exhibition. She made an impression, made me think, calmed the ardor of the bulldozer drivers.

Powerful organizations were behind the bulldozers - the Royal Institute of Architects, the financial lobby. Breaking down the “outdated” and “non-artistic” building led to large lucrative orders for “progressive” buildings made of steel and glass, which are now numerous in London. I would say quite enough.

Architecture fosters the taste of those who live in it. Children of steel and glass will protect what they are used to, what they think is beautiful and functional. I admit that the intelligentsia that defended the Victorian heritage in London architecture also fought for what they grew up in.

Over the past 400 years, architectural requirements have changed. In the beginning, the main thing was beauty, harmony, balance. In the end, it became - functionality, cheapness, speed of construction.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with this, but in no case should we forget about beauty, harmony and balance. And then all the people without exception will listen to the chanson.

Then the country is over.

The photo shows an antique postcard with a view of the Imperial Institute in Kensington. It does not exist now..."

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