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Architecture is the story of the buildings that surround us.
It also tells us of an alternative world, the one that was never built.
This is the story of that possible world
and the Britain that could have been.
The unbuilt can take many forms.
If you take your typical architect, probably he'll realise - or she -
one in ten buildings.
In other words, for every ten buildings or projects
that you design, one will get built.
In this series, I'm going to explore the extraordinary possible worlds
that would have been created
by astonishing architectural and engineering projects
that were proposed, but never built.
Welcome to the amazing world of Unbuilt Britain.
By profession, I'm an architectural historian and investigator,
a job that puts me in contact with plans that have the potential
to change the way we live.
Across this series, I want to examine
why six of the most ambitious schemes in history
never made it off the drawing board.
My first case follows an inspirational trail
that leads from the structure of a lily leaf,
to what would have been the biggest glass building in the world.
And I also find out how a landscape gardener
designed the perfect city for cars.
Both these projects were attempts at keeping the city connected
and the traffic flowing.
Ever since the rise of large cities,
the problem of congestion and moving around town
has been a challenge that both architects and engineers
have tried to solve.
In the overcrowded streets of 19th century London,
this problem was acutely felt.
The population had exploded from one million
to nearly seven million in less than 100 years,
making London the world's first global megacity.
People coming here
were overwhelmed by the experience of being among so many people,
where the simple business of getting across town
was an exhausting and nerve-racking ordeal.
But architects and city planners realised
that if London were to flourish,
it needed proper transport communications
to keep people and goods circulating.
Victorian London becomes the modern city that we know,
in part because the Victorians
can develop things like underground railways,
which they did in this city, in the City of London,
the world's first underground system.
And it provided a way to connect different people in different ways
that had never been experienced before.
The greatest thing about a city is that it's a meeting place
of strangers and ideas
and concepts that would never, ever,
find the light of day anywhere else.
When people and ideas flow freely, the city takes on a life of its own,
pumping like blood in a living body, or power in a machine.
It's no coincidence the tube map
looks just like a giant wiring diagram.
Keeping us all circulating is vital for the health of the city.
Intriguingly, many of the best solutions
our architects and engineers came up with
were never actually built.
The archives are stuffed to bursting with some astonishing plans
that would have transformed the city.
Here's an early solution to the problem of traffic congestion,
a 19th century proposal for tunnels beneath the streets.
This isn't the tube as we know it,
this is for the working classes only.
They were segregated below ground
to allow the rich the freedom of the street above,
without being blocked by the Victorian equivalent
of a white van man.
When steam power arrived,
one visionary designer
planned to build a railway down the middle of the Thames.
By the 1960s, architects thought
that helicopters would become commonplace
and saw the way ahead written in the skies.
50 years before The Shard became a reality,
this ground-breaking 1,000-foot tower of glass
was planned for North London, complete with helicopter access.
But two plans that really catch my attention
are both striking and futuristic in different ways.
Separated by a century, both developments used glass technology
to solve the problem of our congested streets.
Motopia, a city of glass designed for the car.
Decades ahead of its time,
Motopia was the brainchild of Geoffrey Jellicoe in the 1960s.
But first, I want to explore plans for the Great Victorian Way.
Dating from the 1850s,
it would have been an 11-mile glass-covered thoroughfare
around central London.
Designed to solve traffic congestion in the streets,
it would have connected the city's main railway stations.
This amazing scheme was the brainchild of an extraordinary man.
Joseph Paxton - Sir Joseph Paxton as he would later become -
was an exceptional man,
whose life and work embodied much of the can-do culture
of the new industrial age.
Joseph Paxton, he's hugely self-motivated, has enormous energy.
And more to the point, he's self-taught
and he uses the cards that are dealt to him
with such acuity and grace and energy,
that it's almost as if anything's possible.
Dickens called him the busiest man in England.
He was a horticulturist, he set up a brand-new newspaper,
with Dickens as the editor, for a while.
He was involved as an MP in a number of public schemes,
but he also designed the first public parks in England.
Went on designing huge mansions for the rich, for the Rothschilds,
as well as smaller ones for the Duke of Devonshire.
It was almost as if wherever he saw a problem
for which he thought he might have a design solution,
he got involved.
When Paxton proposed his Great Victorian Way
to solve London's traffic congestion,
he was already the most celebrated architect in Britain,
having recently won the acclaim of the nation
with his famous cast-iron and glass building, the Crystal Palace.
Sadly, this extraordinary and innovative building
no longer exists.
On the 30th of November 1936,
the night sky was lit up by a huge fire,
as the Crystal Palace,
the architectural parent of the Great Victorian Way,
burned to the ground.
These are the ruins
of Paxton's revolutionary cast-iron and glass building.
A sad memorial to a visionary architect
whose design solutions continue to exert an influence
on the built environment.
But this original thinker came from a very humble background,
and his ideas for the Great Victorian Way
have their root in his origins as a gardener.
Born in 1803, Paxton's beginnings were really humble.
He is the son of a Bedfordshire farmer, he is a man of the land,
and he's one of the first young men
to ask for a place at the training gardens
of the new Horticultural Society.
And that was the cleverest thing he did, in effect,
because it was from that that his future flowed.
This magnificent pile is Chatsworth House,
arguably, and even literally, the hothouse for Paxton's ideas
which would ultimately inspire the Great Victorian Way.
He came at the invitation of the Duke of Devonshire,
who asked him to become head gardener.
Paxton was just 23 years old.
He was bursting with enthusiasm and ambitious plans,
and it was here that he began experimenting with glass,
building and designing greenhouses
which were expanding the science of horticulture in novel ways.
If you put something under glass,
you can force it,
you can change its temperature,
you can change, if you like, the whole temporality.
You can change time, to put it in a rather exaggerated way,
you can change space.
Because you can take plants from all over the world
and put them in a temperate climate.
So the idea of changing space and time
and creating a new, wholly new artificial environment,
I think that was a very great imaginative pull.
The conservative wall at Chatsworth
is a rare example of Paxton's early work with glass structures,
which would eventually inspire his design
for the unbuilt Great Victorian Way.
At the time, glass was a difficult and costly material
to manufacture on the scale required for construction,
but this didn't deter the young gardener.
This glasshouse, which in its current form dates from 1849,
actually has a wooden frame.
The combination of cast iron and glass came later.
But it was here, at Chatsworth, that Paxton had the opportunity
to experiment with materials and design,
an apprenticeship that would lead him
to bigger, much bigger buildings.
But in the first instance, Paxton's interest in architecture
merely serviced his passion for plants.
Paxton shared this horticultural enthusiasm with his employer,
The Duke of Devonshire, who faced the problem of accommodating
his growing collection of exotic plants.
Paxton obliged His Grace
by designing and building a gigantic greenhouse.
The cost was enormous.
A tenth of the Duke's budget for Chatsworth
was lavished on this vast structure.
Known as the Great Stove,
it was 277 feet long,
123 feet wide and 67 feet high,
and was the biggest glass building in England
when it was completed in 1836.
His great glasshouse, his great conservatory, was amazing.
It was fired by eight boilers, it was huge.
And not only did it require heat,
but because Paxton grew temperate and tropical things
and put them in a graduated relationship to one another,
the heating had also to be graduated.
So the technologies behind creating this vast spectacle
were incredibly complex, very expensive.
But, of course, they were a challenge and they delighted Paxton.
When the young Queen Victoria came to visit Chatsworth,
she was enchanted by a carriage ride through a glass palace
lit by 5,000 candles.
And they drove the Queen in her carriage,
where everything was lit up beautifully in different colours,
where tropical birds flew in the branches
and silver fish were in the ponds.
Where there were rock crystals
and winding staircases to walk up and view what was laid out below you.
It was horticultural theatre,
nothing like this had ever been done before.
Today, there is nothing left of Paxton's great conservatory,
except the outline of its foundations,
which now contain a maze garden.
But the success of his design marked the first step on a quest
to build ever-bigger glass structures
and would ultimately lead to the Great Victorian Way.
The next step came after the Duke enlisted Paxton's help
in a race to be the first to bring a giant Amazonian water lily to bloom.
At Kew Gardens, I've tracked down a woman
who's a direct descendant of the man who coaxed the lily to flower.
Theodora Waite is Paxton's great-great-granddaughter.
I'm meeting her to find out how Paxton found inspiration in nature
for all his great buildings.
So, Theodora, it's very appropriate that we've met here
in the Lily House at Kew Gardens,
because lilies, and in particular this one here,
have a special significance for your family, don't they?
Yes, they do.
Paxton was very involved with that lily
when it was brought into England.
They needed to have it blooming and he built a special house for it.
He even considered using electricity to get the flower to rise.
Because everybody was so disappointed,
they had this beautiful thing,
they'd seen it flowering in the Amazon, it was doing nothing.
And Paxton built a house, the light came, and it flowered,
which was fantastic.
And Queen Victoria was one of the first recipients of the blooms?
Yes, she was.
She was very lucky, I mean, it's a beautiful, beautiful thing.
And it was a huge achievement on Paxton's behalf
and created a great excitement, didn't it?
Hmm, absolutely. There was a mania, apparently,
this lily mania, but he wanted to put the lily to more use
than just being a pretty thing.
Once he'd got it flowering, being Paxton, he wanted more from it,
and he actually cribbed some strength ideas from beneath the leaves.
And we can see the underside there of the lily.
-And those ribs radiating out.
Paxton called that a natural feat of engineering
and it was that principle that he used in other designs.
He did, yes, the ridge-and-furrow principle.
And I think he had great faith in nature.
I think he stole nature's ideas along the line a lot of the time.
Mimicking the veins of the giant lily leaf,
Paxton's ridge-and-furrow building system
enabled a structure to be both light and strong.
He thought, this is going to work for one of my greenhouses,
the ridge-and-furrow system. But I need to have a real boost,
because he wanted to get his own way
and build this construction in his mind.
So he put his daughter on it, he had the Illustrated London News,
who were there doing a little sketch, checking it out.
And there was no problem.
She just stood there and it didn't sink.
It was strong and, of course, he'd proved his point, engineering-wise,
and he'd got the attention of the nation.
There they all were, it worked!
And have you inherited his green fingers?
Well, I hope so, I did win a gardening prize once,
I won a strimmer!
With the ridge-and-furrow building system,
Paxton was able to span larger areas than ever before.
This technique facilitated the design of the Great Victorian Way,
a glass megastructure
that would have been the biggest building on Earth.
To appreciate fully
the significance of the lesson Paxton drew from nature,
I'm heading to the Victoria and Albert Museum,
where I want to track down the first sketch
for the masterpiece he did build, the Crystal Palace.
Now, this really is amazing.
It may not look much,
but this sketch represents a revolution in building design.
It brought architecture and industry closer together than ever before.
The Crystal Palace was built to house the Great Exhibition of 1851,
the world's first celebration of free trade.
Using the ridge-and-furrow construction system
he'd copied from the lily leaf,
Paxton's design was essentially a gigantic greenhouse.
But what a greenhouse!
Spectators were dazzled,
they'd never seen a building which confounded perspective
in the way that this glass building did, because it cast no shadow.
So, for us, it's incredibly hard
to imagine how fairy-like that must have seemed.
How much it confirmed to those mid-Victorians
that they really were living in the age of progress,
in the age where anything was possible.
The Crystal Palace was 1,851 feet long
and 128 feet high.
Its cast-iron pillars supported an area of glass
the equivalent of 20 football pitches.
It was considered at the time to be a revolutionary building,
I think it's still revolutionary.
That was 1 million square feet in eight months with 2,000 people.
And they had to invent the techniques and the components,
they didn't exist at the time.
Paxton's prefabricated modular design
was a precursor to many of the building techniques
now familiar to us in the modern world.
Using cast iron and glass,
parts were mass-produced, in volume, to standard sizes.
Which meant, in theory,
that multiple versions of the same building could be produced,
or even assembled in completely different ways,
like Meccano or Lego.
The entire structure of the Crystal Palace was put together
using just 48 different types of component.
The design of the Crystal Palace may have pointed to the future,
but surprisingly, the glass it used was still manufactured
in the traditional way, by blowing.
Well, glass-blowing itself has been around for about 2,000 years.
It was... Most techniques that we still use today
were originally developed by the Romans.
There's a bit of debate
as to whether or not the Romans invented glass-blowing,
but they certainly developed most of the techniques
that we still use today.
'The way you actually make a glass object,
'you have to make it with a human breath,
'you have to blow the glass.'
And thus, glass, I think, is always associated with air,
with spirit, with something which is weightless and transcendental.
It seems an extraordinary paradox
that glass, this weightless, transparent material,
should be made out of the basic matter of the universe - sand.
'Breath and sand were the basis of glass manufacture
'in Victorian times.'
Now, the way in which the Crystal Palace windows were made,
involved a man gathering a large amount of glass on a blowpipe,
and he blew it and that created a football.
He then swung that football,
and gravity and centrifugal force extended it into a sausage.
You take that sausage, you allow it to cool down,
you chop the top and the bottom off it, and you're left with a cylinder.
You then use a diamond to scratch along the inside of the cylinder
to create a crack,
put it into a furnace, unravel it,
and you've ended up with a flat sheet of glass.
When Paxton designed the Crystal Palace,
every one of the 12 million panes of glass in the enormous roof
was blown by human breath.
Now, that's a lot of puff!
And it's incredible to think that such a revolutionary building
was so intimately connected to the stuff of life.
Part of the attraction of Paxton's Crystal Palace was the novelty
of being enclosed in an artificial environment made of glass.
Nowadays, we may be used to such spaces,
but we are always drawn to them,
like here in the Great Court at the British Museum.
The history of buildings is really the history of glass
in its many different forms.
I think that there are associations of release,
of communing with nature,
or bringing nature inside,
because we all like the benefit of the view.
If it's a sunny day, to know it.
In a way, we've been released from the cave,
and the story of architecture is the release from the cave.
Paxton's brilliant use of glass
pointed the way for others to follow.
His use of prefabrication and modular design
was quickly copied and adapted,
and soon glass canopies were thrown up
to cover all manner of civic spaces.
But no-one else quite had Paxton's vision and ambition.
Paxton had proved with his revolutionary building techniques
how it was possible to cover larger and larger expanses with glass.
But why not think even bigger?
Why not use the design principles
that had been such a success with the Crystal Palace
to transform the whole city?
For years, London had been suffering from chronic overcrowding.
The population had increased by 700% in under three generations.
The streets were choked and there just wasn't the infrastructure
to cope with so many people.
Thinking on a vast scale,
Paxton came up with a scheme to solve this problem
and to make London the greatest city on earth.
He wanted to connect the main railway stations,
free up the streets,
and make it possible to cross the city in just 15 minutes.
Difficult today, even on a congestion-busting Boris Bike,
and unthinkable in the 1850s.
At the V&A are some remarkable drawings
that show how Paxton's vision had evolved
from his early experiments with glass at Chatsworth.
What Paxton came up with
was essentially a giant, elongated Crystal Palace.
And this is the only surviving drawing
that shows his projected scheme.
Like the Crystal Palace,
it was going to be much more than just a greenhouse.
Under a vast roof of glass,
100 feet tall and 70 feet wide,
stretching for almost 11 miles,
Paxton proposed an integrated transport and communication system
around the heart of the city.
Had it been built, the Great Victorian Way
would have been by far the biggest building in the world.
It was immensely ambitious,
and it was seen as a connecting web of transport
that would transform the way people moved in the city.
The Great Victorian Way would have crossed the Thames in three places,
linking up the big railway stations around the edges of the City.
'It followed the course broadly taken now
'by the Circle line on the Underground,
'which was also a sort of communication circle
that had been conceived by many architects and designers before,
But what Paxton came up with was this revolutionary idea
of making something that was multi-functioning,
so it would provide not just access to pedestrians,
and to buses, and hackney cabs and so on,
but it would also have several different railway lines,
it would have some hotels,
it would have some housing, it would have some shops.
It would be, actually, like the multi-functional kind of complexes
that were built in the early or mid-part of the 20th century.
Plans for the Great Victorian Way impressed everyone that mattered.
Paxton argued that his design
was not only feasible but also affordable.
He said it would pay for itself through rental incomes
in a matter of years.
Won over by Paxton's sales pitch, Prince Albert, the Queen's Consort,
personally approved of the scheme
and an Act of Parliament was passed giving the go ahead.
So why, then, was it never built?
Was the Great Victorian Way just a fantasy vision of a possible future?
Were Paxton's plans unrealistic?
These are some of the questions
I want to put to architect and Paxton-admirer Eric Kuhne.
I think the thing that stands out from this drawing
is that Paxton knew that the right of way of the Great Victorian Way
had to be able to stand all the changes of the buildings.
So I believe these things would actually have been brought
all the way down to the ground, so it was an independent structure
holding up the glass roof above the street.
If you think of it kind of like charms on a bracelet,
with the Great Victorian Way being this necklace or bracelet,
the buildings should be able to plug in and plug out
as they change their use, get expanded, grow.
And how do you think, if this structure had been built,
it would have changed the way that people lived?
Paxton had this uncanny ability
to balance wealth and health in all of his planning.
This idea of creating an environment that would be safe year-round,
secure from the elements year-round,
but also creating an environment
where entrepreneurs could connect their businesses
and their innovation and ideas,
to basically fuel this burgeoning economy
of the middle of the 19th century.
And do you think that Paxton's design is now consigned to history?
These ideas are as fresh and current today as they were 160 years ago.
And so much so, that 10 years ago
we proposed for the new West End of London
that we cover all of Regent Street,
from Piccadilly Circus to Oxford Circus,
with glass canopies, and change the greatest street in London
into the greatest street in Europe
by making it a year-round place.
And it's fair to say that it was inspired
exactly by Paxton's Great Victorian Way.
So if we look at this cross section through the street,
we can show you how this works out,
because it comes together very similar to what he had proposed.
There's a structure that sits in the pavement
in line with the existing lampposts, along the street like this, goes up.
And what that does is support a glass handkerchief dome,
38 of these things actually, that hover above the street.
And the great thing about Regent Street
is that the dimension from building to building
is almost identical to the dimension of Paxton's Great Victorian Way.
And the height of our glass, at 106 feet,
is almost identical to the height that he was proposing.
So there's a huge transformation of Paxton's original ideals
now reinterpreted for the 21st century.
So Paxton's vision lives on?
Paxton's vision lives on.
Eric wants to show me a computer model
of his Paxton-inspired project for Regent Street
that showcases the transforming power of his glass canopy.
Eric, this is the most incredible vision of what might be,
a yet-to-be-built Britain.
I think Paxton's dream finally has found its home
here on Nash's Regent Street.
The idea of the Great Victorian Way
to provide the hospitality and generosity of a great city,
is recreated here in the 21st century,
to turn Regent Street into the pageantry of civic life
and one of the finest retail destinations in all the world.
-Let's go shopping!
The illusion of a glass canopy over Regent Street
suggests how Paxton's vision might have looked in the modern capital.
It's an impressive sight, but, of course, it never happened.
While Paxton was planning his Great Victorian Way,
conditions in the capital were rapidly deteriorating,
signalled by the arrival of an event christened the Great Stink
by London's long-suffering citizens.
By 1858, 90 million gallons of untreated, raw sewage
are flowing into the Thames.
And that summer, temperatures rise, very high,
and consequently, the smell coming out of the river
is enough to make people, simply,
find it impossible to live and impossible to work.
So, in fact, even the Government, even Westminster,
decamps further down the river,
and the country comes to a sort of a standstill.
This was a major crisis for both the city
and for Paxton's glass-covered Great Victorian Way,
which was now in direct competition with another scheme,
a proper sewerage system proposed by engineer Sir Joseph Bazalgette.
There simply wasn't the money for both,
and so Paxton's scheme was shelved,
as funds were diverted to stem the tide of human effluent.
The sewer system is a curious, sort of, in a way, terrestrial double
of this aerial corridor that Paxton envisaged,
because it does exactly the same thing, it just circulates matter,
as the Great Victorian Way
was supposed to circulate people and goods.
But I think what's interesting about it,
and that is what's interesting about Paxton's plan
for the Great Victorian Way too,
is that you had to see civic society as joined up.
I know that it's a strange thing to associate civic values with sewerage,
but I really think you have to.
And I think that also the Great Victorian Way
had the same civic values behind it.
And in that sense, the civic ambition of the Victorians
has never been equalled.
There's no doubt that Paxton was disappointed
not to realise his dream of the Great Victorian Way.
This design for the Great Victorian Way
was his last great flight of fancy.
It was a moment,
his last moment, really,
where he allowed his imagination to take flight
in the way that it had done since he was a young man.
And there were no more moments like that.
So whether or not he felt a sense of disappointment
that it didn't happen,
I'm almost sure that he would have done,
but he was always so busy, he was busy until the moment he died.
He was a terrier of a man.
The trail of Paxton and the Great Victorian Way
leads finally back to Chatsworth, where his astonishing career began.
It's fitting that Paxton was buried at Chatsworth
in the soil he shaped as a landscape gardener.
I've come to his grave to pay homage to a man of phenomenal achievement.
He lived in an era characterised by men of faith and daring,
who not only imagined a better world, but tried to build it.
Paxton wasn't the first architect, nor will he be the last,
to try to build a brighter future.
But the business of shaping whole cities is a difficult one.
They have their own dynamic.
You push one way, the city pulls the other,
especially when it comes to the problem of keeping us connected.
The streets of London today
are in many ways even worse than they were in Victorian times.
And the reason?
The internal combustion engine
that powers millions of motorised vehicles
through the streets every day.
The invention of the mass-produced automobile
was a truly revolutionary moment,
and perhaps the single greatest development of the 20th century.
Within a few decades,
the car was making exceptional demands on the traditional city,
where streets very quickly became congested.
The car has really knocked hell out of a lot of cities,
and it's a testimony
to the enduring tradition of the city
that it's survived that.
But planners and architects initially struggled to cope
with the onslaught of the motorcar.
Some became so desperate that they began
to put their faith in the latest technology.
Perhaps the aeroplane would take cars off the streets?
In 1931, architect Charles Glover
proposed a new London airport at King's Cross.
Planes would approach down a new aerial way,
landing on one of several runways,
which looked like spokes on a giant cartwheel.
Unsurprisingly, this idea never took off.
LOCKING SYSTEM BEEPS
While architects like Glover
were trying to accommodate the new phenomenon of air transport,
others were grappling with the problems at ground level.
ENGINE STARTS UP
From the early decades of the 20th century,
there were proposals for elevated roadways, motor highways,
and cloverleaf junctions,
all catering for the needs of the car.
In 1937 a highly controversial report, the Bressey Report,
was published on the state of London's relationship with cars.
It suggested methods to ease traffic congestion
that were both practical and prescient.
Bressey's thought to remould London's cityscape
with plans that turned Regent Street into a motorway,
confining pedestrians to elevated walkways.
There was also a scheme
to turn Trafalgar Square into a multistorey car park.
Bressey even imagined a super-elevated highway
spanning the entire city.
With cherished landmarks under threat,
it slowly dawned on some people
that the car was endangering the fabric of the city.
In the early years of the car's arrival
and the motorway in the city,
it was usually a condition of great concern.
Architects, urbanists, politicians,
were all worried that the motorcar would destroy cities,
as we know them. And while it changed them a great deal,
the bottom line was it provided forms of connectivity
between those cities and their surrounding areas,
which had never been experienced before,
and soon became the basis for ideas to connect cities,
in new and interesting ways.
When Britain's first motorway opened in the late 1950s,
ribbons of concrete and tarmac posed a new question -
how to stay connected, accommodate the motorcar,
AND keep a sense of England's green and pleasant land.
Geoffrey Jellicoe was one of the most visionary designers
to try and solve this problem.
Born in 1900,
he became one of Britain's leading modernist architects.
His solution to the problem of keeping the city connected
was to embrace the car
and place it in a sensitively designed urban landscape.
Jellicoe called this city of the future Motopia.
Like Paxton's Great Victorian Way it never happened.
But to understand why, I need to investigate the thinking behind it.
As far as Jellicoe was concerned,
technology was something that had a great deal to offer people.
He actually used the argument that, for example,
the car is in many respects a "Bad Thing" - capital letters -
but, at the same time,
he felt that the car was a product of the human imagination,
the human intellect,
and that it actually gave humans a certain dignity.
What Jellicoe came up with
was a new way of thinking about the city.
A bold vision of the future
which harmonised technology and people
around the fact of the car.
ARCHIVE FOOTAGE: 'The name of this revolutionary project is Motopia,
'and its location?
'1,000 acres of land at Staines, Middlesex.
'Designer Geoffrey Jellicoe, in glasses,
'claims that although this £60 million plan -
'cost of a conventional town of the same size -
'was originally designed for the future, it can be done today
'as an economic proposition.
'Well, what are we waiting for?'
50 years on, Jellicoe's vision still looks futuristic,
with its rigid grid system of roads and buildings
separating people and cars.
Motopia was designed to solve the problem of traffic congestion
and allow people to enjoy open spaces at ground level.
Amazingly, cars in Motopia
were going to run along roads at roof level.
From these rooftop motorways, drivers would be directed down ramps
leading to car parks on the level below,
that gave access to flats and apartments.
Imagine London's elevated Westway with houses underneath
and you get an idea of how Jellicoe wanted to connect the city,
though with none of his elegance or finesse,
which he demonstrated with his building material of choice - glass.
Just like Paxton,
who devised innovative ways of using glass in his designs,
Jellicoe's city exploited new glass technologies
which, in the mid-20th century, were transforming architecture.
The technology that made Motopia possible
was developed by Pilkington Glass of St Helens.
In the 1950s, the company led the world with the float glass process,
a unique method of manufacture.
'David Martlew is a glass scientist
'who worked for Pilkington's for 40 years,
'where float glass is produced at the gigantic kilometre-long plant.'
I would argue that
the most significant invention of the 20th century was float glass,
because it transformed the way that we all live,
and I think that's important.
And here we've got the machine that starts the process off.
So this is the sand, essentially,
being fed into the furnace?
The mixture contains sand,
it contains limestone, dolomite,
It also contains broken glass,
and glass is one of the essentially recyclable materials,
because broken glass is an essential component
of what we feed into the furnaces.
If you take that away, it doesn't melt properly.
What's the temperature in there?
The maximum temperature inside the furnace space
is around about 1,800 degrees Celsius,
and the chemical reactions that occur are really quite magical,
because they create a very viscous, gloopy sort of liquid.
So, having got the liquid, we've then got to make it flat.
Making it flat is all to do with the float process.
And that float process
is what completely revolutionised glass manufacture?
It revolutionised world glassmaking.
It was announced in 1959.
20 years later, virtually all the flat window glass in the world
was being made by the float process.
It is THAT important.
And so, what it is that's happening to the glass at this point?
At this point, the molten glass is coming out of the end of the furnace.
So, by here, we've got glass at 1,050 degrees Celsius,
that's relatively cool. You can feel the heat.
I can feel the heat here.
The crucial thing about the float glass process is
it is a chamber full of molten tin.
The glass pours gently over a spout into the float glass chamber,
onto the molten tin, and it spreads out.
Because the glass is so much lighter than the tin,
it floats on the surface.
And by an intriguing combination of the laws of nature,
that glass settles out
at roughly a quarter-of-an-inch thick, 6.4 mm thick.
And that's inevitable.
That's what happens because of the surface tension balance
and all the other technical features,
and that's just the right thickness for windows.
'It's clear that Pilkington's had started a revolution in glass,
'and I'm keen to see what the St Helen's plant continues to produce.'
This is like a solid river, it's really incredibly beautiful.
Well what we have here
is what glassmakers have dreamed of for two millennia.
We've got a continuous ribbon of perfect glass
emerging in a well-behaved fashion along this roller bed.
But what we're seeing here, David, is a moment of transformation
in the possibilities of architecture.
We are indeed. Never before have we had glass in such a continuous form,
wide as it is, any length you want,
perfectly brilliant, perfectly flat.
And this was the key
to transforming the architecture of the 1970s and '80s.
Because now you've got affordable glass
in sizes that previously architects could only have dreamed of.
So now you can clad your skyscraper with glass from floor to roof.
This must have been very liberating for architects.
I think it was liberating,
but it needed something to spark the inspiration off,
and the Glass Age Development Committee
was Pilkington's very far-sighted move in that direction.
The Motopia concept showed
how buildings could be made with big windows.
Pilkington's float glass process
made the future of architecture look clear and bright.
To promote this world-beating product,
the company formed the Glass Age Development Committee,
essentially it was the company's propaganda department.
Its mission? To get architects building in glass.
'Working with Jellicoe on these inspirational projects
'was architect Hal Moggridge.'
I don't know who had the wonderful idea of calling it Glass Age,
but I think that's what was inspiring everybody, really.
That here's this wonderful material
that can really be used in a futuristic sort of way.
And did you feel excited by that, Hal?
Oh, yes, I think all young architects did at that time, yes.
Hal worked with Jellicoe on Crystal 61,
another unbuilt masterpiece
showcasing Pilkington's glass technology -
a 1,000-foot tower in North London.
The actual project was for an exhibition hall in a tower.
So from a structural design point of view,
this strikes me as being rather like the core of a tree,
it's like a trunk.
All the movement, vertically, is in the centre of the building,
so that's both lifts and everything
and the main structure.
And this outer web is created by a net of glass
thrown around the outside.
Yes, rather like honeycomb. And each is rigid in itself
and then they're all fixed together in a circle round,
so they're rigid round,
and they don't need great structure to hold them up.
So, it was at that time a new way of handling glass
over a very tall structure.
So, much like Paxton was coming up with new solutions
for having ridge and furrow,
-and accommodating particular panes of glass in specific sizes?
'Jellicoe's ambitions didn't stop here.
'Motopia, his city of glass,
'was inspired not only by thoughts of a glass age,
'but by his own philosophical approach to architecture.'
Well, I think the really interesting thing about this for me is
the traffic is on the roof,
which, I suspect, is structurally very difficult.
But what it means is that the whole of the ground
is landscaped for people who live there to use.
A great deal of his work was to do with the relationship
between landscape and inhabited spaces.
So he was always thinking about
how you can get the landscape and the people to work together.
It was a major influence for him.
And when you were working in Jellicoe's office,
did you get a sense of his philosophical interests
that underpin some of his ideas?
Yes, because he was... They were always to the fore,
so some of them seemed rather strange,
but they always had an influence on what he was doing.
I'm intrigued to learn from Hal that Jellicoe's Motopia,
along with his other radical and modernist designs,
were inspired by esoteric philosophy
and the work of the psychiatrist Carl Jung.
Shute House in Wiltshire might seem an odd place to explore these ideas,
but then Jellicoe, like Paxton,
wasn't just an architect.
At heart, he was also a gardener...
and these grounds were shaped by his philosophy.
Jellicoe was inspired by the natural world
and humanity's place within it.
For him, man-made landscapes embodied that relationship.
As a child he loved the family garden,
it was a place of delight and wonder.
The magic of being in a garden left a deep and abiding impression
on the mind of the young Jellicoe.
For him, there was something almost spiritual about the experience.
In later life, he wanted to communicate this feeling
through his landscape designs.
The gardens at Shute House are an eloquent expression of his ideas.
Shute is really the most interesting garden I've ever done.
It's divided into compartments.
A series of experiences which are held together by water.
Jellicoe designed these gardens when he was in his 80s.
Exploring the atmospheric grounds of Shute House today,
I get a strong sense of the man who created them.
But I want to know more about Jellicoe's inspiration,
and the thinking that influenced his gardens, and his plans for Motopia.
'Kathryn Moore is a landscape architect
'and one of Jellicoe's former students.'
What was the relationship between Jellicoe's ideas about philosophy
and his design practice?
He used philosophical ideas to underpin his design work,
so he would, to create a design narrative, to create...
A rhetoric that could explain the design.
He believed very much in the subconscious -
but in his practice
he was absolutely informed by historical precedents,
although he's captivated by the ideas of Jung
and the ideas of the archetype,
he knows, he says, nothing can come from nothing.
One of Jellicoe's aims, as he described it,
was to reconcile mechanical man and biological man, what did that mean?
Well, he was concerned about the great problems of the day,
to do with industrialisation and the ever-increasing use of cars,
and the growth of cities.
And I think that, because he thought that landscape architecture
was the mother of the arts,
he thought that landscape architecture
could solve these big problems,
and he was really concerned about the overwhelming nature of urbanisation
and the effect that it has on communities.
As you can see, the Motopia project,
and what he did there
to equate the biological side of man with the landscape
and the mechanistic side with this grid, and he overlaid the two,
to create this incredibly diverse and differentiated landscape.
It is a very holistic and integral approach to design and development,
the processes of development,
and that's what he was doing,
he was working on major infrastructure projects.
The design of towns,
the location of motorways and new roads, power stations.
You know, he... That's the sort of projects that engaged him.
Kathryn explains that Jellicoe saw himself
as an architect of the whole environment.
In Motopia, he aimed to create a modern urban landscape
to enhance the psychological wellbeing of its citizens.
This might sound rather idealistic,
but his "glass city" was planned for a real location
and I'm intrigued to see for myself
how it would have looked in the landscape.
To find out,
I'm heading to a little-known corner of Middlesex near Heathrow,
which Jellicoe had earmarked for his car city.
This is the ancient village of Wraysbury,
mentioned in the Doomsday Book.
It would have gone to make way for Motopia.
Lying between the M25 and the busy A30
is an area of land pockmarked by flooded gravel pits,
while overhead is the constant noise
of aircraft taking off from Heathrow.
It's an unlikely location for a car utopia,
but it was here that Jellicoe imagined his city of the future,
all neatly laid out and set in a landscaped environment.
This was his vision of harmony.
The mechanical and the biological,
bound together by the highest aesthetic values.
But why did Motopia remain on the drawing board,
a tantalising glimpse of what might have been?
In Motopia, Jellicoe envisaged that there would be a lot of people
living very close to each other.
It's a... It's a very high-density arrangement,
and he envisaged that there would be
a certain number of rules and regulations.
For example, not playing your radio too loudly,
keeping your windows shut when you did.
There were all sorts of regulations there,
which suggests that, perhaps like a number of other modernists,
he had a very rigid idea
as to the sort of lives that people should live.
I think, in practical terms,
Motopia, with the technology that was available in 1961,
would have been difficult to achieve.
In financial terms, it would have been even more awkward.
It would have required substantial public money
and I'm not sure that people would have been ready
for anything quite so radical.
Jellicoe's Motopia didn't happen,
but the idea of a city created for the motor age
was eventually realised by post-war new towns like Milton Keynes,
where the infrastructure of roads is used in a more conventional way.
Of course, decent connections are vital,
but roads are just part of the mix.
The most important thing about a city,
the most important thing about the way that people come together,
The infrastructure of a city
is infinitely more important than the individual buildings.
Think of it as the urban glue which binds the buildings together.
It's the quality of the infrastructure -
the public spaces, the boulevards, the bridges,
the public transport, the squares -
that, that's the experience that we,
whether we live in a city or whether we visit it, THAT we carry with us.
That determines the quality of life.
Paxton's Great Victorian Way and Jellicoe's Motopia
were attempts to enhance the quality of life
by improving the infrastructure of the city.
Today, even more than ever,
we need versatile and progressive ways
of connecting to an ever-widening world.
It's a way of thinking
that informs Norman Foster's ambitious plans for the future.
Something like 70% of the energy
that an industrialised society consumes,
half is in the building
and half is in the movement of people and goods
between the buildings,
between the cities, between the places.
So our project addressed that in a holistic manner.
Foster's scheme is centred around a hub airport in the Thames estuary.
This would be connected to a high-speed rail network
that would circle London.
Britain's great northern cities,
which for decades have suffered from poor communications,
would then be directly linked to export markets on the continent,
giving them a much-needed economic boost.
It was about taking haulage traffic off the roads
and most significantly of all,
to incorporate that with a movement of information -
with broadband, with power, with waste-to-power management -
and to somehow tackle this North-South divide.
So, really, infrastructure and longer-term planning
are at the heart of addressing those major social issues.
The Thames Hub is just one of several
monumental infrastructure schemes
that have been proposed in recent years
to keep us all connected, just as Paxton's Great Victorian Way
and Jellicoe's Motopia tried to do in their time.
But for any of them to happen
will require not only money, but also political will.
Paxton's great projects never made it off the drawing board,
neither did Jellicoe's utopian city of glass.
Both projects could easily have been realised, but their moment passed.
Only time will tell if current visionary projects -
the yet-to-be-built, like the Thames Hub -
will be part of our future,
or join the Great Victorian Way in unbuilt Britain.
Join me in the next programme, when I'll be looking at a plan
to turn most of Scotland into an offshore island
and how the Channel Tunnel could have been a bridge too far.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd