Browse content similar to A Revolution in the City. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!
The cities that we live in - their busy streets
and imposing buildings tell us much about our past.
But no history of architecture would be complete
without considering the unbuilt.
The grand plans which were conceived, yet never realised.
I'm setting out to discover how the great minds of the past
imagined the future, to investigate the daring dreams and schemes
that were put forward, and which very nearly happened,
that would have created a totally different Britain
to the one we know today.
And it's here in our cities, the crucible of ideas and invention,
that some of the most ambitious plans have been imagined.
Since the very first civilised societies,
the greatest intellects of their time have produced masterplans
for the perfect metropolis.
In this programme I'm exploring how two radical thinkers
devised colossal, transformative schemes for London and Glasgow,
in a bid to create their very personal vision of the ideal city.
Separated by 400 years,
both these grand plans started with a blank slate.
One sought to create a magnificent baroque capital.
The other a completely modern, efficient city of the future.
Welcome to the amazing world of unbuilt Britain.
As an architectural historian, I believe that the unbuilt
can tell us just as much, sometimes more,
about our past as the projects which were realised.
The cities we live in today have evolved over time.
But the idea of the masterplan,
the perfect arrangement of urban society,
is a recurring theme throughout history.
Somebody described the greatest invention of mankind as the city,
and the future of society are cities.
But what makes a city work?
The city is about values, it's about aspirations.
They're enlightening as well as offering prosperity.
The search for the perfect metropolis goes back to antiquity.
In Roman times Vitruvius,
considered to be the first architectural historian,
drew up a blueprint for the ideal city.
His circular designs sought to promote harmony,
and inspired many Renaissance cities.
Some designs were borne out of idealism
such as Thomas Moore's 16th century concept of Utopia,
while others were driven by a desire to display wealth and power.
In the early 17th century, Charles I dreamed of building
a grand new city complete with a spectacular palace
to rival Versailles.
With no surviving drawings,
we can only guess how this might have looked.
Architects love to imagine the future,
but it's rare for there to be the opportunity
to create a city from scratch.
However, in the case of the unbuilt projects that I want to explore,
the bold designs produced were attempts to impose order
after the chaos of two major catastrophes,
the Great Fire of London and the Second World War.
People saw these traumatic events as opportunities
to create a new social order.
The city of Glasgow proposed plans in the 1940s
to sweep away all remnants of its poverty-stricken past,
and, in its place, build a modern vision of the future.
And several hundred years earlier, audacious plans were put forward
to replace London's cramped medieval streets
with a city of wide boulevards and magnificent piazzas.
It's here in the capital that my journey begins, on the river Thames.
London is an eclectic mix of the traditional and modern.
Its buildings, where people live and work,
have developed over the centuries to create the city that we know today.
The evolution of this city can be traced back to Roman times,
and if you were travelling up this river in the 1600s
you would have seen a thriving, crowded city
with buildings crammed together in a haphazard fashion.
This was a vibrant trading hub,
destined to become the centre of Britain's Empire.
But in the space of three days it all went up in smoke.
As morning broke on the 2nd of September 1666,
Londoners were faced with a devastating crisis.
Their city was ablaze,
and what came to be known as the Great Fire of London
was devouring everything in its path.
400 streets, 89 churches and more than 13,000 houses
were consumed by the flames.
It was calamitous, with some shock and horror and confusion.
When I read Samuel Pepys about the birds trying to fly
with burning wings, you know, it just really brings
what a catastrophe it was home to me.
But for some, the obliteration of the medieval capital
offered the opportunity for radical urban renewal on a vast scale.
This was an opportunity that had to be seized.
On the 11th of September,
just six days after the fire had been brought under control,
the King was presented with a grand plan
to rebuild the city along completely new lines.
The author of this bold plan was just 33-years-old,
and had just a smattering of architectural experience.
His name was Christopher Wren.
Today, Wren is considered to be Britain's finest architect.
But at the time of the fire he was yet to prove himself.
To understand what drove him
to draw up a design for an entirely new city,
I've come to Westminster School where he spent his formative years.
So, Adrian, what sort of a character was the young Wren?
Oh, he was a swot.
-He was a swot.
-A proper geek.
A proper geek.
You couldn't get his nose out of a book.
People talked about the early appearance of an uncommon genius.
What did that genius extend to?
Er, initially, I think, it's a voracious interest in all things -
anatomy, physics, in the mathematical sciences.
He's experimenting with sundials,
he's a problem solver, he's an intellectual.
A really prodigious talent.
Astonishing, just astonishing.
But while Wren was a young man,
England was in the midst of a brutal civil war
which was ripping the country apart.
That was a tremendously turbulent time.
What impact did it have on Wren's life?
Well, of course, it's a turbulent time for everybody.
But for Wren in particular his own world is in chaos.
His father, a clergyman, has been kicked out of his home,
the Deanery at Windsor.
His uncle, the Bishop of Ely,
has been thrown into the Tower of London without trial, without charge.
And so Wren's expected career path, which would have been into the Church
like his father, like his uncle,
that's closed to him and suddenly he's kind of cast adrift.
He doesn't know where he's going and what he's doing.
When the Monarchy was restored in 1660,
Wren's family re-established their position in society.
But having seen the chaos that had engulfed the country
during the Civil War, Wren would spend the rest of his life
trying to make sense of the world.
He was interested in natural philosophy,
coming to understand anything that one could see, feel or touch,
to look at the world in a brand-new way.
And so the whole world was his laboratory.
Wren became Professor of Astronomy here at Oxford
before he was 30-years-old.
But it was in architecture that he found the focus for all his talents.
Wren was one of the leading mathematicians of his age.
I think he became interested in architecture
and the technical and scientific problems involved in it
and also the artistic possibilities, and he was brilliant at drawing.
And so it combined all his interests -
the technical side and the artistic endeavour.
He became familiar with Vitruvius' De Architectura
and absorbed the fundamental principles
of classical architectural design.
Behind me is one of his earliest buildings, the Sheldonian Theatre.
This was only Wren's second design - but it was a statement of intent.
but with ingenious new engineering and structural solutions,
it illustrates beautifully
the incredible grasp that Wren already had on his new profession.
However, this was only one building.
Designing an entirely new city with such little experience
was an incredible undertaking.
When Wren sat down and thought about his new plan for London,
there were two key areas. How could London be a modern city,
and how could he invent modern architecture
in order for London to be that modern city?
In just six days, and with the embers still burning,
Wren completed his plan for a new capital city.
And I've come here to All Souls College,
where Wren had been a fellow in his early years as an academic,
to see his masterplan for London.
And there are some familiar landmarks
that Wren gives us to orientate us.
So, this is old London Bridge here.
We have the river here, the river Thames, we have the Tower of London,
which has survived the fire here.
He's also drawn a dotted line that you can just see
which shows the extent of the fire damage.
So everything within this line has been destroyed by the fire.
Everything outside it has survived.
So everything within this line is Wren's new city.
Of course St Paul's has been destroyed in the fire,
but there's a space for a new cathedral here in this piazza here.
And we have also the Royal Exchange,
which has also been lost in the fire, marked here.
So, there are really two centres then between St Paul's
and the Royal Exchange.
Yes, they're the two principle sites of Wren's new city.
They're connected by one of Wren's main thoroughfares.
And those thoroughfares are one of the defining features
-of this new plan.
One of the main problems was congestion,
the medieval city was very, very congested.
These avenues that Wren proposes are much, much wider
than the streets were in the medieval city.
This plan was a complete break with the past,
and Wren also took the opportunity to tackle some of London's
most fundamental problems.
Wren seems to have been thinking of a set of rules
to dictate this new city, one of which is moving a lot of the trades
outside of the city, that were previously in the city.
In particular, things like brew houses
and bakers, which were causing a lot of pollution.
So what we have here is a new city with big, new, broad avenues,
and not those polluting trades that were making the pre-fire city
such an unpleasant place to live.
And what sources was Wren drawing on as inspiration for this plan?
Prior to drawing this he'd been in Paris in 1665,
the year before, and this bears some resemblance to contemporary
Parisian street planning.
But he was also looking to ancient precedents.
Absolutely. If we look at this part of the city here
where Wren has drawn a sort of piazza with radiating avenues coming off it,
we think this is taken from a description of an ideal city
in the Roman author Vitruvius.
So Wren has gone to an ancient source to come up with
this new city plan.
In terms of the experience of being in this urban space
it would have been very impressive, wouldn't it?
It would've, yes, and if you actually think about the view
that you would have had standing in this piazza where St Paul's is,
all the way up through the Royal Exchange and beyond.
Very, very long stretched out views that you did not get
in the medieval city, you still don't get it in the City of London today.
It would have been an entirely different city.
In terms of Wren's grand vision,
what do you think he was really trying to achieve?
What Wren is doing here is creating a new city,
a new contemporary European city, a capital city,
but one that is guided by ancient precedent.
So, really, a magnificent phoenix rising from the ashes.
Absolutely. If this was built, this would have been one of the most
impressive cities in Europe.
Wren saw this plan as an opportunity to do away with those dirty,
cramped streets, and a new city could be built in its place.
London would become the new Rome.
But Wren was not the only person to draw up a grand plan
for a new London.
In the weeks following the fire, numerous plans were put forward
to rebuild the city.
Of all of them, though, there were really only two rivals
to Wren's design - those put forward by Robert Hooke and John Evelyn.
Both men were friends of Wren.
And both Evelyn and Hooke shared the desire to reshape the capital city.
Three of the greatest thinkers of their age
were now in direct competition.
Wren, Evelyn and Hooke, of course, were all members
of the Royal Society,
which existed to advance the frontiers of scientific knowledge.
But, of course, these men, they were friendly,
but they were also rivals, as well.
And so they would have spurred each other on, you know,
who can produce the best plan that the King will accept?
Wren, Evelyn and Hooke were quite different characters,
and produced quite different plans.
Evelyn was a gentleman. He came from a rich, landowning family.
We know that he was very well connected at court.
He thought that he had the ear of the King.
So, there was the prospect of success.
He was someone that was really concerned about
how to improve the city.
Evelyn's plan was based on a radial grid,
and recognised the importance of religion and commerce,
by giving a prominent position to St Paul's
and important commercial buildings.
Evelyn modestly insisted that his plan would make London
the most noble city ever.
As regards Hooke, he hailed from a much more modest background.
He was the son of a curate from the Isle of Wight.
He saw this as his passport to social preferment.
The plan attributed to Hooke proposed a rigid grid layout
of urban blocks, which is more akin to modern American cities.
His simple and functional-looking design
was backed by the City Fathers.
So, for these three men whose lives were rooted very much in London
and in the cultural milieu of London,
the chance to remodel it must have been a tremendous opportunity.
Yeah, a dream come true, and it's testament to their excitement,
just the speed at which they presented their plans.
They leapt at the opportunity to remodel London
and make it the greatest city in the world.
Time was of the essence.
London was in crisis,
and a choice had to be made about how the city should be rebuilt.
Like Wren, Evelyn had the ear of the King,
while Hooke had impressed the leading men of the City.
But which of their plans would ultimately be deemed
best for the capital?
London's future hung in the balance.
A decision had to be made.
Today, urban planners have benefit of sophisticated analytical tools,
which mean they can assess whether a plan will work in practice.
The science is based on analysing the way people flow in cities.
I've asked Tim Stoner to use the very latest software
to forecast what impact each of these plans would have had
on the way that people move around the capital.
So, Tim you've been running some 21st-century spatial analysis
on these 17th-century plans. What have you found?
Well, we've been looking at the strength
of the street connections, the likelihood that people will flow
through the streets in each proposal.
What we've discovered is that what people are always looking for
is the least line of resistance along their journey.
And traders take advantage of this, they move to the locations
where people are most likely to be passing by.
And we've been using a scientific model that analyses each street
and creates a coloured map of the proposal,
with the red streets the ones
which people are most likely to pass through.
Then the orange and the green, to the blue streets,
which are the ones that are least likely to be active,
to have the hustle and bustle
that you would expect and indeed need to have in a trading city.
And what we have is a set of results
that suggest that Hooke, Evelyn and Wren
would have created radically different outcomes.
So how does Hooke's plan measure up?
Well, on the face of it, Hooke presents a regular gridiron,
not unlike many 20th century cities.
And what we can see are two strong red routes
that run from the west to the east of the city,
but the streets to the south, and especially the north-south streets,
are weak. Hooke is the simplest of the three, the most ordered,
the easiest to understand, but in fact,
probably the least humanistic in terms of the way it works.
How does Evelyn's plan measure up?
In many ways, I think Evelyn's is the most curious of the three plans
in that it creates, essentially, a ring road.
He has this curious racetrack condition
which avoids the main buildings that he's proposing in the city
and creates a bypass, effectively.
So he has a symbolic centre of St Paul's, but actually,
once people go up to St Paul's, they don't then flow past St Paul's.
-There's nowhere for them really to go to.
The grid is working against him.
So if you like, there's a mismatch between the key buildings
and the key routes.
And what did you find when you looked at Wren's proposal?
Well, Wren is quite easily the strongest of the plans.
There's a great deal more red on this as a proportion
of the city as a whole, in comparison with the others.
There's a lot of activity across the whole of the city.
It's in Wren that we see flows of activity distributed evenly,
not only east-west
in these five strong,
busy lines of movement,
those red lines that pass west to east,
but also north-south
and especially radially towards the Royal Exchange
at the centre of a radial grid.
All roads lead to the Royal Exchange.
It's a remarkable proposal, actually.
'Wren's plan is not only superior
'when compared to those of his contemporaries,
'there's clearly much that modern planners can learn from his ideas.'
It was a real revelation running the science past the plan.
We see lots of ordered grids in 20th century planning, but we see
very few that seem to have the human touch that Wren has here.
The building blocks, the DNA of a human city is all there,
and it's a rare thing.
It's a rare thing not only in the late 17th century,
it's a rare thing throughout the 20th century.
And I think this is the genius of the design.
I think these are certainly results
that Wren would have found most gratifying.
This was a brand-new type of city.
It was like nothing that had been seen before.
Wren's idea of what a city was transformed London.
So what would have Wren's London have actually looked like?
All that exists is his street plan.
But by referencing some of Wren's later works, it's possible
to imagine how very different London might have been today.
And so here you can see the plan...
Artist Paul Draper is fascinated by the unbuilt,
and has painstakingly researched Wren's architectural designs
to put together an amazing interpretation
of his ambition for London.
In a sense, one has to get into the brain of the architect
and try and imagine what he would have done
by looking at his drawings and what he did elsewhere.
And here it is, in all its glory.
So this image shows us what Wren's plan would have been like
if it had actually been taken forward.
It's what it might have looked like.
So for instance, this is the Customs House which was designed by Wren,
burnt down in the 18th century,
but it would have been on the riverfront,
this rather magnificent riverfront that was envisaged.
There is an illustration of what it looked like
and so I could put it next to the river
and imagine what it would be like.
I took Wren's churches and moved them to the nearest location
on his plan to where they actually were built,
and of course some of them were destroyed in the Blitz,
so I reinstated those as well.
I took the Temple Bar from Fleet Street
and put it at the end of London Bridge
and put some traitors' heads on the top.
-So there's an element of Capriccio in here as well.
Bit by bit, it was like a jigsaw fitting together
of various elements that I had done research on there.
But it's a great privilege to have that opportunity
-to bring that to life.
Yes, in a sense I became Wren sitting at his drawing board
trying to think what he would have done.
In place of the chaotic, medieval city of his youth,
Wren had imposed not only order
but also grandeur.
One of the things this drawing does
is give us a fantastic sense of a city built of brick...
-..for the first time.
Yes, one of the new rules was that the houses had to be built in brick.
And so it was a completely different city
from the one that was there before.
And is Wren's London something, Paul, you wish you could have seen?
Well, it certainly would have been a magnificent city
with these wonderful boulevards and focal points and vistas.
It really would have been one of the greatest cities in Europe
and probably the world.
By October 1666, it became clear that it was Wren's plan
which was favoured both by the King and Parliament.
Under this ambitious new architect's direction,
the previously chaotic London was to be reborn as a modern city.
Wren's plan was a blueprint for a capital
to rival the great cities of Europe.
Nearly 200 years before Haussmann's renovation of Paris,
Wren had produced a highly sophisticated example of urban planning.
It was one man's vision of a metropolis,
one man's vision of the future.
It was radical, it was inventive,
but ultimately, it was doomed to failure.
There was one thing that Wren could not plan for -
the realities of rebuilding after a major disaster.
Parliament may have initially favoured his plan,
but it rapidly became clear that rebuilding had to start straightaway
if the city was to survive financially.
We need to imagine the devastation, we need to imagine
people camped in fields, in danger of starvation all around London,
the necessity of building as quickly as possible.
There was the fear that tradesmen would vanish
to the suburbs or vanish to other cities
and the city's economic weight would be diminished.
And making significant changes to the layout of the city
was simply not feasible.
All the new plans for London
would have required an enormous amount of property redistribution,
cutting new streets,
abandoning the foundations of the public buildings and the churches,
redrawing ward boundaries, redrawing parish boundaries.
When they looked at the practicalities,
they realised the only logical thing to do
was to let people rebuild on their own plots -
in fact, not let them - force them to rebuild on their own plots.
Quite simply, London couldn't afford the time or money for a grand plan.
There was a genuine fear that if London wasn't rebuilt immediately,
it wouldn't get rebuilt at all.
So instead of Wren's vision for a grand and magnificent metropolis,
London was rebuilt along the same medieval street plan as before.
Wren's spectacular design for a new capital was never to be realised.
But as a consolation, he did win one very important commission -
St Paul's Cathedral.
Today, this magnificent building has an iconic status.
It dominated the skyline when it was built,
and in the 300 years since,
it has become a cherished landmark for the British people.
It also allows us, perhaps,
a glimpse of what Wren's London might have looked like.
Unlike the thousands of visitors who come here every year,
I haven't come to worship or marvel
at what is acknowledged as Wren's finest building.
I've come to see the cathedral Wren wanted to create.
For here, away from the public spaces,
lies another story of the unbuilt.
This is the great model,
Wren's design for St Paul's as he first imagined it
and wanted to build it, but which was never actually realised.
Inspired by Michelangelo's St Peter's in Rome,
Wren's design was based on a Greek cross
and would have been unlike any church in Britain.
But the clergy felt that the first Protestant cathedral since the Reformation
should not have a design so closely associated with Catholicism,
and so they vetoed Wren's plan.
This is the magnificent building
which would have sat at the heart of Wren's new London.
This is the unbuilt St Paul's.
Despite his incredible achievements,
in his final years, Wren was a frustrated man
tormented by the fear that he had wasted his life dabbling in rubble.
He was 90 when he died,
after catching a cold on a visit to St Paul's.
In the centuries that followed,
Britain changed from a predominantly rural society
to one increasingly more urban.
And in tracing the story of the massive growth of the city,
I've discovered a parallel story of the unbuilt.
As British cities saw a huge increase in population,
the need for a visionary with a grand plan was greater than ever.
In the 1800s, the Industrial Revolution pulled enormous numbers of workers into the cities,
and with them came overcrowding, poverty and disease.
Slum houses were built, very high density,
back-to-backs, courtyards, even blind-backs,
in other words, houses with no back, vision, window, ventilation.
Shared toilets in the courtyards,
no hot and cold running water.
And there were tens of thousands of these slums in the larger cities.
Appalled by the conditions workers lived in,
in 1817, the mill owner and utopian socialist Robert Owen
attempted to create agricultural and manufacturing villages.
His radical scheme provided workers with good homes, schools
and the means to grow their own food.
He described his idea as communities of unity and mutual co-operation.
But Britain was not ready for such egalitarian ideals
and they were never built.
In 1932, American visionary Frank Lloyd Wright proposed
an entirely new concept -
a city which wasn't a city.
Wright envisaged a vast, semi-rural landscape
covering the entire continent,
where futuristic flying vehicles, or aerators,
would make it possible to travel long distances easily.
His unbuilt scheme may seem fantastic,
but it was a genuine response to the very real problems
of inner city decay and squalor.
It would take the Second World War
to bring about real change in British cities.
It wasn't just the destruction brought by German bombs,
but also a feeling that the mistakes of the past could not be repeated,
that led to the emergence of a new kind of vision.
The future of cities was no longer in the hands of architects.
This was the age of the urban planner, and with them came
a raft of new proposals for how our cities should look and work.
This explosion of plans was motivated not just by an enthusiasm
for reconstructing the built environment,
but also by the opportunity for change.
This was a chance to prepare for the modern world
that was just around the corner
and it was also a chance to build a fairer society.
-The wealthy country,
and the slums.
All the millions of money
and all the millions of our countrymen that still live in this,
where the citizens of tomorrow play in filth
in their inherited nursery, the gutter.
The thoughts all turned towards post-war reconstruction,
essentially creating a better Britain.
That was the overwhelming feeling, and a large part of it
was physically reconstructing the cities.
Well, you can't say they aren't happy.
But this shouldn't be...
Lads shouldn't have to play in a place like this.
Kids shouldn't have to grow up in soot and muck.
It isn't right.
The recovery of the great cities from slumdom -
that really is part of a general intellectual,
political and social movement.
So you get tremendous plans being developed
about what the new world is going to be like.
One city which was clearly in need of comprehensive change was Glasgow.
Glasgow's early builders did not anticipate
the quick and fast growth which has taken place.
What they provided has proved totally inadequate
for the needs of today.
Glasgow was regarded as the horror city of Europe,
a city with an urban disease.
In the centre of Glasgow,
within literally a radius of about two or three miles,
nearly 750,000 people lived.
The social and health problems from massive overcrowding
were disastrous for large populations of the poor.
Today, Glasgow is a fine example of a Victorian city.
But in the 1940s,
much of its housing was dilapidated and decaying.
Many districts are overcrowded, lacking in open spaces, and ugly.
The unsatisfactory conditions
of thousands of people in Glasgow today.
This perfectly preserved Glasgow tenement is now a museum,
and gives us some idea
of the cramped conditions many had to endure.
This feels quite quaint and rather cosy until one remembers that
typically, a room like this would have been lived in by five people,
who would all have slept sandwiched into the bed alcove in the corner.
There would have been no hot running water
and no indoor toilet facilities,
and it's no wonder that people were concerned about that
and felt that something needed to be done to change the situation.
To tackle its housing crisis, Glasgow Corporation
announced its intentions to carry out major changes to the city.
The man they entrusted with the task
of coming up with a plan for a modern Glasgow
was chief engineer and master of works Robert Bruce.
His report was published in 1945.
It's hard to explain this report without sounding melodramatic
but that's because this plan was, and is, quite staggering.
Bruce proposed demolishing Glasgow's Victorian city centre
and starting all over again.
Bruce didn't just want to demolish the slums.
He wanted to get rid of everything.
Casualties would have included
Glasgow's School of Art by Charles Rennie Mackintosh,
Central Station, and the buildings of Alexander "Greek" Thomson.
To find out what Bruce intended
to replace Glasgow's historic centre with,
I've come to one of the buildings which would have been destroyed,
the City Chambers,
to see Bruce's vision for Glasgow.
I think what is really striking when you look at this
is just how bold and ambitious this plan was
to completely bulldoze the centre of the city
and create this new inner core.
In a way, there are parallels
with what Robert Moses was doing in New York in the 1920s,
where he talked about hacking your way through the city with a meat axe
in order to clear neighbourhoods.
And in many ways, what Bruce was suggesting here
was similarly kind of brutal in what he wanted to achieve.
He viewed Glasgow as a really important city,
and that just sort of tinkering around the edges
in terms of trying to restructure and redesign it was not sufficient.
So Bruce really felt that something very radical was needed.
To understand just how far-reaching Bruce's proposals were,
we've taken the plans he drafted almost 70 years ago
and with the use of the very latest computer graphics technology,
produced this visualisation of his new Glasgow.
When he began planning the city,
it was really drawing inspiration
from a series of kind of modernist thinkers,
about how you could create a much more efficient city,
a city that was almost like a machine
in terms of having different functional areas.
And at the centre of that
would be this new civic axis
along the waterfront,
where you would have these big civic buildings,
the new City Chambers,
the new city courts, a public library,
located at the geometric heart of the city.
And then surrounding that, you would have these other functional areas,
dealing with housing, dealing with commerce.
And the result, he argued,
would be a city of beauty,
a city of order and a city of efficiency.
Like Wren's plan for London,
Bruce wanted to move industry out of the city centre,
and each separate zone
would be connected by a new, more efficient road network.
The centre would be kept for more affluent high-rise apartments
and office blocks.
To realise fully his plan,
Bruce estimated it would take 50 years.
To actually achieve this,
you would have to act in quite a brutal way.
You know, you'd have to destroy neighbourhoods, communities.
People would be displaced to other parts of the city,
and he really embraced that modernist way of thinking
about creative destruction, that you had to get rid of the past
so that you had to kind of start again.
But there would have been
some significant losses as well, wouldn't there?
Even this building that we're in, this fantastic City Chambers,
would have been razed to the ground.
That's right, yeah.
I mean, the 19th century areas of the city would have been destroyed,
but also large parts of the Merchant City
that were built in the 18th century would also have disappeared.
There's a view at the time
that these buildings are bad buildings.
They're very ornamented at a period that doesn't like ornament,
and they're associated with the disgusting trace
of an evil, capitalist expansion of the 19th century
which needs wiping out
and replacing with a beautiful new city
that's appropriate to a more egalitarian world.
There is frustratingly little known about Robert Bruce,
but his writing suggests a man driven
by a clear vision of the future.
In his report, he stated that re-planning should be "surgical"
and that "boldness is required."
Bruce's description of performing surgery on the city
feels like something of an understatement
when one looks at the plans that he devised.
This wasn't just a facelift - it was a complete heart transplant.
But not everyone shared Bruce's enthusiasm
to build a bold new Glasgow,
and his plan had opponents.
The most formidable was Sir Patrick Abercrombie,
the 20th century's most famous urban planner.
He was striking looking, because he always wore a monocle.
It does give him a rather eccentric, old-fashioned
and rather aristocratic kind of appearance,
rather like some Prussian army officer
in some Hollywood movie, you know.
Abercrombie had been charged with the high-profile task
of re-planning London after the war.
His solution to the capital's problem of overcrowding
had been to propose the creation of new towns,
smaller satellite communities
which would siphon off the excess population from London.
There must be change, always change,
as one season or one generation follows another.
There's a wonderful movie made in 1946,
but the appearances of Abercrombie are astonishing,
because he had a rather patrician kind of voice,
and he was saying, "Well, we have to move a million people out of London,
"we shall send them all out to these new towns."
There was no real assumption
that the people who were being moved had any say in the matter.
That's why there are all those bad and ugly things
that we hope to do away with if this plan of ours is carried out.
The Government asked Abercrombie to turn his attention to Glasgow,
and in 1946 he published a rival report to Bruce's
called the Clyde Valley Plan.
Abercrombie pronounced emphatically
that the solution to overcrowding in Scotland's biggest city
was for almost half its population to be dispersed to new towns.
Since the early 1900s,
there had been moves towards spreading new towns around Britain,
to have a green belt around the city,
beyond the green belt to build new towns,
and thereby to relieve the pressure on the city.
And those ideas were being carried up to Scotland.
Abercrombie's Clyde Valley Plan
was completely at odds with the Bruce plan.
The two reports represented two very different planning philosophies.
The new-town solution which Abercrombie proposed
was inspired by the English garden city tradition of the early 1900s,
while Bruce looked to modernism and its high priest, Le Corbusier.
Le Corbusier's thinking in the '20s
had a great bearing on the approach Bruce took.
Dramatic, modern, white buildings in well landscaped surroundings.
Le Corbusier was one of the pioneers of the modernist movement.
Its ethos was simplicity and functionality
with a visual emphasis on horizontal and vertical lines
and no unnecessary design detail.
It was a belief in the new world.
Glistening white blocks rising tall, surrounded by parkland and trees.
Efficient and new and clean,
and everybody would be equalised.
His designs inspired generations of architects,
and his legacy can be seen
in practically every British city today.
Le Corbusier was another of the great architects
who attempted to create the ideal city.
In 1925, he produced this spectacular vision
for a high-rise Paris.
Although never built,
it imagined a completely new approach to urban life.
Bruce was trying to achieve what Le Corbusier had yet to realise,
a city built entirely on modernist principles.
And here, at the top of one of Glasgow's first tower blocks,
is the perfect place to find out
why Bruce believed that building up was the future.
Lucy, these principles had been laid out very clearly
in the designs of Le Corbusier.
What's the connection between his work and that of Bruce?
If you compare the urban designs of Le Corbusier and Bruce's plan,
there are some very clear similarities,
because the aspiration to build up, to build vertical cities
was a very strong current in modern urban design,
because it allowed the opportunity
to create more open space within the city.
So for a city that had been very congested,
this offered the opportunity, seemed to offer the opportunity,
to have breathing space in the city.
So in his illustrations,
we see high-rise apartment towers and office buildings
surrounded by areas of parkland.
So this is the breathing space which people hadn't had before.
-And which was going to enhance their quality of life.
The green areas, the breathing space within the city centre.
And in particular was the idea of zoning,
so separating the different uses of space in the city.
The ideas of rationalising urban space
that were very much part of modernist urban designs.
Of course, we now know that that...building-up dream
can turn out to be something of a nightmare.
But at that point in time that wasn't on the horizon, was it?
No, I think there was tremendous... tremendous optimism
about the potentials offered by modern building techniques,
by engineering, by technology and by modernist design.
So I think Bruce had a lot of conviction.
Robert Bruce believed
that Abercrombie's new towns were not necessary
and that with his modern planning ideas,
all of Glasgow's million-plus population
could be accommodated within the city's boundaries.
But this wasn't just about planning.
There was also a political agenda.
Glasgow Corporation feared losing half of its citizens,
which would inevitably dilute its considerable power.
Glasgow still regarded itself as the second city of empire.
It regarded itself as one of the great cities of the world,
and one of the... if you like, criteria for entryism
into that roll of honour was size of population.
Given Glasgow's awareness of itself, given its sense of identity,
especially among the political classes,
they weren't going to see that prestige disappear on their watch.
At the centre of this power struggle were two very different characters.
Abercrombie was well connected and charismatic
and was savagely critical of the Bruce Report.
His adversary may have had neither the public profile
nor pedigree of Sir Patrick,
but Robert Bruce was clearly convinced of the merits of his plan
and had the backing of the city.
To try and sell their concepts to the population,
the council put on an exhibition called Glasgow Today And Tomorrow,
complete with an enormous model of the city.
They also commissioned school books and films
which laid out the bright future for Glasgow
which would be realised if these changes were embraced.
This was before the days of public consultation,
but the Bruce plan would involve enormous upheaval
for Glasgow's poorest communities.
And to win hearts and minds,
the city cinemas screened this propaganda-style film.
Looking down on a city of congested buildings
and narrow roads,
down there a great population
living under outmoded conditions,
which give rise to much confusion
as well as discomfort.
This is ostensibly about the quality of people's homes,
and these changes were so far-reaching
that the Corporation needed to convince Glaswegians
that there was a better future ahead,
but there's a very strong political undercurrent to this, isn't there?
I think that the film demonstrates the bigger issues at stake here.
You could read it as a film about planning and architecture,
and the design of homes and the design of the city,
but actually you're really addressing
bigger societal challenges about the way we live.
And really, being told to move somewhere else for the greater good
is laudable in terms of those post-war idealistic principles,
but if you're controlling people this much
and telling them where they can't live,
it's actually a thinly disguised version of social engineering.
People in houses will be dispersed more evenly over a wider area,
so giving more breathing space.
Modern planning does more than just provide houses.
It builds community areas
with schools, cinemas, churches, shops,
social and welfare amenities.
Watching the film, one feels drawn along
and very much convinced by the arguments which are laid out.
They're very compelling.
And then suddenly at the end, one sees the plan.
It's, frankly, a shock.
The plan for Glasgow of tomorrow is taking shape.
The overcrowded and overdeveloped city
will give place to a new and free-flowing city.
It's quite astonishing, isn't it?
Suddenly, in those final seconds of the film,
you're confronted with this incredible vision
that doesn't look like Glasgow at all.
It's very shocking.
I'm sure jaws must have dropped in cinemas,
because all vestiges of older types of Glasgow,
old styles of architecture
have been completely obliterated in a modern style.
That was looking forward to the future.
There is much more to be done yet
to make Glasgow of today
a new and better Glasgow of tomorrow.
Bruce's proposals for Glasgow prompted a huge amount of debate.
What was clear was that Glasgow had a major housing crisis.
But on the table were two very different solutions.
At stake was the future of the city and its historic buildings.
In 1947, the planning committee of Glasgow Corporation
approved Robert Bruce's scheme, and at that point
it looked like this extraordinary plan would be put into action.
But two years later, in June 1949, the tide turned against him.
Despite all the propaganda,
the film, the exhibition and the school books,
the recommendations of the Bruce Report were dropped.
Glasgow Corporation decided not to proceed with the Bruce plan.
The opportunity of a lifetime had been snatched away from Bruce.
And within weeks of the rejection of his master plan,
he resigned from his post as chief engineer.
Sir Patrick Abercrombie's argument
to build a number of Scottish new towns
won the day.
There is a wonderful story, which may be apocryphal,
that at the very end of the process,
someone said to him, "You know, you said there should be a new town,
"but you haven't said where it should be."
And Abercrombie was due to catch the sleeper train back to London,
and, in very Abercrombie fashion, he said, "Oh, get me a taxi!"
And he said, "Drive out five miles and then turn right."
And they drove right round Glasgow, five miles out,
and apparently at one point he said, "That's it, over there."
And that was East Kilbride.
And then he dashed off to Glasgow Central to catch the train.
East Kilbride became one of Scotland's five new towns.
But the legacy of Bruce's plan for Glasgow is clear to see today.
In the decades that followed, some of the spirit,
if not the detail, of his ideas was implemented,
although Robert Bruce didn't live to see many of these changes.
He died in a car crash in 1956, aged just 52.
My impression of Bruce
is that he was a man of commitment and sincerity
to trying to sort out the problems that Glasgow faced.
The spirit of the 1940s was spectacular confidence,
that they were utterly persuaded
that they could revolutionise the world,
and that they had to revolutionise the world,
which meant that they attacked it with a vigour
that means that they lacked subtlety a lot of the time,
and they surged ahead,
hoping that they would manage to produce a better city.
While Bruce certainly deserves recognition
for the scale of his ambition,
there are not many who regret that his plan remained unbuilt.
If the Bruce plan had happened,
Glasgow would look very much like an East European city,
and really would have lost all the character and beauty
that we now associate with Glasgow city centre.
Although, like most British cities,
Glasgow's architectural heritage is by no means completely intact,
there came a point when the city began to appreciate
what lay beneath the soot and the grime of its industrial past.
'68 is the first year
that somebody washes a building in Queen's Crescent.
It turns out to be golden honey-coloured stone.
People said, "We didn't know that."
Then they cleaned the whole thing and realised this city isn't black.
And that is actually what brought the Bruce plan and its legacy to an end.
It is an appreciation of what was there.
Both Wren and Bruce tried to imagine the future,
but they could never have foreseen that now, in the 21st century,
more than half the world's population lives in cities.
Today the search for the ideal city is more pressing than ever
and also more elusive.
One can't help thinking
this idea of the grand plan is a deeply flawed concept,
one that's very attractive to architects and planners alike,
but can we really judge how people should live?
Can we really produce planned cities that have the colour
of some of the most interesting places which have grown up over time
and, of course, are inhabited by people doing things people do?
Just as the influence of Bruce and Wren
can be seen in Glasgow and London,
the unbuilt is very much a part of the world we inhabit today.
The unbuilt plans are really these great chapters
in our changing perception of what a city is,
what a society, what a community can be.
And what the unbuilt cities do is really hope and dream,
and it's good to hope and dream about what we can be.
What I've come to understand while unearthing
the incredible unbuilt projects that history has forgotten
is just how fine a line there is
between a project becoming reality
or being abandoned.
The real sense of culture of the time, the Zeitgeist,
lies in the unbuilt schemes,
because the only difference between the unbuilt and the built
is maybe the political will wasn't there or the money wasn't there.
So you can see imagination, fancy, stupidity.
You can see everything.
The fantastic or even just the fantastically ambitious
has an important part to play in seeing architectural history
as part of a grander intellectual and historical project.
While our built environment is rooted in reality,
in many ways, the unbuilt, free from the limitations of the real world,
can tell us more about who we aspire to be
and what we could potentially achieve.
For me, though, what is most exciting
is the thought that somewhere among these discarded plans
is the germ of an idea,
the genesis of something that could be
and perhaps one day will be built.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd