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City thoughts: part one How did the Great Fire of 1666 shape London's architectural history?

Golden Oldie

St Paul's Cathedral viewed from the Millennium bridge over river Thames, London, England.


At this time of year, we are inundated with nostalgic images of a Victorian Christmas set in a Dickensian London where the real horrors and poverty of that age are banished from the chocolate box imagery. Which makes me wonder what details of the architecture of the London we are endlessly rebuilding today will be romantically remembered by generations to come.

This question came to mind on a recent day when I survived a frenetic few hours with my family retracing the Great Fire of London. We took in Pudding Lane, the Thames Embankment (formed long after the fire), Cornhill, Cripplegate, Ludgate, Newgate, Smithfield, Cheapside (so much history in a name) and St Paul’s. Unless you are an archaeologist cutting through the layer of scorched earth (yes, apparently this happens), the fire is signified by what arose after and not that which survived. Indeed, within the fire’s boundaries nothing survived as more than ruin. Without the fire’s boundaries, somewhat inevitably in a trading city focused on transaction rather than history, that which survived was soon deemed outmoded, by both fashion and new regulations, and unceremoniously removed. The city as was was no more!

Golden Oldie The Architect

About Simon Allford

Simon Allford

Simon Allford is a Director at Allford Hall Monaghan Morris. From AHMM’s base in London Simon leads a studio that works in the UK and internationally, engaging public and private clients in the exploration of a particular architecture’s potential to offer delight as well as utility. Simon works on a wide range of scales and typologies. Recent projects include Stratford residential master plan, The Angel, Tea and Yellow Buildings as well as Adelaide Wharf, the Saatchi Gallery and Chobham Academy. He is currently working on the new Google HQ at King’s Cross, The White Collar Factory at City Road, a new tower 240 Blackfriars, three mixed use projects on Regent Street for the Crown Estate, an academic building for the University of Amsterdam as well as large urban scale projects in London and America. Simon is Chairman of the Architecture Foundation, a trustee of the Architecture Association Foundation, a visiting professor at The Bartlett and GSD Harvard. He was recently Vice President for Education at the RIBA and a Chair of Design Review at CABE. Simon engages in the broader architectural discussion as a writer, critic, teacher, judge of competitions, frequent lecturer, examiner, advisor and commentator.

Articles by Simon Allford

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