Crises are turning points, opportunities to leverage change in positive directions. This documentary about the plans for redesigning London after the Second World War shows they were not limited to the simple reconstruction of the Blitz-damaged metropolis. That crisis had exposed underlying inequalities in the capital’s provision of housing, as well as deficiencies in open space and hygiene. All things that might be addressed in a new postwar urbanism. The style is patrician but the utopian urge to build a better city is appealing nevertheless. Those ideas that did not come to pass are as interesting as seeing the genesis of those that did. Confidence in central planning as a method for bringing order and decency haunts the film.

For anyone that knows London, it’s exciting to see these views of it on the cusp of change. Cartophiles will also revel in the maps and models on display in the draughtsmen’s room of London County Council. A room is adorned with a large rendering of the Abercrombie/Forshaw chart of the villages of London, a proto-psychedelic infographic of cellular blobs – be sure to seek out a colour version of it after seeing it here.

James Piers Taylor
Documentation Editor