While builders may be the bane of many a Londoner’s existence, they rarely are seen knocking down a priceless period home, or, in fact entire neighbourhoods. Yet this is precisely what many a developer did, or tried to do, before heritage laws stepped in to protect London’s buildings and the near misses are now documented in a map-based exhibition in London’s Wellington Arch.
Almost Lost: London’s Buildings Loved and Loathed shows the amazing eyesores that could have been built. From a Venice-like Soho, with streets imagined as canals and covered in a glass structure built by Pilkington (who commissioned it, nothing suspicious there), to a concrete covered Covent Garden, this shows how bad things could have been.
With introductions on our press night viewing by the goody and baddy of London landscape, Heritage and Planning, this was never going to be anything less than a safe exhibition (notably Sir Edward Lister diplomatically dodged one journalist’s questions on the proposals for the Southbank). But, as a first step for anyone embarking on an interest in the architecture of our rapidly changing city, this is well worth a visit. Watch out for the Queen’s former childhood residence visible from the viewing platform too. Even royalty aren’t immune to builders as this is now the site of an unremarkable Intercontinental Hotel.
See also: our series on Unbuilt London.
Almost Lost: London’s Buildings Loved and Loathed runs until 2 February 2014 at Wellington Arch, open Wednesday to Sunday, 10am to 5pm. Tickets: £4 / £2.40.