Plymouth: Vision of a modern city

Submitted by admin on Thu, 09/06/2011 - 15:32
Date published
9 years 2 months ago
Publication produced by
TitlePlymouth: Vision of a modern city
AuthorJeremy Gould
PublisherEnglish Heritage
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Plymouth was the most devastated city in England in the Second World War and was the only British city which renewed the whole of its city centre and institutions. The reconstructed city, which is important and representative of its time, is now over 50 years old and can legitimately be labelled an historic city.

In autumn 1941 Sir Patrick Abercrombie, the most distinguished town planner of his generation, was appointed by Plymouth City Council to produce a plan for the reconstruction of the bomb-damaged city. His Plan gave Plymouth a unique form which once understood and valued, could underpin the city’s regeneration.

Abercrombie’s Plan reflected the ideals of an extraordinary time, and proposed a new environment for a modern age. By splitting the city into distinct precincts, each dedicated to a particular function (e.g. residential, cultural, commercial, civic), the Plan represented Abercrombie’s social democratic ideals with communities centred on schools and cultural activities, affording personal privacy and communal enjoyment of open space, democratic and non-hierarchical; it was symbolic of rebuilding a better Britain.

Time however has taken its toll: incremental changes have caused the architecture to coarsen and the public have not valued it. Yet Plymouth has more listed 1950’s buildings than any other provincial city, demonstrating that the best of modern architecture can rank alongside that of the past and stand the test of time.

Simon Thurley, Chief Executive of English Heritage, said:

“The debate over the future role of Plymouth’s post-war architecture is hugely relevant. The significance of the Plan and the architecture of the city need to be formally recognised in order to prevent unsuitable development and further loss of significant buildings.”