conservation and renewal
The public furore over the proposed demolition of 154-158 the Strand and façading of 152-153, opens an opportunity to create a magnificent new piece of public realm for the capital halfway along the great processional route to and from Westminster and Buckingham Palace to St Paul’s Cathedral and the City. This streetscape has already been damaged by King’s College’s Brutalist building to the east of Somerset House. This is built on the site of at least a dozen similar buildings that were demolished for the new development. The character of central London depends on a balance between large institutional and commercial buildings and smaller scale buildings on narrow plots.
John Burrell of Burrell Foley Fischer, alongside SAVE, proposes to turn the whole of the south of the Aldwych into a pedestrian precinct, envisioned to be even more impressive and extraordinary than that created by the closing of the road in front of the National Gallery. Pedestrianising this part of the Strand will mean that Gibbs’s wonderful church, St Mary-le-Strand is no longer marooned on a traffic island, but becomes the focal point of a splendid new public space. Both Somerset House and King’s College will gain a spacious new setting - the most beautiful new public realm in the capital for years.
Creating a new entrance aligned on the portico of St Mary-le-Strand will open up one of the great lost views of London through to one of the arched bridges over the Thames designed by Sir William Chambers. The vista will be a delight in both directions and the once threatened buildings will enjoy a new lease of life embellishing the Strand, the nation’s main processional route.