A computer generated impression of
The View from the Forty Second Floor
What Actually Happened
In the end nothing went as it was planned. Richard Rogers’ tower was refused planning permission because it would have been visible from the Royal Parks. William Grimshaw had increased the height of his proposed tower above Paddington Station to match the Richard Rogers one, so his tall tower would have been refused automatically and he had to reduce his tower to its original planned height. North Westminster School lost its proposed new theatre when the Richard Rogers building was scrapped. Then Westminster Education Department decided to build two new Academy Schools on the Paddington and Marylebone Lower house sites and to sell off the valuable Upper School site for housing.
Then the 2008 Building Slump arrived. Building on the Paddington Basin practically stopped. Buildings were mothballed. Nobody knows when building will resume or on what terms. It will take years to sell all the flats which have already been built. It is a classic example of what we have seen time and time again in this history of the area - slump followed by boom followed by slump.
It has been said that an architect needs wings on his feet and four eyes in his head. Wings so that he can be everywhere and an extra pair of eyes, so that he does not overlook any potential trouble. This is very true and a successful architect must have them. What no architect can do is to predict the exact future. He knows from history that there will be a slump: he can only hope that his scheme will creep under the radar in time.
Every so often someone published a book with a title like:-
‘The London That Might Have Been: The buildings that were never built’.
The writer trawls through the back editions of The Builder, decade after decade, and prints drawings of the buildings which were never built. Time and again building has started, developed frantically and stopped again. The reasons vary but the cycle is similar and nobody seems able to prevent it from happening. Here is yet another example of the same pattern.
On reaching the 1908 sub-prime Banking Crisis and the resulting building slump, I realise that the book has traced some of the local effects of many of the Building Slumps since 1815 and the end of the Napoleonic War. This was far from my original intention, but the research has revealed a regular pattern. When and how the current pause will end, nobody knows at present.