Commemorate the places our architectural inheritance was needlessly erased
Highly recommended: an eye-opening, heart-breaking tweet thread from Create Streets entitled ‘the world we’ve lost’. It is dedicated to the landmark buildings that were destroyed during the 20th century — some of them by the Luftwaffe or by city planners or by a combination of the two.
The world we have lost.
The C17th “Dutch House” stood on the corner of Bristol’s High Street & Broad St. Saved by the Lord Mayor from traffic engineers in 1900, it was badly damaged but not destroyed by bombs on 24 Nov 1940. It was needlessly demolished 3 days later. pic.twitter.com/givnL8CVtp
— createstreets (@createstreets) March 27, 2021
But is there any point in looking backwards? It’s a question that the authors of the thread ask themselves:
Think what an asset these lost buildings would have been in the 21st century. If they’d survived, they’d be all over the glossy marketing material promoting their respective cities — becoming anchor points for tourism and regeneration. Certainly, they’d be protected by law and, most likely, they’d have been repaired, restored and scraped-clean of decades of soot.
In terms of economic development and human well-being, they’d have repaid the money invested in them many times over. As it is, their destruction didn’t just rob us of the past, but also the better future that might have been.
Of course, that’s not always possible — not if the site is occupied and the money lacking. But there is something that we can always do and that is to remember. Just as we put up blue plaques on the houses where great people once lived, we should do the same wherever great buildings once stood.
This is done here-and-there, on sites of special historical significance, but we should do it systematically. Wherever our architectural inheritance was needlessly erased we should commemorate it in situ. Each plaque should provide some visual representation of the lost building, so that it can be compared to what we replaced it with; and it should also tell us who built it, who destroyed it and why.
Even if we can’t reverse the mistakes of the recent past, we can remind ourselves not to repeat them.