Visit the basement of the newly-constructed Walbrook Building on Cannon St opposite the station and you’ll discover a new exhibition about the changing face of the City of London, ‘The Developing City‘.
Open until 9 September, the exhibition explores the City’s past and present and looks forward to the future. There are sections on Roman Londinium, the medieval city, the Great Fire of London and the Blitz, and the historic buildings of the City also feature, such as the Mansion House, Guildhall and the Bank of England. There are also fascinating studies of buildings that haven’t survived – some having been destroyed while others have simply outlived their usefulness. The strange plans for the redevelopment of the City after the Second World War are also revealed – a Classicist proposal from the Royal Academy that never saw the light of day but also one which was partially completed – the development of elevated ‘ped-ways’ that would have threaded through the entire City. The fragments that were implemented can be found around the Barbican and the Museum of London today.
On your visit you can also marvel at the magnificent wall-sized maps of the City, past and present, take a look at a large model of the City which includes the buildings that will be constructed over the next few years, such as the ‘Cheese Grater’, the ‘Pinnacle’ and the ‘Walkie Talkie’ and examine their scale models. The final section of the exhibition is dedicated to a vision of the City of London 38 years from now, ’Grow Up London 2050′. It’s radical – a rash of further skyscrapers around the Gherkin, artificial islands past Tower Bridge and a new rapid transit system circling the City are all part of the plans. With my questioning head on for a moment, I can’t be the only one to look at this scenario with some incredulity however – London is hardly short of adequate office accommodation (a look at the ‘To Let’ signs on many large buildings in the City and elsewhere tells a story, as does the current lack of a tenant for the commercial floors of The Shard and the constant stalling of the new builds that I’ve mentioned above). London desperately needs more housing, not office blocks, and this is the 21st century after all. With our superfast broadband connections aren’t we heading towards a world where we all work remotely? Clearly not, according to the architects with a vision for the City of London…
Cynicism aside, what the exhibition does highlight for me is the fact that, ever since its creation, the City has been in a constant state of flux. A visit to ‘The Developing City’ will certainly furnish you with more knowledge than you had about the City before your visit – it’s also free so there’s no excuse not to pop in if you’re in the area. There are also scheduled lectures on various aspects of life in the City to go along to throughout the life of the exhibition – more information on those can be found here.