I was instantly drawn to the image above showing the relative size of mountain ranges.  It resonates with my thesis’ preoccupation with landscape, mountains and topography, but it also draws an aesthetic parallel with my contract.  As with the latter, the mountains are above, and the labelling, the naming is documented below.

I thought there might be a similar way of examining my site, to treat it as a mountain range:
As well as conveying an idea about topography, the resultant image is a rebuttal to the notion of the site as solid and monolithic (a conclusion drawn from its overwhelming concrete composition).  When reading the level changes stripped of materiality the site takes on a light, filigree appearance.  The sections together read like an x-ray.
Redrawn in ink, the enclosed areas are like ice, redolent of frosty peaks: 



That radical mode of emptying that has yet to be touched upon: destruction.
The City was heavily bombed during the war, and by the end of the period much of the site was entirely razed.  But it was precisely this blank canvas state and the City’s readiness to fund a large mixed-use project that enabled the boldness of the Barbican redevelopment.

It was a more trusting time. The Barbican was built pretty much exactly the way its architects wanted it, all influences intact: complete with serrated triangular-plan skyscrapers and lots - though not enough - good landscaping. It was and is a manifesto statement against suburban sprawl.
 Hugh Pearman (full article: http://www.hughpearman.com/articles3/barbican.html)

1945 SURVEY Hatched areas denote buildings still standing

Area in red indicates position of the Barbican Centre and Moorfields Highwalk (to the right) 
AN AERIAL VIEW from 1945 demonstrates the scale of destruction


The Highwalk

The Moorfields Highwalk is a fragment of a once extensive network of elevated streets.  In the post war reconstructive phase of the city, highwalks were deemed an obvious solution to the difficulty of pedestrian versus vehicle, and a natural partner to the newly introduced highrise.  In the City of London the provision of walkways connecting major public buildings at first floor level had a basis in planning guidelines. 
THE HIGHWALK NETWORK predates the Barbican Complex where it is now most concentrated
The walkways remain most successful in the internalised world of the Barbican Centre though even here it they are swathed in an aura of gloom and disorientation.  Pevsner (see previous post) was hardly the first person to notice the failure of the overall network to take off and it has been steadily chipped at over the past few decades.    Though it predates the Barbican, the tangle of ramps and podiums that comprise my site form a small knot in a larger arrangement. 

THE MOORFIELDS HIGHWALK; a knot in a larger arrangement
Though it remains underused, the sense of an alternate pace, of space, of emptiness embodied by the Moorfields Highwalk is valuable.  It is not simply a question of fetishising an urban ruin.  Through a series of strategic adjustments that relate to the existing conditions it would be possible to retain the atmosphere of the site and reconnect it to its immediate context. 
A VALUABLE SPACE in need of strategic fine tuning


So much for the unquestioning confidence of the 50s & 60s...

..Since then London Wall's planning and architecture have fallen mightily from favour. 
                                    The anticipated rebirth of pedestrian life high up never happened,
                                                      and the kiosks and upper entrances are mostly disused.

Pevsner in London: City of London v. 1


A Tangled Thread

The Moorfields site is a pedestrianised island, curiously though, the lack of vehicular traffic (thick line) has in some ways made pedestrian circulation (thin line) more convoluted than clear. 
The ramps, stairs and tunnels overlap into a tangle of walkways offering shifting views out.  The small and circular site is pleasantly subverted by the sense of altered repetition and embedded with a meandering pace.


Gates, Fields, Paths

In considering ancient London, I was drawn to the Moorfields, the last area of open land within the walled city (and just outside its perimeter).  The empty marshland housed an influx of refugees in the aftermath of the Great Fire of London before being rapidly built upon.
The Moorfields
Today, the fields exist in name only, as a series of 'streets in the sky’ that wrap around the Barbican between Moorgate and the London Wall.
Largely forgotten, the highwalk embodies the idea of the back of the city.  And so from looking beneath the city, I have shifted my gaze up to an elevated landscape of open courts and connecting passages with its chain of complex voids.
Walkways, passages, voids...


On Shifting Continents

My Seoul chapter over, the thesis has shifted its focus to the City of London.  By no means an abrupt severance; the period in South Korea was instrumental in developing an investigative technique, a particular way of looking.  And so, I have simply recalibrated my tools.
I launched the transition by researching London’s lost rivers, those skinny waterways which once defined the city’s infrastructure but are now buried beneath it.  The drawing below conveys the extent of this suppression, and the sense of smaller incisions moving in opposition to a formal order.

LONDON'S LOST RIVERS; Running Counter to the Formal Order
Zooming in, I focused my attention on the River Walbrook, one of the oldest in the city and – last seen above ground in the 15th Century – the first to become subterranean.  The Walbrook ran through the first iteration of London, Roman Londinium - a city founded on two hills on the bank of the Thames. 

THE ANCIENT CITY OF LONDON founded on two hills with the Walbrook running between

THE RIVER’S COURSE: submerged beneath the city since the 15th Century
The notion of the ancient city and the importance of landscape in its founding were central to investigation in Seoul, here they provide a stepping-stone for the continuation of the thesis in London.


Hiatus Over

A long overdue return to emergent cities…and a few changes: