Roads

“A dual carriageway planned in 1959 to run north-south in a concrete box across the middle was fortunately abandoned.”

The Buildings of England” Nikolaus Pevsner and Simon Bradley

We have a dual-carriage way in a concrete box and it’s called Beech Street. Beech Street runs roughly east-west. But when the designs for the Barbican estate were being finalised, the Corporation wanted another enclosed road to run roughly north-south starting at Golden Lane, following the historic route of Redcross Street, and emerging at Fore Street close to London Wall. Chamberlin, Powell & Bon didn’t sound over-enthusiastic when they said in their 1959 report: “To make a virtue out of necessity, therefore, we have designed the road within its immediate surroundings in such a way that it becomes a feature in the landscape and an element in the total composition.”

What they meant was they had stuck a great concrete stake through the heart of the Barbican. How the architects must have celebrated when the idea was dropped and they could build the present magnificent pedestrian bridge across the lake instead (the alternative proposal)!

They still built Beech Street, but since that tunnel is entirely invisible once you are in the Barbican, it did not detract from the design. Nobody could claim that a walk through Beech Street is a walk in the countryside. But the ambience (if a tunnel can have such a thing) is improved by the coloured panels and the relatively good lighting. There seems to be sufficient ventilation and it never seems to smell particularly of car fumes.