The Martin-Mealand plan

In 1954-5 the London County Council planning department put forward a scheme for the redevelopment of the Barbican area. It was prepared by Dr Leslie Martin working under Arthur Ling, who was head of the department at the time. This plan proposed mainly office blocks but it also included a few terraces of six-storey maisonettes with shops below clustered around St Giles’s church.

At about the same time William Holford (one of the authors of the Holden and Holford report) was working with Anthony Midland, the City’s planning officer, to propose a scheme for the area. This was very similar in conception to the LCC proposal. The Mealand scheme involved five office blocks which were to run close to Route 11 and other blocks of offices in roughly the same area as proposed in the Martin scheme. The Mealand scheme also had a limited amount of residential premises in it, with some blocks of flats on the south side of St Giles Church.

In 1954 Leslie Martin, who was by now the chief architect of the London County Council, and Anthony Mealand, the City’s planning officer, collaborated on a combined plan, known as the Martin-Mealand plan which they unveiled in September 1955. The Martin-Mealand plan was named after the respective heads of department. But the detailed work was largely done by the LCC planners, Arthur Ling, Graham Shankland and Percy Johnson-Marshall.

The Martin-Mealand plan concentrated on the area to the north of St Paul’s, which had been devastated by bombing raids during WWII. The scheme was based around the concept of an integrated series of office towers along both sides of Route 11 (London Wall) on a north-south axis. They proposed that there should be six towers of identical proportions and at an equal distance from each other, positioned on a raised pedestrian deck, and turned so that so their faces would be at 45° angle to London Wall. It owed much to Le Courbusier’s 1933, ‘Plan Voisin’ proposal for redeveloping the centre of Paris. Martin and Mealand also proposed additional office blocks in the north-east and north-west of the area.

The Martin-Mealand plan involved a complete separation of traffic and people by use of highwalks, which were ultimately intended to grow into a City-wide pedestrian network. The concept of Route II had formed part of the earlier Holden-Holford Plan but the road and office blocks were on a different alignment.

If you consider the Barbican area in isolation, the Martin Midland proposals were in a direct battle against the Chamberlin Powell and Bon residential proposals for a residential development for the Barbican. In fact, there was a considerable fuss within the City Corporation when an exhibition promoted as an opportunity for City councilmen to weigh up both schemes turned out to have been organised by the those wanting a purely commercial scheme to be offering the Martin-Mealand plan only. This provoked Eric Wilkins, the great champion of residential development, who had also led the project for the Golden Lane estate, to make a famous speech to the Court of Common Council insisting that proper consideration was given to whatever would be most in the interests of the City (shorthand for saying they should be considering a residential scheme).

From that point on, the Improvements and Town Planning Committee, who were the main promoters of a predominantly commercial scheme, were on the back foot and the residential scheme for the Barbican was pushed through.

But it would be a mistake to think that this was an ‘either/or’ situation. The Martin-Mealand plan covered a much greater area than just the Barbican. The Barbican area stopped well short of London Wall. The Martin-Mealand plan took in both sides of London Wall and then carried on down into the City and up to the St Paul’s area. The Martin-Mealand plan was adopted for those areas and it governed how reconstruction was carried out there.

Strict guidelines were put in place which potential developers had to follow. Plots of land were sold to developers, who were then required to keep to strict rules on the construction of the buildings.

  • They could use their own architectural plans, but they had to work to a set of precise rules.
  • They were allowed to build only within a prescribed three-dimensional architectural envelope.
  •  The towers had to be no more than 16 floors high, with each floor 11 feet high.
  • The buildings could be no more than 140 feet long, or 58 feet wide.
  • The finish had to be a continuous curtain wall which had to be carried up beyond the roof to render invisible the plant on the roof and present a straight edge to the street viewer.
  • Coloured panels had to be selected from an approved range of twelve colours.

The six towers from the Martin-Mealand plan.

LONDON WALL (NORTH-SIDE, EAST TO WEST)

Moor House, 120 London Wall, EC2
Completed 1960.
This was the first of the towers to be built. It stood at the corner of Moorfields on the north side of London Wall. The developer was the famed property magnate, Charles Clore. Pevsner described it as, “impressive chiefly because of its height [225 feet], otherwise anonymous in design”. It was replaced in 2002-5 by a new Moor House designed by Foster & Partners.

St Alphage House, 2 Fore Street, EC2
Completed 1962
St Alphage House further west than Moor House, on Fore Street, and also on the north side of London Wall, was fairly similar to Moor House. It was built by the developer Maurice Wingate to a design by Maurice Sanders Associates. It was named after Saint Alphege, the ruins of whose church were close by. It has been demolished.

Lee House, 125 London Wall, EC2
Completed 1962
Lee House, further west again on the north side of London Wall, was named after Jackie Kennedy’s sister, Princess Lee Radziwell. (Her husband, a Polish aristocrat called Prince Stanisław Albrecht Radziwill, was a director of one of the developers. What toadies they must have been.) Lee House was designed by Sir John Burnet Tait & Partners. It was demolished in 1990 and replaced by Alban Gate, now known as 125 London Wall.

Bastion House, 140 London Wall, EC2
Completed 1976.
Bastion House was built between 1972 and 1977 as part of the Barbican Development and consists of a seventeen storey office tower on top of part of the Museum’s display space. It was designed by Powell and Moya. It is still standing, but is destined to be demolished as part of the redevelopment of the Museum of London site.

LONDON WALL (SOUTH-SIDE, WEST TO EAST)

Royex House, 5 Aldermanbury Square, EC2
Completed 1962.
Royex House was designed by Richard Seifert, the infamous ‘developers’ architect’ of the 1960s for the even more infamous developer, Harry Hyams (responsible for Centre Point).  In 2008 Royex House was demolished and replaced by ‘5 Aldermanbury Square’, EC2.

Britannic House, 40 Basinghall Street, EC2
Completed 1964.
Refurbished as City Tower in 1990