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The long after-life of Christopher Wren’s short-lived London plan of 1666

Hebbert, M; (2020) The long after-life of Christopher Wren’s short-lived London plan of 1666. Planning Perspectives , 35 (2) pp. 231-252. 10.1080/02665433.2018.1552837. Green open access

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Abstract

Immediately after the 1666 Great Fire, Christopher Wren sought to persuade King Charles II to rebuild London according to the best principles of baroque urbanism, with wide straight streets, axial symmetry, monumental endpoints, and a waterfront with open quays. The plan was quickly rejected as impracticable and Wren’s creative energy went into the design of St Paul’s Cathedral and more than fifty parish churches. But his scheme was memorialized by his son and grandson as a scandal of lost opportunity, a noble vision ‘unhappily defeated by faction’. Widely reproduced by print-makers, it gained iconic status, influencing street improvement in eighteenth-century London, nineteenth-century public health reform, late-Victorian advocacy of municipal autonomy, and twentieth-century planning controversies including the Paternoster Square redevelopments of 1955 and 2000. The paper shows how archival research disproving the received narrative of Wren’s plan opened the way for different understandings both of the planning legacy of reconstruction after the Great Fire, and of his own accomplishments as a Renaissance architect working within a mediaeval street plan.

Type: Article
Title: The long after-life of Christopher Wren’s short-lived London plan of 1666
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1080/02665433.2018.1552837
Publisher version: http://doi.org/10.1080/02665433.2018.1552837
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: London, Sir Christopher Wren, Great Fire, post-disaster reconstruction, baroque urbanism, urban morphology
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment > The Bartlett School of Planning
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10081417
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