Prince of Wales defeated in the battle of Paternoster Square

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The Independent Online
The Prince of Wales's approved plan to transform Paternoster Square, the 1950s office development flanking the north side of St Paul's Cathedral, has finally been ditched.

The site, owned by the property arm of the Mitsubishi company, was to have been turned into a Post-modern architectural playpen comprising 1980s- style American offices and a vast underground concourse of fashionable shops.

Today Sir William Whitfield, the architect brought in by the City of London and Mitsubishi to end an inglorious episode in modern British architecture and city planning, will announce a more modest, more English scheme. The architects chosen are MacCormac Jamieson Prichard, Allies and Morrison, and Sir Michael Hopkins and Partners. Sir William will design two buildings and one will be by John Simpson, who devised the original scheme.

Since the early 1960s the area has been blighted with lacklustre office blocks. Until the Blitz, St Paul's was surrounded by a delightfully ramshackle sprawl of houses, offices, coffee- houses, bookshops and workshops. This romantic relationship between Church, books and buildings was destroyed by bombs.

After Hitler had been defeated, a decision was made to rebuild the neighbourhood in Modern guise. The buildings, although clad in the same Portland stone as Wren used for the walls of St Paul's, were school of Bauhaus, free from all decoration and designed as if to please the austere sensibilities of Stafford Cripps and Clement Attlee.

The old street pattern was abandoned as the new Paternoster Square was raised. Not even a token sculpture by Dame Elisabeth Frink could bring heart and soul to this Orwellian vision of the new London.

Five years ago it seemed as if a political collusion between the City, property developers, and the Prince would cause the imminent demolition of the 1950s office blocks and plaza to the north of St Paul's and their replacement with a pantomime of Post-Modern Classical offices.

Michael Manser, past president of the Royal Institute of British Architects, produced convincing drawings in this newspaper to demonstrate how the princely designs would not just be in bad taste, but would, literally, overshadow St Paul's.