Stephen Bayley: 'Once a masterpiece, now a Sodom of commercialism'

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The Independent Online

Regent Street is the best and worst of modern London. Unfortunately, the best parts are the ones located in the past. The plan, published in 1812, was "unique in the history of town-planning", the great architectural historian Sir John Summerson said. It was an entirely modern concept: a mixture of civic formality and picturesque composition. It was brave: Regent Street was inspired by art but driven by money. The result, executed with confidence and style, was innovative, disciplined, beautiful and useful: a masterpiece of cityscape. Since John Nash, other forces have had their melancholy influence. What is left of Regent Street is trapped between adulation of the past (perhaps not such a bad thing) and short-sighted money-grubbing by landlords whose measure of value and utility is rental income alone. No amount of iPod emporia can save Regent Street from what it has become: a Sodom of the crassest commercialism. Nash was no stranger to finance, but he had other ambitions, and he created a wonderful pa

Regent Street is the best and worst of modern London. Unfortunately, the best parts are the ones located in the past. The plan, published in 1812, was "unique in the history of town-planning", the great architectural historian Sir John Summerson said. It was an entirely modern concept: a mixture of civic formality and picturesque composition. It was brave: Regent Street was inspired by art but driven by money. The result, executed with confidence and style, was innovative, disciplined, beautiful and useful: a masterpiece of cityscape. Since John Nash, other forces have had their melancholy influence. What is left of Regent Street is trapped between adulation of the past (perhaps not such a bad thing) and short-sighted money-grubbing by landlords whose measure of value and utility is rental income alone. No amount of iPod emporia can save Regent Street from what it has become: a Sodom of the crassest commercialism. Nash was no stranger to finance, but he had other ambitions, and he created a wonderful part of London. The failure of modern Regent Street is easily described : Londoners do not go there. It is a nasty shopping street for bemused out-of-towners and tourists.

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