Letter: Prophet of doom for a top-heavy City

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The Independent Online
Sir: City worthies and captains of industry are uniting to warn us of the threat to London as a hub of the financial universe if Britain eschews the European single currency. But is there not another, more subversive, reason for disquiet about the future of our venerable capital?

Institutions, according to one of Parkinson's lesser-known laws, only achieve perfection of planned layout when they are on the point of collapse. Parkinson cites New Delhi. In 1911 Sir Edwin Lutyens was commissioned to design a British Versailles - splendid in conception, masterly in design, overwhelming in scale. But the Viceroy's move into his new palace, in 1929, coincided with Congress's demand for independence.

Nearer our own time, Her Majesty's opening of the new Stock Exchange Tower in 1972 neatly anticipated the unprecedented fall in share prices the following year. With the introduction of Stock Exchange Automated Quotation nobody even needed to go there any more. Echoing silence has reigned over the trading floor ever since.

More painfully still, consider Sir Richard Rogers' monument in Lime Street. In Lloyd's at Home, a laudatory history, the authors were full of praise for this "sophisticated, yet pioneering building. Lloyd's with their worldwide venturesomeness, and large sense of their own powers, were the right clients". Some "names" might now read it rather differently.

Should we not feel a little uneasy about Sir Norman Foster's proposals for a glittering pinnacle on the site of the Baltic Exchange? Its sponsors say "it will provide a landmark of the City of London's pre-eminence as Europe's financial capital".

JAMES ROWLATT

Sturminster Newton, Dorset

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