C. B. Purdom. How Should We Rebuild London? London: J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd, 1946 (rev).
C. B. Purdom considered the destruction of London during World War II as an opportunity to rebuild with intention. The book is dedicated to the citizens of London, and Purdom writes for them:
I have had in mind that while the task of planning and building is for technical men, architects, engineers, surveyors, town-planners, and builders, together with municipal authorities, the decision as to what kind of city the new London should be should not be theirs alone. (Preface to the First Edition)
Purdom addresses the rebuilding from various aspects of town planning; however, I found the chapters on housing and architecture particularly interesting. In his chapter, “London as Home”, Purdom argues that the plan must address the housing and population crisis in London. While many homes were destroyed, those that remain were either inadequate & substandard or out-dated. One of his solutions was to remove the distinction of working class housing and build rather for different stages of life. Families with children should never live in flats while those without young children or singles should. As the family unit changes, so should where they live. He writes:
The privates garden, even though small, is of more value to the family with small children than a large common garden or playground. It should be accepted as a social principle that families ought not to live in central areas, for they require space, and children require contact with Nature…
The truth is that flats make convenient homes for people without children who wish to live near the centre of the city, single persons, business and professional men and women, and others. (pg. 25)
In “Architecture and Building”, Purdom argues that the architecture of London has been a disappointment. He writes, “No one has been able to write about London’s architecture without apology.” (pg. 109) The war was thus a chance to rectify London’s deficiency regarding its architectural heritage. Purdom proposes that the city should be entrusted to a city architect in partnership with engineers, artists, and social scientists. Under the leadership of the architects, a new national style may develop. (pg. 115-116, 120) He writes:
I confess that I want to see a London that has style in every part of it. Not a single style, any more than a single architect, and not only in the show parts, but equally in houses, shops, and factories. Style will look after itself if architects work not for themselves, but for the unity of the city and for the function of which they build. (pg. 120)