Sydney Smirke. Suggestions for the Architectural Improvement of the Western Part of London. London: Priestley and Weale, 1834.
In his treatise, Sydney Smirke (1798-1877) argues that the West End of London would benefit from redevelopment as the area was failing to meet the needs of the residents of a modern city. The houses in this area were old and constructed of timber, while the roads could did not adequately serve the population , now three times that of the 17th-century. He writes:
Since that period, how immeasurable has the traffic in our streets increased! Not only have our numbers, and consequently, the demand for all the necessaries of life increased three-fold, but a thousand new sources of activity have been opened; new trades and manufactures have been introduced; new wants created; new luxuries invented. The habits of the people have undergone the most striking changes. A private carriage was, in those days, a luxury very limited in its use; stage-coaches and hackney-coaches were scarcely known; and the river Thames, which at the period under review must be looked upon as having been a leading avenue to connect Westminster and its inhabitants with the city, has for various reasons, ceased to be entitled to the preference, in this respect, which it formally enjoyed.
It is therefore, palpably fallacious to conclude that the town is now suited to our bulk, because two centuries ago it appeared to fit us tolerably well. (pgs. 5-6)
Constructing larger avenues and building houses with modern materials and updated drainage would benefit communication across the city, increase the value of the property, and the health of the city residents. (pgs. 1-16).
Smirke also argues that the redevelopment scheme would increase the beauty of the city. According to Smirke:
The inferiority of London in point of architectural merit to many of the continental capitals, must have forced itself on the conviction of every traveller who has quitted the shores of his country; and our neighbours are ready enough to draw from thence very plausible inferences in disparagement of our taste and genius. (pgs. 17-18)
He proposes to build cultural institutions and establish a regulation board of architecture and planning in the city to help solve this problem. (pgs. 17-30)
Smirke concludes with his proposal for the West End, which includes the demolition of buildings, the widening and straightening of streets into avenues, establishing piazzas, national galleries & a site to commemorate “our heroes and statesmen”, preserving/restoring Westminster Abbey, and constructing a new Parliamentary building. (pgs. 46-117)