Post War Architecture of Plymouth

During WWII many British cities, as well as large portions of Britain’s built environment,
were devastated by heavy bombing, creating unprecedented opportunities for rebuilding
city centres under the constant pressure to respond to social needs. In order to formulate
the reconstruction visions, an effective town and country planning became the major
component of the post 1945 national legislation. The Planning Ministry, formed in 1943,
encouraged ambitious projects of city planning as a means of facilitating social needs,
raising the people’s morale and establishing a longer term confidence in the restoration of
economic prosperity.

‘The Plan for Plymouth’ (1943) was a radical, modernizing reconstruction program
following a bold agenda of redesigning, redeveloping the city centre and also expanding
the city’s pre-war boundaries. The core of this ambitious plan comprised of a small group
of determined, key actors who aimed to bring a radical change for architectural grace,
social coherence and unity, in order to make Plymouth a city of distinction. Sir Patrick
prepared and formulated the reconstruction program with the direct involvement of
J.W.Stirling (City Architect) and Lord Astor (City’s major).

Abercrombie erased the whole of the old centre and drew a main axis from the north to
the south, giving emphasis on pedestrian view, vehicle and transport links and allocation of
town’s functions such as public service, shopping and green areas. The proposed city plan
brought an uncompromisingly modern architectural style of planning and designing,
creating a Beaux-Arts modern city in contrast to the medieval, old-fashioned Georgian
periods and the congestion of the Victorian townscapes.

The city’s pioneering spirit expressed also through high quality of architectural examples,
designed for commercial, public and governmental use. The Civic Centre, the Dingles
Department store and the Plymouth combined Crown and County Courts are iconic
examples and represent the city’s creativity and sheer of that time. Following the prevalent
structural principles of ‘Brutalist Architecture’ which dominated the post war era of
195060s, a modern constructing technique of steel and reinforced concrete clad was
adopted with reinforce concrete made from local (Devon) limestone, giving a modern and
traditional character to Plymouth’s infrastructures.

The city centre, including these buildings serve the city for almost 60 years, representing
the historic significance of the post war planning and Architecture. The preservation of this
built environment is of vital importance, equal to medieval York and Georgian Bath.
Although only a small amount of these buildings has been ‘Listed’ in an effort to maintain
and preserve their unique character from demolition and alteration. ‘A listed Building’ is of
national importance, considering the architectural interest of design as well as the historic
value and association with the nation’s social and cultural periods of time.

Today we need to draw our attention and defend-protect our cultural heritage and our
sense of identity, as an attitude of re-evaluating the quality of our urban environment.
Moreover the physical expression of a nation’s civilization can be expressed through the
physical form of towns and city centers which can reflect the citizens’ social conditions and
cultural achievements or even the nature of governmental authorities. It is really essential
to keep a careful balance between preserving our past and planning a successful future by
emerging social concerns with urban responsibility, similarly to the ideas of ‘The Plan’
which constituted the symbolic start for the rebuilding of a better Britain.

Personal Note:
The collection of photographs intent to offer a visual engagement that moves carefully
from aesthetic appreciation to an architectural discourse and a dynamic re-evaluation of
our urban environment.

It is an effort to push viewers to reinvert their own notions of comprehending their social
existence within an urban environment of historical and cultural process, opposite to the
notion of devaluation and the norm of pursuing modernity as well as to restore-reclaim the
significant architectural and historical value of these great examples of British architectural

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