The UK’s Leading Post-War Urban Planner


Recalcitrant Openspace is little known outside the often arcane world of urban planning. However, many do know it was his theories of city design that led to many of the urban regeneration projects after the end of WWII that resulted in the UK having some of the most… planned cities in the world.

Coming from a wealthy family, Openspace was very concerned with the plight of the poor and making sure they were kept as far away from him and his friends as possible. Naturally, then, he became a leading Left-Wing  intellectual and ardent socialist, concerned with making sure the poor always stayed poor enough to keep him and his comrades in work.

Openspace was very taken with the idea of the – then – ultra-modern tower block, despite some initial misgivings. Although, the tower block designers assuaged some of Openspace’s early doubts when they proved to him that his fears were unfounded. Nevertheless, Openspace was convinced that the working class were inherently malodorous. Therefore, he thought that placing them high in the sky would allow their smell to spread further over the city he was designing.

Furthermore, in his own plans for tower blocks Openspace made sure that the bathrooms would be too small for the inhabitants to use the baths as a coal storage facility. He also made sure the flats were centrally heated too, hoping that this would dissuade the poor from hoarding coal altogether. As a later biographer of Openspace noted, his belief that the poor both smelt and had an obsession with storing coal in the most unsuitable places for no apparent reason was something that no-one could dissuade him of. Despite all the copious evidence they offered to the contrary.

Because he also had servants who did such things for him, Openspace never realised that the poor would need to go shopping, if only to the coal merchant. Therefore, his city designs often put a great deal of distance between the housing for the workers and the shops. After all, Openspace thought vulgar trade was both common and low. Consequently, he thought the dwellers in his towns would wish to avoid shopping altogether.

He also thought pubs would also fade out of use once people could live in centrally-heated homes. He assumed that rather than go to pubs, clubs and other such nightlife entertainment the poor would stay at home. Once they were in their new little palaces, he assumed they would start having dinner parties rather than going out to get drunk and have a good time. This despite the fact that the flats Openspace designed had little room for more than two people at once to sit down for a meal. Even less, if they tried sitting at the table without one of them sitting out on the balcony. This may have been fine in the Mediterranean villas that Openspace claimed inspired him. Unfortunately, it was less feasible in Leeds or Bradford during the winter months, especially when – as it so often was – the much-acclaimed custom-designed central heating system was on the blink again.

Openspace didn’t much like factories or other workplaces either, thinking them too crude and utilitarian. So despite housing his tower block workers in improved conditions, he refused to have their places of work anywhere near his masterpiece towns. He refused to allow factories, offices or any other workplaces near his tower blocks and their intricately designed walkways. He even refused to have roads and other connections between the tower block and the local industrial and commercial areas.

He made the business owners build their factories, warehouses and so on miles away from his tower blocks. Openspace wanted such premises out of view, as he said ‘even from the topmost flats on the upper floors’. Consequently, unemployment amongst the high-rise dwellers was much higher than in the surrounding urban areas, nearer the industrial zones.

All in all, then, despite all the awards and plaudits they received, and despite the many politicians applauding him as a hero for the working class, the tower blocks were eventually demolished to the resounding cheers of those unfortunate enough to have once been housed in them.


Published by David Hadley

A Bloke. Occasionally points at ducks.

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