The City in the City
Architecture and Change in London's Financial District
384 pp., 6 x 10 in, 163 b&w illus.
- Published: December 19, 2023
- Publisher: The MIT Press
An exploration of the dramatic transformation of London's financial district after 1945, viewed at four spatial scales: city, street, facade, interior.
In The City in the City, Amy Thomas offers the first in-depth architectural and urban history of London's financial district, the City of London, from the period of rebuilding after World War II to the explosive climax of financial deregulation in the 1980s and its long aftermath. Thomas examines abstract financial ideas, political ideology, and invisible markets as concrete realities; working on four spatial scales—city, street, facade, and interior—the book explores the grand plans, hidden alleys, neo-Georgian elevations, and sweaty dealing floors that have made the financial center work.
Moving from politics to sociology, institutions to bodies, development plans to office desks, Thomas unravels the rich entanglements between the structure of the UK's financial system and the structure of the environment in which it operates. Despite its physical and political centrality, this period of the City's architectural history occupies an academic lacuna. Longstanding prejudices about developer-led architecture and the real estate industry have obscured the postwar City's relevance. The book shows how, as currents of local government reform, nation-building, and globalization swept across Britain, the City became an ideological battleground for debates between politicians and financial institutions, real estate developers and architects, preservationists and so-called “proactive” planners throughout the latter half of the century.
The City of London is a place steeped in rich cultural and architectural heritage of immense national significance, yet it is also a highly privileged citadel at the core of global financial networks. The City in the City is both a critique and a celebration of this unique and complex place.