Thursday 24 April 2008 6.41am
I'm afraid they couldn't have built Regent Street like Manhattan ion the 20s. Doing so would have been illegal. That was nothing whatsoever to do with how it looked, but because the building regulations required that all occupied floors had to be within reach of the Fire Brigade ladders. The height of new buildings in London was determined by these rules right up to the 1960s and the Edwardians, particularly, had built most of the city right up to the limit.
When it came to unoccupied floors both the Victorians and Edwardians littered London with towers of varying designs. Chimneys and water towers mostly, and now mostly gone, but also towers like those at Westminster (no historical precedent there for buildings what were the tallest gothic secular buildings in the world - actually, among the very first iron framed 'skyscrapers' ever built).
The heights of all the warehouses that crowded the river front was also determined by this rule, presenting a 100 foot wall of brick right along the south bank. The idea of walking from Albert Embankment
to Tower Bridge would have only been possible had you wanted to walk on the foreshore and only then possible if you wanted to clamber over the jetties and boats that would have littered it.
ns had no love of St Paul's or desire to protect it. So much did they dislike its baroque (read foreign and Roman Catholic) design that they wanted to knock it down completely and replace it with something a bit more English.... A bit more gothic.
Stop looking at the world through a rosy historical looking glass where builders respected things then but don't now. All that was different was the demands and practical restrictions put upon them. Restrictions about what views they blocked were non existent until the 1980s.