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Graeme Shankland: a Sixties Architect-Planner and the Political Culture of the British Left

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 January 2016

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Graeme Shankland (1917–84) conforms in many ways to the popular image of a 1960s planner with his lyrical advocacy of inner city motorways and his suggestions of enormous programmes of renewal in ‘outworn’ Victorian city centres. As an advocate of the belief that ‘our problem in Britain is that it is our generation which must completely renew most of the older parts of our larger towns and cities’, Shankland was an important representative of what Peter Mandler has described as a new ‘more dirigiste version of urban planning’, an approach that had ‘little sentiment about historic townscapes’. As Mandler put it, ‘city centres were to be made “liveable” not by preserving the familiar (which was deemed grey and boring) but by projecting a vision of modern vitality.’ Shankland’s plan for Liverpool is notorious. Gavin Stamp described it as a ‘nightmare’ which was mercifully only ever partly completed. Raphael Samuel labelled him ‘the butcher of Liverpool’. Simon Jenkins’s antipathy towards planners developed after viewing Shankland’s Liverpool plan: ‘I was looking at Bomber Harris. This was the end of the beautiful city and that reaction has infused everything I have thought since about planning and architecture.’ At best, Paul Barker saw him as misguided: ‘I think, for example, of the destruction of the centre of Liverpool by well-meaning planners like Graeme Shankland.’

Research Article
Copyright © Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain 2014



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