Westminster, with its gothic revival palace and neoclassical offices, may be the seat of our government, but the real power in Britain lies - and builds - elsewhere.
On a walk around the Square Mile Tom Wilkinson (author of Bricks and Mortals: Ten Great Buildings and the People they Made, Bloomsbury 2014) explores the birth of financial institutions like the Bank of England and its much-mauled neoclassical home by John Soane, asking how and why it has been changed over the years. Across the road lies the Mansion House: this and gothic Guildhall are backward looking relics of an earlier system, the medieval guilds which gave rise to the bourgeoisie. And nearby are the insurers who first met in Georgian coffee houses, and now have the most futuristic homes in England - Lloyds of London and the Gherkin. Why are they so keen on transparency, and what do their walls of glass really reveal? Finally, by looking at James Stirling's 1 Poultry - a postmodern edifice seen by some as an act of apostasy by a former modernist - Tom Wilkinson introduces the different actors who battled over the construction of this building and asks who can reign-in capital's exuberance, which inevitably leads to bust. The Prince, the developer Lord Palumbo, the arch-modernist Mies van der Rohe (whose proposal for a stark black skyscraper was eventually rejected in favour of Stirling's stone clad kitsch), the planners, and the conservationists all struggled for decades for control of this central node of capital within our capital. And though it may seem that the capitalists always win in the end, recent events suggest that this might not be inevitable. Four bankers have jumped to their deaths from the restaurant on the roof of 1 Poultry since 2007, and building elsewhere in the City ground to a halt as capital dried up after the credit crunch. Today, however, the cutely named towers - the Cheese Grater, the Walkie Talkie, the Helter Skelter - rise once more.
So what does crisis mean for the architecture of capital?
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