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Consulting Engineers

They demolished a whole town

You wouldn’t think that the demolition of an entire town centre could happen without most people realising.

Yet unless you live in or near Bracknell, you probably wouldn’t know that the main shopping area has been razed and rebuilt.

It’s an interesting town, as it was chosen as one of seven new towns to house the overspill from London after the second world war. Thirty miles west of London, and with a shortage of housing in the capital and a soaring birth rate, Bracknell had to accommodate its population growing from 5,000 to 65,000.

This meant that the lead architect working for the Bracknell Development Corporation, Cyril Minchell had a big task on his hands. He needed to turn a sleepy rural town into a sizeable conurbation with all the infrastructure and facilities needed for a town on that scale.

In an interview on the BBC website, he talks of how he wanted to create a town at “human level” that kept people away from cars. Ultimately, he liked the town that he created so much that he moved there and raised his family in Bracknell.

But inevitably, by the start of the 21st century, the “concrete jungle” town centre was looking tired by today’s standards. It had even placed as runner-up in a poll by the makers of the “Crap Towns” series of books, while they were searching for the most ugly places in the country. So understandably, the council were keen to redevelop and encourage new investment.

Now aged 93, Bracknell’s post-war architect, Mr Minchell has been saddened by the demolition work, but is open-minded enough to see the benefits of the £240 million development, which is one of the biggest town centre regeneration projects in the UK.

Despite losing all of his original features, Cyril Minchell has said, “I went, preparing to criticise it. Do you know, I liked it. I like what they’re trying to do.”

Called The Lexicon, the new development opened at the start of September and features 70 new shops and restaurants plus improvements to existing high street buildings and the extension and refurbishment of local historic pub, The Bull.

Here’s hoping that The Lexicon has greater longevity and will still be going strong in 50 years’ time, although it seems likely it might look a little dated by then.

What do you think?

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