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Proposals for building, or rebuilding, bridges across the Thames can spark vociferous debate, as the recent furore over the ill-fated Garden Bridge has demonstrated. But such discussions can also be revealing of contemporary expectations surrounding London’s future. Between 1796 and 1800, the architect George Dance the Younger (1741-1825) produced a series of radical proposals for rebuilding the Port of London and London Bridge. These proposals, which were submitted to Parliament, called for the construction of two parallel bridges and monumental warehouses on either side of the river. Unsurprisingly, they were quickly dismissed as too expensive and Parliament opted instead for the construction of new docks on the Isle of Dogs. 

However, despite its failure, Dance’s vision for the Port of London went on to enjoy considerable public exposure thanks to the printmaker William Daniell (1769-1837), who produced two popular aquatint perspectives of the scheme, and the theatre scenery painter Robert Andrews (fl.1789-1819), who used Daniell’s prints as the inspiration for a huge theatrical ‘panorama’ displayed at Sadler’s Wells Theatre between 1801 and 1803. 

This talk will consider Dance’s scheme and its visual afterlives not simply as relics of a failed planning exercise, but as examples of a ‘paper architecture’ that helped to configure expectations about London’s future form. It will show how images of Dance’s scheme acquired a purpose and agency that outlasted the circumstances of their creation and, in doing so, demonstrate the versatility of urban planning imagery at the turn of the nineteenth century.

Harry Adams is a PhD candidate at the Courtauld Institute of Art, London, supervised by Professor Christine Stevenson. His research explores George Dance the Younger’s urban planning proposals for the Corporation of London between 1768 and 1815. 

All welcome- this event is free to attend but advance registration is required.
Please note that registration for this session will close 24 hours in advance and a meeting link will be distributed on the morning of the session.