The post-war establishment of the Welfare State, and the economic and technological advances of the 1960s, led to a building boom. The period from the late 1950s to the end of the 1960s saw unprecedented growth in new public housing, educational facilities, motorways and entire city centres.
The energy and innovation in British architecture matched the extraordinary developments in the other art forms. A new generation of idealistic architects was intent in sweeping away crumbling Victorian infrastructures and slum housing. It was only towards the end of the decade that conservationist movements began trying to save these historic buildings rather than starting afresh.
Centre Point marks the crossing of Oxford Street and Charing Cross Road in central London. This building, designed by the architect Richard Seifert, remained unlet for many years. The developers calculated that, with the sharp rise in rents, it would be better to keep it empty than tie its value down to a particular rent. This was a social scandal in a city full of homeless people. Demonstrators saw in it the ‘unacceptable face of capitalism’.
This building was commissioned to house the headquarters of the Economist magazine in a new site off St James’s Street in central London. The architects, Alison and Peter Smithson, wanted to adapt the modern skyscraper to the classical buildings surrounding the site.