Contact IRDR


Phone: 02031081101

Ext: 51101

Office location: Rm 38, 2nd floor, South Wing, UCL Main Quadrangle

Dickens's London
Two Reforming Minds
The Thames and Fatality
Pent-up Neighbourhoods and Child Health
New Roads

New Roads

In the late 1830s and early 1840s, Chadwick was involved in planning the construction projects that characterised Victorian London at the time, road-building being the order of the day. It was proposed that new roads should be built through disease- and crime-ridden slum areas to ‘ventilate’ them, and at the same time improve traffic problems, better connecting the City to the West End. Chadwick’s notes about the 'diminution of friction' involved in using wood or stone or macadam on the city’s streets on first glance look like a piece of maths homework, invoking the utilitarian and pragmatic attitude of the man. The end of Dickens’s contemporaneous The Old Curiosity Shop (1841) reflects the topical interest in new roads, though its ambivalence about the human phenomenological problem of erasure the construction entails suggests that he was not quite so unquestioningly certain as Chadwick about the desirability of these ‘metropolitan improvements’.

The little group would often gather round him of a night and beg him to tell again that story of good Miss Nell who died. This, Kit would do; and when they cried to hear it, wishing it longer too, he would teach them how she had gone to Heaven, as all good people did; and how, if they were good, like her, they might hope to be there too, one day, and to see and know her as he had done when he was quite a boy. Then, he would relate to them how needy he used to be, and how she had taught him what he was otherwise too poor to learn, and how the old man had been used to say 'she always laughs at Kit;' at which they would brush away their tears, and laugh themselves to think that she had done so, and be again quite merry. He sometimes took them to the street where she had lived; but new improvements had altered it so much, it was not like the same. The old house had been long ago pulled down, and a fine broad road was in its place. At first he would draw with his stick a square upon the ground to show them where it used to stand. But he soon became uncertain of the spot, and could only say it was thereabouts, he thought, and these alterations were confusing. Such are the changes which a few years bring about, and so do things pass away, like a tale that is told!

Charles Dickens, 1841, The Old Curiosity Shop, Chapter 73

Thinking Development’s Planned Educational Complex, Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Thinking Development logo

Thinking Development is a collaborative, imaginative and sustainable design project connecting a community of nuns, teachers and schoolgirls in downtown Port-au-Prince, Haiti, with a group of designers, documenters and development planners associated with the UCL Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction.

Our mission is to design and build a sustainable, beautiful, inspiring and multi-functional educational complex in the heart of Haiti’s capital city. We are developing designs in full partnership with local stakeholders, and sharing our learning with other practitioners and local stakeholders using video. If you have skills or fund raising ideas, then please get in touch:

Images from the cabinet