XClose

The Bartlett School of Architecture

Home
Menu

Current area of study: Oxford Street

The Survey of London is following up its two volumes on South-East Marylebone with a comprehensive study of Oxford Street. This will take two forms: a linear volume covering both sides of the street from Tottenham Court Road to Marble Arch; and a photographic panorama showing both sides of the street as it appears today along its whole length, in strict elevation. Publication date for both is estimated as 2019.

As the longest continuous shopping street in Europe since the eighteenth century, Oxford Street is a unique phenomenon. Though it has witnessed almost continuous change, it has never lost its popularity. It has been home to many of the great London department stores, some still flourishing like John Lewis and Selfridges, others once-familiar names like Bourne & Hollingsworth, Marshall & Snelgrove, Peter Robinsons, and Waring & Gillow. Its architecture varies from the magnificent to the ephemeral, and from small-scale boutique interiors and glittering Victorian glasswork to the elegance of James Wyatt’s long-lost Pantheon and the monumental colonnades of Selfridges.

The traffic, the crowds and the means of transport will be an equal part of the Survey’s study along with the buildings and shops of Oxford Street. The road itself goes back to Roman times, and was long famous as the processional route along which criminals were taken to Tyburn for execution. To explain how the street evolved into the present raffish shoppers’ destination, familiar the world over, will require all the Survey’s powers of research, synthesis, illustration and description. In parallel the planned photographic panorama will be a precious and permanent memorial to the current state of Oxford Street, before it changes once more.