MARS (Modern Architectural Research Group) Plan

In the inter war years, there was a war between two rival camps for urban planning, the highdensity housing with lots of communal space, or low-density with lots of private space. One group was known as The Modern Architectural Research Group (MARS), founded in 1933, with luminaries as varied as Morton Shand, Wells Coates, Maxwell Fry, F. R. S. Yorke, Ove Arup and John Betjeman. 

As an organization though, it is probably most famous for a radical plan for the redevelopment of London, the details of which were published the Architectural Review in June 1942. They pretty much planned to rebuild London in its entirety – the entire city was to be rebuilt from scratch. Away with haphazard layouts they provided with an organized “herringbone” arrangement of homes, factories and facilities. 

Although the report was presented in terms of preventing the further expansion of the built-up area of London and planning for new growth, it was suggested that redevelopment might extend the linear city corridors inwards as well, slowly stripping away the mass of buildings that had built up over centuries to create a utopian linear city.

MARS plan

The plan included a “vertebra” of the herringbone that comprised the areas of administrative and commercial buildings, with the docks and industries at its ends. The “bones” are the residential areas with the local industries at their ends. Between the residential ribbons are parks and recreation grounds would have been where the schools and playing fields were to be located. All parts of the city would have been then connected by a railway, whose stations were to be within walking distance even from the remote parts of the residential area. The long-distance railways were then to be connected by means of a belt which forms a traffic ring to the north and south, meeting in a central line where the main passenger stations are located. 

One of the main criticisms of the plan wasn’t just how utterly bonkers it was, but that the finer details were less than ideal. For example, placing factories at the ends of the spines meant more travel was needed to go between residential and work zones within the city. Blending them more closely would reduce travel times the critics argued. 

The plan was overshadowed by the release of a much more famous planning document, Abercrombie’s County of London Plan which came out two years later, in 1944 and was seen as a blueprint for post-war rebuilding, not just of London but also other bomb damaged cities. The welcoming of Abercrombie, and the rejection of MARS pretty much signed the death warrant for MARS, and its direction changed in subsequent years. The group finally disbanded in 1957. 



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