Victoria Street has been an in-between place for half a century, a dreary direct line between Victoria station and Parliament. Its dullness now makes it hard to imagine the opening scene of Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway, in which her heroine crosses the street towards St James’s Park, listening to the boom of Big Ben dissolving like leaden circles in the air.
Modernist rebuilding left little of the 19th-century thoroughfare that first opened in 1851, with its Gothic cliffs of sooty mansion blocks and the old Army & Navy store, from which just about anything could be bought and shipped to the colonies.
Instead, an SW1 office ghetto was built in the early Sixties by developer Land Securities with a frontage so smoothly bland that it resisted all attempts by history to leave some character on its features — it became grubby rather than acquiring a patina.
Over the past decade or so, Land Securities has been comprehensively rebuilding its Victoria Street estate for the second time. The results have been a curate’s egg: at the western end, the corner of Cardinal Place by EPR Architects slams down a glass and steel talon to get a purchase on the pavement near the corner with Bressenden Place. It provides places to eat and shop off the main drag, as well as drama. […]