chapter  9
15 Pages

Vulnerability and resilience in the city

A few months after the Great Fire of London in 1666 the poet Dryden compiled the poem, Annus Mirabilis, which vividly described the effects and spread of the disaster. He drew attention to how the dense form of the urban environment both helped spread the flames and was altered in its wake. After the fire, an increased awareness of the vulnerability of the city to this particular hazard, such as the use of construction materials and the claustrophobic mesh of streets, resulted in the first bylaws introduced to regulate building design to inhibit the spread of fire. The event therefore served to highlight the links between urban form and risk and was an early example of planned intervention. The scale of devastation also provided a unique opportunity for some of the principal architects of the time to redesign London to become, as Dryden put it within the same historical poem: ‘a city of more precious mould’.