During World War Two thousands of historic buildings were devastated in cities across Europe, North Africa and the Pacific. While a lucky few saw restoration, many were later demolished. Others, meanwhile, like the ghost town of Oradour-sur-Glane in France, were left in ruins, chilling monuments to the horrors that befell them.
One bombed-out ruin that has been positively re-imagined for the postwar world is the church of St Dunstan-in-the-East in the City of London. Now a public garden, the church was originally built around 1100, and was first damaged during the Great Fire of London in 1666.
Patched-up in 1695 and partially rebuilt during 1817, the church served the Anglican parish of St Dunstan’s Hill for another 124 years before being gutted by German bombs during the Blitz of 1941. The tower, designed by Sir Christopher Wren, survived the bombs, along with the north and south walls.
In 1967 the City of London Corporation decided to transform St Dunstan-in-the-East into a public garden rather than rebuilding it. Opening in 1971, a lawn and trees were planted within the ruins, with a fountain placed in what was the former nave. The All Hallows House Foundation occupies Wren’s tower.