London’s lost mega-motorway: the eight-lane ring road that would have destroyed much of the city | London | The Guardian
As Dom Hallas leads me towards his block of flats, he glances up at the exterior, an endless expanse of dull, brown bricks interrupted by a few tiny windows and a curious-looking zigzag design picked out in lighter stone. “It’s true,” Hallas admits, opening the heavy security door with an electronic fob. “When I tell people where I live, some do say: ‘Oh, I always thought that was Brixton prison.’”
It is an easy mistake to make. Southwyck House, only nine storeys high but almost 250 metres long, looms like a gigantic wall just outside the centre of Brixton. It is one of south London’s most obvious and, it has to be said, forbidding landmarks.
Known locally as the Barrier Block, the building looks that way for a reason. It is an almost accidental relic of an alternative history for London, one that would have made the city very different and, as most people would probably agree, significantly less appealing.
This slab of roadside frontage was designed to be not just social housing but also a vast acoustic shield, screening the neighbourhood from the deafening roar of an elevated, eight-lane urban motorway.