Recovering Doric

19 May 2009

Living fairly close to Euston station, and having known it for the last few decades as my gateway to London from my home in the midlands, it’s history fascinates me. The unlovely functionalist 1960s station is practical and large, it serves its function well, but it’s not got the romance, history or stories of other London stations. The Times art columnist said

“It gives the impression of having been scribbled on the back of a soiled paper bag by a thuggish android with a grudge against humanity and a vampiric loathing of sunlight. And the fact that it replaced a much-loved old station, wiping out the Classical portico of the Euston Arch, only compounds its offensiveness.”

Which is why I was fascinated to read that the Doric arch, or what remains of it (or most of it that didn’t end up forming a rockery in the back garden of the guy that demolished it), is being recovered from it’s subsequent resting place, thanks to the London Olympics.

Developing Prescott Lock to enable construction materials to be transported to and from the Olympic site in a more sustainable way than dirty road lorries has meant that the remains of the arch, which since 1962 have been basically blocking a hole in the tidal riverbed, are finally being recovered. More on the story here, here and here.

Although I am a town planner, I don’t have a strong conservationist streak. But the story of Euston, and the threatened near-by St Pancras, make you realise what a sense of pride and sense of place architectural history can give you. After one of the most shocking pieces of architectural vandalism it’s now hoped that the arch can be reconstructed, not in it’s original place (somewhere near Platform 8, apparently) but perhaps in the redevelopment of Euston station (possibly looking like the image below), or elsewhere. Even if you cannot stop progress, meeting the needs of future generations, and the ability to integrate architectural history into developing places, is an important challenge we need to grasp.


A sign of the times?

28 August 2008

In a window, on my street, neon sign:

I tried it. Nothing. Then I wondered what it was all about.


Germaine Greer, you can do better than this!

29 July 2008

She has a good point she finally gets to in her rant about new housing:

The British, like other timid mammals, are neophobic – that is, irrationally terrified of the new. Eco-housing will have to work differently without looking different.

…but her argument is terrible. She bemoans the destruction of romantic but inadequate Irish cottages – most of which disappeared with the potato famine and has no concept of housing’s role in creating, and reaction to economic forces, demographics and lifestyles… to suggest that unless you live in a hemp-built wind turbine clad in solar panels over a tube station you’re not really eco is just plain stupid..

Although I quite like her argument that “Houses grew uglier as the proportion of architects in the population and their share of the new-build budget grew”… St George’s Wharf is a good example of a building designed for maximum river views (and thus maximum profitability) – but will it not always been thus? In a world of commercial developers, and a country country obsessed with home ownership, design isn’t going to be based on what looks good from the outside. And look where functional designs have got us in the past. How does this all compare to her house?

Come on Germaine – you have some great points to make but sadly your argument let you down.


on Architecture (updated)

20 June 2008

The London Architecture festival was addressed by the Mayor last night who said:

It is true that I did once take a paper in architecture at university but the syllabus ended after the invention of the Corinthian column and before the Romans introduced the arch and though I look up with a delighted eye at many of the revolutionary buildings going up in London my profoundest thought is that I like the crashed mothership by Daniel Libeskind on Holloway Road, and I like the cornices and the triglyphs and the metopes and the caryatids of the more traditional buildings but I have come to the conclusion that I like each more for its proximity to the other.

…the rest of it however was also interesting and, in theory, more readable! It’s available here.

Also today the owners of Battersea Power Station launched their own plans


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