Mad about Models: Building Blog 5 Twin Towers to Single Arch

Mad about Models: Building Blog 5 Twin Towers to Single Arch

This fifth and final blog on selected iconic buildings of London modelled by Timothy Richards is of the now departed Wembley Twin Towers.  The model in its larger size shown here was presented to various dignitaries at the ceremonial events at the time of their demolition in 2003 – a noble souvenir of what had once been noble.  Smaller bookend versions are still available.

Resurrection unlikely

Unlike the buildings in my previous blogs, the Twin Towers are very unlikely to be resurrected, not least because very little remains of them. Nor did they find a new use which might have prevented demolition. However you could say that as with Temple Bar and Euston Arch, the idea of a highly visible construction lives on in the new Wembley Stadium Arch. I suspect more Londoners have seen the arch, albeit at a distance, than the towers – unless you were a football fan.

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A White Arch for Wembley

A new icon?

Of course the Arch may not become such an iconic building as the old Twin Towers, but usually that is for history to tell us. The world changes and certainly the Wembley area, like elsewhere, has seen its fair share of change over the years.

In the right light……

It looks good in the sunshine and with great lighting!

The tower that never was

In one sense the new Stadium Arch brings to Wembley what the Towers’ predecessor, Watkin’s Tower or Folly, tried to do.  This was the partly-built tower on the style of the Eiffel Tower, never finished and demolished in 1907, almost a century ago.  If completed like in Paris this would have been a landmark for miles. We might note that Eiffel’s masterpiece was not only completed (in 1889) but withstood plans for early demolition and still stands 127 years later. The Eiffel Tower was of course a pioneering construction, which is not something you could claim for Watkin’s Tower nor the Wembley Arch.

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Went missing 110 years ago

Demolition blues

Compared to Temple Bar (200 years in Fleet Street, 125 years in a rural park, restored at the age of 330) and Euston Arch (125 years in place, 34 years underwater, another two decades so far in storage), the Twin Towers were mere 75 year old youngsters. Interestingly, like the Eiffel Tower, the 1923 Wembley Stadium, built specifically for the Empire Games, was slated for demolition in 1925, but was saved from this early demise. The stadium made it into the second Millennium, but though the plan to demolish the towers was first met with considerable opposition,  they finally succumbed to progress. The concrete icons eventually became mere rubble, just as the Euston Arch was used to plug a hole in an East London river. Plans to preserve some parts of the Towers for display have apparently been ground into dust.

A video set to music records the demolition, and much was made of the fact that it was a German digger that began the demolition. 1966 anyone?

A pile of rubble becomes a playground

What I do know, from researching this blog, is that every time I leave London on the A40 Western Avenue, not long after I have passed the Hoover Building of the previous Building Blog No 4 ,  I pass the main graveyard of the old Stadium, the rubble helping to build the Northala Fields mounds. Bet you didn’t know that either. The Twin Towers moniker hasn’t died totally, labelling some of the new tall buildings steadily surrounding the stadium.

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The Mounds of Northala

So thanks for the memory

The Twin Towers moniker hasn’t died totally, labelling some of the new tall buildings steadily surrounding the stadium. Likewise there is now a bar and restaurant, with a strong Irish and sporting theme, called Watkin’s Folly, and a Watkin Road. Perhaps the strongest memories will live on in the minds of the many thousands who enjoyed their football, watched the Empire and Olympics Games or listened to their favourite rock group under the watch of the twin towers of Wembley. And the models hold up my old books nicely.

That’s all folks, for now

That’s it for now for my five part series of blogs on a few models of iconic past and present London buildings, or more fully, buildings, towers and arches. Buildings that have been demolished, moved, relocated, resurrected, changed to survive or just plain disappeared off the face of the Earth … or have the Twin Towers just gone underground?  There’s more to our buildings than meets the eye.  And do take a look at all the other wonderful models that Timothy Richards has on offer!

The Five Building Blogs

  1. Temple Bar and the end of geography
  2. Euston Arch, a hub of controversy
  3. Floral Hall, Orchids to Oysters to Opera
  4. From Hoover to Tesco
  5. Wembley: Twin Towers to Single Arch

 

Mad about Models: Building Blog 4 From Hoover to Tesco

Mad about Models: Building Blog 4 From Hoover to Tesco

In this fourth of my blogs about iconic London buildings exquisitely modelled by Timothy Richards, I look at the Hoover Building on the Western Avenue, to the west of London. Like last week’s building, the Floral Hall in Covent Garden, the Hoover Building has had to adapt to survive, in this case changing from a manufacturing to retail and residential space. I suspect it will have to keep adapting in the future too.

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Hoover Building photo by Nick Weall

Hoover to Tesco

The arterial roads running out from London attracted many art deco and other “proud to be seen” factory buildings. The biggest concentration was on the so-called Golden Mile on the A4 Great West Road.  The Hoover Building however is slightly further north on the A40 Western Avenue – one of Time Out’s Seven Wonders of London. In this model Tim focuses on the wonderful central window and door to capture the art deco splendour, topped off by a hint of the building’s bold lettering.

Our country has become more a retailing country than a manufacturing country so perhaps it is fitting that a Hoover factory has morphed into a Tesco store – as our retail has moved from the high streets to the highways.  Mind you, we were called a nation of shopkeepers , as a form of insult, long before our industrial revolution took off.  Full circle perhaps?

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The grand entry

The Golden Mile

The Golden Mile stretch on the new Great West Road (a new bypass) was opened by King George V more than ninety years ago.  Whilst several of the industrial buildings of the Golden Mile have survived, a glaring exception is the Firestone Factory, demolished over the August Bank Holiday in 1980, reportedly in anticipation of a preservation order coming into force the next day – and triggering off a campaign for more effective regulation to avoid such destruction.  This is what Tim could have modelled there as a twin for Hoover.

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Gone if not forgotten

Survivors: Gillette: from razors to residential?

One Golden Mile survivor has been the Gillette Building, less colourful than Hoover or Firestone, and reminiscent of the much larger and surviving Bankside Power Station that successfully houses the Tate Modern art gallery.  Plans for the future use of the Gillette Building are still under discussion.

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Survivor No1: the Gillette Building
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Bankside Modernity

Survivors: Coty: from Beauty care to Healthcare

Also on the Golden Mile, the Coty building, once the home of the beauty care cosmetics company is now a private hospital – still staying in the world of health with an upmarket twist.

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The Coty Building

And there’s music in it too

The Hoover Building however has also inspired music: Elvis Costello wrote this song, I believe back in 1979, and this was when the old factory was in a state of dereliction. Perhaps he was influential in ensuring it lives on.  I pass the responsibility to Elvis to finish this blog for me…..

                                                              and here’s the song

Five miles out of London on the Western Avenue
Must have been a wonder when it was brand new
Talkin’ ’bout the splendor of the Hoover factory
I know that you’d agree if you had seen it too
It’s not a matter of life or death
But what is, what is ?
It doesn’t matter if I take another breath
Who cares ? Who cares ?

Green for go, green for action
From Park Royal to North Acton
Past scrolls and inscriptions like those of the Egyptian age
And one of these days the Hoover factory
Is gonna be all the rage in those fashionable pages

Five miles out of London on the Western Avenue
Must have been a wonder when it was brand new
Talkin’ ’bout the splendor of the Hoover factory
I know that you’d agree if you had seen it too
It’s not a matter of life or death
But what is, what is ?
It doesn’t matter if I take another breath
Who cares ? Who cares ?

Written by Elvis Costello • Copyright © Universal Music Publishing Group

Next, we’re off Wembley

Next week we’re off to Wembley, to visit the not-long-departed Twin Towers.

Previous Building Blogs

  1. Temple Bar and the end of geography
  2. Euston Arch, a hub of controversy
  3. Floral Hall, Orchids to Oysters to Opera

Mad about Models: Building Blog 3 Orchids to Oysters and Opera

Mad about Models: Building Blog 3 Orchids to Oysters and Opera

In my first two building blogs I featured iconic London buildings that have been demolished: in the case of Temple Bar, dismantled and relocated twice, in the case of Euston Arch demolished, drowned and a candidate for restoration.

In this third blog we look at the Floral Hall at London’s Royal Opera House, the first of two examples of how buildings learn to survive. As always these buildings live on in the wonderful models made by Timothy Richards. In the next blog we will look at the Hoover Building on Western Avenue, London.

Orchids to Opera

In central London the exodus of the Fruit and Veg market from London left an almost vacant space and buildings needing a new life.  Unlike Les Halles in Paris, we have retained most of the buildings, which I prefer to the way Paris has struggled with the space. Despite the crowds, sometimes Covent Garden seems rather soulless, a tourist attraction with restaurants of all kinds and some street entertainers.  One building that could easily have been demolished was the Flower Market building next to the Royal Opera House.

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The Floral Market 1913  Picture source: Historic England Archive

Oysters and Opera

The Floral Hall retains a sense of history though it was completely rebuilt when being made part of the Royal Opera House.  In the words of Historic England it is designated a Grade 2 building “As a fine example of Victorian technological innovation despite its dismantling and re-erection in the 1990s; For the high quality of its design and decorative elements; As an example of the work of the eminent Victorian architect EM Barry; For group value with the same architect’s Grade I listed Royal Opera House, which it was originally designed to complement”.  In truth from the outset the Floral Hall was part of the Royal Opera experience, in that not only was it designed by the same architect, E.M.Barry, the third son of Charles Barry of Houses of Parliament fame etc, when redesigned the Opera House itself, but also the occasional ball was held in the Hall.

The Floral Hall now provides entertaining space for the Opera House, with its oyster bar and other dining areas, and a roof terrace overlooking the Covent Garden piazza when you need a breath of fresh air in the interval.

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Floral Hall set to party

Tim’s model focuses well on the Hall’s Victorian 1870s ironwork and glass facade, the light shining through. It pairs up well with his second model of the Opera House itself.

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Floral Hall on the left, Royal Opera House on the right

Echo-chamber and informal performance space

One downside, inside, is that despite the high ceiling it is a really noisy space.  I’ve never actually stopped for oysters but have watched the crowd briefly as I glide upwards on the escalator to the bar upstairs.  In this first video the echo-chamber effect makes it sound more like a railway station than a genteel watering hole for opera.

In the second video a flashmob seems to quieten it down.

Vilar to Hamlyn

What I also rather like is the name on my particular model, the Vilar Floral Hall. Many of our buildings are now advertising boards for their sponsors. The rescued Floral Hall was originally named after the arts sponsor Alberto Vilar who pledged funds to many musical ventures around the world – but this was not the only one where he fell short of delivering on his full pledge. Convicted of fraud, money laundering amongst other things I believe he is still serving his sentence in the US. I like to think my out-of-date model is a bit of a collector’s item, like stamps that have been wrongly printed. It is now the Paul Hamlyn Hall, following a grant from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation (founded by the late publisher) for education and community activities at the Royal Opera House.

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Collector’s piece

Windows maketh a building

The glory of the building is not only in the sweeping ironwork curves in their windows – and doubtless were key features is preventing destruction. There is value in windows- no wonder they were once taxed. It’s probably irrelevant, but I note the window tax was finally abolished in 1851, less than a decade before the Floral Hall was built in 1858/9.

How buildings learn

All this leads to the question of how buildings adapt, or, in the phrase of Stewart Brand, how they “learn”.  For a longer discourse on how buildings learn to survive I do recommend looking at Stewart’s  1997 BBC programme “How buildings learn” with music by Brian Eno. The programme, based on Stewart’s book of the same name, was also innovative by being filmed entirely, I believe, with handheld cameras, doubtless cutting filming costs!

Also changing to survive……

Next week, from Hoover to Tesco, a look at the one of the classic industrial buildings built alongside the arterial roads running out of London, the Hoover Building.

Previous Building Blogs

  1. Temple Bar and the End of Geography
  2. Euston Arch: A Hub of Controversy

Mad about models: Building Blog 2 Euston Arch: a hub of controversy

Mad about models: Building Blog 2 Euston Arch: a hub of controversy

This is the second of my blogs about iconic London buildings of which I have models made by the talented Timothy Richards.  Last week I looked at Temple Bar, which was dismantled, taken out to a countryside park and more than a century later returned to London, albeit in a new location.  This week I look at Euston Arch, made by Tim in support of the campaign to return the old Euston Arch to London.  It already looks good at home!

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In the way of progress

The demolition of Euston Arch in 1961 was a cause célébre and for many a low point with respect to the preservation of architecture in London.  Ok, I know that when it was demolished it wasn’t universally loved: all the pictures show it rather dirty and shabby cramped into the maze of roads and buildings around the station. Like Temple Bar it was big and grimy and in the way of progress.

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Big and grimy in the way of progress

The likes of Betjeman, Pevsner et al were unable to stop its destruction. Its loss indeed was a “catalyst for a new phase in heritage campaigning, research and practice” according to Dr Ruth Adams of King’s College London.

Demolition of our railway infrastructure

It was also in the era when the railways themselves were facing wholesale demolition as part of the Beeching plans.  I was then living in a village near my birthplace town of Banbury, and even the brand new concrete Banbury Station nearly got the chop.But the newly built was saved. Indeed the process is now underway to reinstate some of the lost railway links in the region including the so-called Varsity line between Oxford and Cambridge.

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Banbury Station escaped the axe

One thing that attracts me to Tim Richards’ model is that Banbury is included in the little list of station names running along the bottom of the model. Those station names can still to be seen today on the two lodges, on the Marylebone Road, the last vestiges of the old Euston Doric grandeur, one hosting one of London’s most popular pubs, the Euston Tap.  The proposal is to rebuild the Arch between the two lodges.  Some disagree with the whole idea, including the Londonist article – whose tag line “We might not be entirely serious” I do like – but I don’t think the need to remodel the popular Euston Tap pub is enough of reason not to stop the return of the Arch: after all, the Tap benefits from being housed in a wonderful old Doric lodge instead of being a charmless bar in the modern station.

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Smart pub eh?

A watery grave

Unlike Temple Bar, featured in my Building Blog 1, on demolition Euston Arch was not re-erected in some country park (though it was considered) but was dumped in the demolition contractor’s back garden or in East London in a feeder river to the river Lea – which is where historian Dan Cruickshank found it in 1994.  Witness his excitement just before the 6th minute of the video as a chunk or Doric column is raised from the deep to appropriately monumental music!  60% of the stonework still exists, which would make a sizeable contribution to a reconstructed Arch. The ironwork gates are at the National Railway Museum in York.

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‘ello ‘ello what have we here?
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Stones exhibited in 2015 by Euston Station

The new Euston: to be or not to be?

It’s taking a while to get the Arch back on its feet – though my model has brought it alive at home. Controversy is back because Euston is slated to be the terminus for HS2 – though I understand they’ve picked the wrong place for the HS2 to come into London and Sadiq Khan is pushing to terminate HS2 elsewhere. But Euston will certainly be revamped as part of the new Crossrail, so lots of plans to demolish the dreadful jumble of tower blocks and coffee chains cluttering up the front of the station. I’m looking forward to seeing how they juxtapose the Arch against the new modern idea (as has been done pretty well at Kings Cross).

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How’s that for style?

HS2 creates news in the villages around Banbury too. Like all mega projects (from basements to transport networks) it’s not just the end result that arouses the ire of many, it’s the megahassle and disruption of having things built – the lorries, the noise, the dirt – and the huge uncertainty as plans rumble on and off. So it’s probably just as well that we moved from our village home in 1959 because the HS2 lorries are slated to rumble along the road at the bottom of the garden.  Great foresight Mum and Dad.  We moved to the next valley which was lovely and peaceful.  Mind you the family finally upped sticks from there in the 1990s not long after the new M40 was rumbling half a mile across the fields: we noticed the sound, like a permanent wind, more than the change in the view.

Only the future will tell

But back to Euston Arch.  Not a fussy piece of architecture, straightforward Doric columns, imposing, pretty impractical, but creating a sense of place.  Like Temple Bar, if restored I’m sure only people will pass beneath it.  They are planning a basement for it too, so I hope it is well supported!

Adapt or die

More next week, when we’ll look at my Timothy Richards model of Covent Garden’s Floral Hall, the first of two buildings which have been saved from destruction by changing their use.

Meanwhile, if you are wondering about how many other great buildings have disappeared then enjoy this video accompanied by some great spiritual singing: presumably if you can’t depend on Bejteman to save you then you need to call for higher assistance…

 

From 2 Opt-outs to 4+ Opt-ins

From 2 Opt-outs to 4+ Opt-ins

Theresa May has set out clearly our new relationship with Europe, from being an EU member with two hard won opt-outs – from the Euro and Schengen –  towards non-membership negotiating 4+ Opt-ins – on access to the EU market via some form of customs and tariff deals and tariff, on travel arrangements within Ireland, on security, and on the status of British citizens in the EU and vice versa.

We can’t have our cake and eat it, we won’t be able to choose from the full a la carte menu, we may have to go for the plat du jour whatever may be offered.

Which of the four Opt-ins are most important to us?  Will we have give and take a bit between those ambitions to work out the best combination we can get?  Which of these are the most important to us?  And what else will we find we’d like to opt-in on again?

Reality I suppose will be a gradual accumulation of deals, issue by issue, market by market, special case by special case, whether it be the City, farming, Ireland, grades of jobs…..

Here we go then.

 

Mad about models: Building Blog 1 Temple Bar and the end of geography

Mad about models: Building Blog 1 Temple Bar and the end of geography

This is the first of five blogs on five iconic buildings of London, one which has been relocated and then returned to London, one which has been demolished but may be rebuilt (Euston Arch) one which has been demolished for ever, and two which have changed their role in order to survive. They are all still alive in my own little collection of Timothy Richards models.

First, Temple Bar. This Timothy Richards model celebrates the return of the old Temple Bar to London. For me it has a little story attached. In my little book published 25 years ago, Global Financial Integration: the End of Geography I was trying to draw attention to the ways in which geography was often being eroded by revolutions in technology and the whole globalisation process. The title alone spurred many in the world of geography to champion the cause of geography, so I like to think it at least gingered up a profession that was a little dusty.

What is very clear is that so many of our rules and regulations are governed by geography. But so many rules now cross borders – though that isn’t stopping some to work against the flow and “get their country back”.

A symbol of who’s in charge

Temple Bar was a great historical symbol of the role of place in regulation. It was at Temple Bar where our monarchs had to stop and acknowledge that they were now entering the realm in part governed by the City of London. The monarch still has to pause on entering the City of London on official occasions – albeit for the Lord Mayor to present a sword in acknowledgement of royal authority.

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The Queen stops to receive the ceremonial sword from the Lord Mayor on entering the City

 

Removal to a country retreat

 

 

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Traffic jam or early traffic calming barrier?

 

When Temple Bar was restored to London after its long walk in the park – more than a century in Theobalds Park, near Chesham in Hertfordshire – it couldn’t return to Fleet Street.  It had been removed from there in 1878 because it got in the way of the traffic. Instead it became a grand archway to the new Paternoster Square next to St Paul’s Cathedral.

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Country exile

 

Return to guard the private space

Not long after this phoenix-like return, Temple Bar, curiously and inadvertently, resumed its role as guardian of the financial realm of the City when the Occupy protesters planned their sit-in outside the London Stock Exchange after the 2007 crash.

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God not Mammon: The Occupation of St Paul’s instead of the Stock Exchange

 

Whilst the new offices of the London Stock Exchange are indeed now in Paternoster Square, the stock exchange as you would think of it isn’t really there. The trading floors of the exchange now exist in the banks across the City: there is no physical floor at the Exchange itself.  Indeed when the Stock Exchange wishes to make a ceremonial announcement now it rings a bell at the top of the stairs in the lobby, a rather low key exercise. You won’t find many financiers there.

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Relocation to a traffic free private zone

 

Ha, I thought, see how the end of geography is happening! There is no “there there”. However the dance between geography and regulation revealed another more recent twist: the camp did not end up outside the Stock Exchange because by now Paternoster Square was no longer a public space: another public space had gone into private ownership. As a result protesters in the Square were more easily removed by the police. So they had to decamp to protest at the foot of the steps of St Paul’s. The blame for the crash was not being placed at the feet of St Paul and his team, but they felt the shock waves. There were no resignations at the Stock Exchange but the Dean and the canon chancellor of St Paul’s resigned in the wake of the occupation, after having closed the Cathedral to try to keep control of unfolding events. Collateral damage you might say.

Gates and walls, the last bastions of geography

So Temple Bar is back, no longer a gateway to the City but a gateway within the City to a private part of the City. In our era of globalisation we have been tearing down walls and barriers – in Berlin, across Europe, in South Africa.  Yet in an era of rising inequality we have also been erecting new gates – such as around gated residential areas.  And there are leaders who want to start putting up new walls. You know who.

Believe it or not, my grandmother was there.....

There is a final personal footnote: in 1878 my grandmother, at 16, may well have witnessed the removal of the gateway, her own birthplace already demolished to make way for the Royal Courts of Justice, as the Victorians steadily cleared the slums of inner London.

As they used to say in my boyhood comics, More Next Week…… on a model of another gateway that is hoping to return from ignominious exile  –  the Euston Arch.

The Season for Storytelling

The Season for Storytelling

Storyteller storyteller and Sleep baby of mine: two songs for the season for storytelling by the fire, and bedtime stories, from my albums Anguneau sunset and I know a little place

Escape into stories!

“Storyteller tell me, what I want to hear

Put a spin upon the news, make trouble disappear”

 

“Storyteller take me to where I want to be

I prefer to dream a dream, sail the wide blue sea”

Lullaby, lullaby

“I used to tell a story to my little girl

about the wizard who lived on the hill”

“None of these stories ever come to an end. Bedtime stories never do.

Children fall asleep and enter their dreams. That’s where the stories come true.”  

Have a great holiday!

Richard