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

 

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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 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.