Lost Wonders

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Lost Wonders

Post by Mr007 on Fri Nov 05, 2010 2:06 pm

It's a commonly held view that the lack of conservation into the 70s led to the destruction of many fine historical buildings but whilst this is true a number of amazing structures have been destroyed in the U.K that were at the time seen as out of date and obsolete, even if they weren't particularly old.

These days people aren't even aware of these stunning buildings thinking more that heritage is about castles, cathedrals and country houses without remembering the value of many short-term structures that were at the time ground breaking.

This article looks at three fantastic high-rise structures that were demolished despite pushing the gap in engineering and imgaination, the oldest being just over twenty years old when it went, plus fuss over Euston Arch that rightly kickstarted the Heritage lobby into action.

Euston Arch.

The Victorians believed railtravel should be a spectacle. One only has to see the wonderful St Pancras Station with its adjoining Victorian Gothic hotel (then the tallest and biggest in the world) to see just how seriously they took the railways as a journey of excitement.

Euston Station was no different with its ability to overawe the traveller. Little of the station survives today thanks to the horrific job they made of 'modernising' it in the 1960s and 1970s.

Railway stations have large amounts of land next to them sometimes which makes prime real estate for developments and nowhere is this more clear than in Euston where a series of midrise modernist towers that are remarkable for nothing except their sheer blandness were built. To provide space for these offices and their surroundings the arch had to go.

It was made of granite, a Victorian favourite as it shimmered in the sun if polished and could easily pass for marble, and stood at the entrance where the horsedrawn cabs would pass under it.

Quite simply it was in the wrong place.... that it was demolished at the time was a scandal that in the end led to the powerful heritage movement of today being given the power it has to protect our historic monuments.

The Tate Tower.

If someone told you that Glasgow had in 1931 an art deco skyscraper taller than anything else in the country would you have believed them? And yet this extraordinary structure was built in Glasgow by the sugar baron of the Tate Gallery fame for the 1931 British Empire exhibition.

The only other truly tall building of such a style is the still surviving Senate House in London. Like the Effiel Tower it was concieved as a short-term structure, sadly the exhibition organisers didn't have the longsightedness to realise what they had, nor the architectural appreciation of it so it was pulled down on the cusp of World War Two following fears it could be used as a directional aid by incoming bombers.

Perhaps Glasgow's reputation would be very different today from the Billy Conolly-Rab C Nesbit ideas people have of it south of the border whilst the Scots would be hugely proud of what would still be a national landmark.

New Brighton Tower.

Everyone knows about the Blackpool Tower, but few people know that Liverpool too had a similar tower which was infact taller.

The New Brighton Tower was taller than its cousin, and a massive success when first opened. It sat in sumptious gardens with an enormous 2000 capacity ballroom at its base offering views of as far as Manchester and Mount Snowdon.

Unlike the Blackpool Tower it had a lavish gothic base, as if sat ontop of a stately home. It remained popular until World War One, the nation stopped partying so much and the tower was shut-down temporarily.

Sadly during the shut-down period the metalwork was neglected and it got rusty so with the war over in 1919 it failed to be suitable for public use. Faced with a massive bill for restoring it the owners instead decided to pull it down and rely on income from the ballroom and gardens.

The ballroom lasted as a top concert venue until fire gutted it in the mid 1960s, shortly after the Beatles played there.

Skylon.

Perhaps the most famous of these structures is Skylon which was built for the British Empire Exhibition in 1951, renamed the Festival of Britain as the U.K developed post-imperial sensitivities.

Skylon worked a bit like a tent pole, the tension in the support wires allowed it to almost float in space 300ft tall on the Southbank. It was floodlit and stood there even after the exhibition closed as a glowing spire visible all across London.

Sadly Churchill's tory government replaced Labour and this and the adjacent Dome of Discovery was viewed by the Conservatives in the same light as a statue with a hammer and sickle. Being too much of a socialist symbol, the ropes were cut and Skylon was left to fall into the Thames where it remains today.

With today's eyes, it beggars belief that such a thing could have happened simply because of political predjudices, and when you imagine today the London Eye with Skylon standing next to it the scene is so much richer than what we currently have. Sadly the brutalist concrete of the rest of the Southbank was saved (less the extraordinary Dome of Discovery), a classic case of a government throwing out the baby and keeping the bathwater.

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