Ruins of Modern London – words and moving pictures

Last Thursday, On London and the award-winning Pages of Hackney bookshop co-hosted an evening of conversation about some of the capital’s most remarkable modern buildings and the mixed fortunes they have enjoyed with two outstanding authors. We called it Ruins of Modern London.

Owen Hopkins, historian and senior curator of exhibitions and education at Sir John Soane’s Museum, talked about his book Lost Futures, which documents the disappearance (or extreme re-purposing) of schools, restaurants, housing estates and office blocks from various parts of Britain, including a dozen London ones. London specialist Peter Watts told a rapt Sutton House audience some of the extraordinary stories of attempts to revive Battersea Power Station. It was a lovely evening, full of good stories and food for thought.

As a sort of coda, I’ve dug around for some film clips that document some of the buildings discussed. The first is a bit of a home movie by a former pupil of Pimlico secondary school, regarded as a visionary design by architect John Bancroft when opened in 1970, but demolished in 2010.

The second, much longer at 25 minutes 44 seconds, is an episode of current affairs show The London Programme (from 1989 apparently), which tells the story of one of the string of what Peter Watts calls the Failed Dreams for finding a new use for the landmark that Battersea Power Station had become. Warning: contains Margaret Thatcher.

And finally, Centre Point. Owen Hopkins remarks on the irony of a building initially left empty while its owner Harry Hyams waited for the market to rise and the right long-term tenant to come along now being listed and converted for high end residential use. Here is how the developer described its task in 2014.

Owen Hopkins’s Lost Futures is available from its publisher the Royal Academy of Arts and Peter Watts’s Up in Smoke from Paradise Road books. And both, of course, can also be purchased from Pages of Hackney on Lower Clapton Road. Thanks to all for making Thursday evening so enjoyable.





Categories: Culture

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