Which building would you choose for demolition? Destruction is a popular spectator sport, drawing humanity towards its vacuum – as the many hundreds of people who defied safety advice to travel to Sunday’s 5am explosion of the Didcot A cooling towers can testify.
The stacks have dominated the town’s skyline for nearly 50 years. They fell in 15 seconds. “It would have been calming news to my mother Joan,” writes i reader David Culm, of Littleover, Derby. “She was livid when her landscape was blighted.” The dispatching of monstrous ugliness, then, could explain the lure.
In which case, why were so many locals dismayed to see the towers go? My wife, who grew up a few minutes down the road, was one of them. “How will I know where to turn off?” she lamented. The towers were beacons, and associated with happy childhood before flight to the city.
I confess a morbid disappointment when Commonwealth Games organisers cancelled the demolition of Glasgow’s Red Road tower blocks, which were supposed to be blown up as part of the opening ceremony. Some people, understandably, thought this dynamiting insensitive to former residents, to those asylum seekers still occupying the remaining tower, and to less fortunate members of the Commonwealth. For those of us with no personal attachment, though, watching redundant authoritarian piles implode can be cathartic, if not outright entertaining.
The real appeal: seeing these concrete monoliths reduced to thunder and dust in an instant serves as a hair-raising reminder of our own fragility.