Letter: Conservation necrophilia

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The Independent Online
Sir: Long after London's Bankside and Battersea power stations were de-commissioned, they continue to generate, with an efficiency they could have used in the production of electricity, an array of seriously inappropriate proposals for new uses.

Thus your correspondent Hugh Keyte (Letters, 10 September) wants to convert the Bankside station - designed and fenestrated to house giant boilers, turbines, dynamos, oil tanks and an enormous sub-station - into a museum of modern art. To display such work in the requisite ill-begotten conversion would reflect biliously on the spirit of the age which such art represents.

This and other lash-ups proposed for the building are but rude gestures at the respectable tradition of industrial architecture they mean to honour. Unfortunately, people suppose that a building that was fine in its time and for its original use must remain fine even when pulled about to accommodate wholly incongruous activities, badly, and at breathtaking expense. This is the point at which a healthy instinct for conservation becomes unhealthy necrophilia.

We would be far better served by the redevelopment of this immense structure, which sprawls gloomily along nearly 200 yards of central London Thames-side, together with the large area of congested and obsolescent buildings around it. This would produce a magnificently located site of more than 20 acres.

Properly planned, and designed by our brilliant architects (who are under-patronised in Britain), it would be of a quality and scale worthy of London and the nation. It could even include a museum of modern art.

Yours faithfully,

LAWRENCE HANSEN

Director

The Southwark Environment Trust

London, SE15

10 September

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