Last week, Hackney Council rejected David Chipperfield’s proposed extension to the Geffrye Museum. Is this a decision based on saving The Marquis of Lansdowne Pub for sake of it? In my last post, I wrote:
“A lot of people have sentimental attachments to buildings – you may have memories of a place and what it made you feel at the time but that is all they are: memories. If something doesn’t work for its original intended purpose then how can it continue to serve as anything other than a monument to itself?”
In the case of The Marquis of Lansdowne pub, I feel this point is highly relevant. I visited the Geffrye a few weeks ago and spoke to a couple of people who work there about the extension and the issue of the preservation of the pub. The team behind the Geffrye had looked into saving it and it was not viable to the museum either as an exhibition space or as a restaurant as it was not big enough. Besides, none of the original features of the pub remain internally, all that is there is a crumbling shell. The pub has not been in operation for more than 20 years and the following question needs to be asked: in an area as vibrant as Shoreditch and Hoxton, if it was viable to reopen The Marquis of Lansdowne as a pub then it would have reopened by now. As far as I have seen, there are no concrete plans to do anything with the pub from those who have battled admirably to save it.
I have seen comments on other blogs along the lines of: “memories being flushed down the toilet if it is demolished”. The people who feel this way will still have their memories of the pub and they will not disappear because the building is no longer there.
I understand that there is a need for conservation and retaining our architectural heritage. It is not always beneficial to preserve a building and this, in my opinion, is one of those cases. Sometimes it seems as though sites are saved in the name of heritage when there is none to consider. I am all for saving the pub if there is a viable use for it or if the building can have be given new purpose, but if there is nothing but sentimentality behind the cause then why should that be allowed to get in the way of progress?
I visited Prague for the third time recently. Previously, I had seen all the main tourist sights I had wanted to so this time I wanted to see some other parts of the city that are not so well known.
One of the places of interest to me was the Strahov Stadium which I have always wanted to visit, if anything just for its sheer size. The stadium was first built in 1926 and then expanded first in 1948 and then again in 1975. It was used mainly for large gymnastic displays known as Sokol before hosting music concerts in later years. The capacity of the stadium is around 220,000, making it the largest stadium in the world.
The stadium currently lies mostly derelict with some local sports facilities housed beneath the stands on one side. AC Sparta Prague uses the vast playing area as a training ground which comprises 6 full size pitches and 2 pitches for futsal, a type of football.
The architecture is quite typical of the era in which it was built. The large grandstands have used glass brick detailing to the concourses and tops of the stands. There is also a pleasant symmetry to the stands which are seemingly built on modernist principles. There is still a grand sense of elegance to the stadium despite its size and rapidly deteriorating state.
The problem with monumental structures such as the Strahov Stadium is what to do with them? Eastern Europe is littered with relics such as the Strahov from the Cold War era which have simply been left to rot or have been demolished. When a building of this type is seen as no longer relevant, what else can be done? Personally, I very much doubt it will see proper use as a stadium again but if there is no viable use for a structure of this size then the question must be asked: why should it be used again?
The wider point that I am trying to make is that a lot of people have sentimental attachments to buildings – you may have memories of a place and what it made you feel at the time but that is all they are: memories. If something doesn’t work for its original intended purpose then how can it continue to serve as anything other than a monument to itself?