That old eyesore

Three years ago we helped form the Lithgow Branch of the National Trust. One of the things that drove us to it was the pointless demolition of the old gas holder near the centre of town,

“that old eyesore” as it was known. A valiant defence campaign by a resident (who we later discovered was an industrial archeologist) was contemptuously dismissed by the local Council whose elected troglodytes knew better.

The empty littered site sits there still, an untidy sterile monument to the tidy town mentality. The brave campaigner had proposed converting the structure to a sort of winter garden set in a small park in an area of town that is desperate for a bit of green public space.

So when we saw this we almost wept for what could have been.

This a project by Wilkinson Eyre Architects, the conversion of three heritage listed (yes, they heritage list them in civilised cities) gas holders in the Regents Canal area of Kings Cross, London. The adaptively reused structures will contain 144 apartments and a circular courtyard cut through the centre.

All it takes is vision and imagination, things which, like common sense, are not very common in some places.

3 Comments

  1. Lucazoid
    Posted 7 Oct ’06 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    yep i went to some of the old gas apartments in east london, they are stunning, both inside and out. what is the latest campaign you guys are working on? (wendy mentioned it at the auction thingy)

  2. Ian Milliss
    Posted 7 Oct ’06 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

    Another increasingly difficult adaptive reuse campaign.

    The National Trust has applied for heritage listing of the Lithgow Small Arms Factory, over five hectares of factories now partly deserted and crying out for adaptive reuse. Its owner Australian Defence Industries has leased out some buildings but has been frustrated by Council in its attempts to lease out others. They are now applying to demolish structures as a cheaper option than maintaining them empty and so we moved for an interim heritage order to block demolitions.
    It has turned into an unpleasant brawl with certain Lithgow Councillors publicly accusing us of destroying jobs etc and passing resolutions attacking us. It’s all a black comedy when you consider that the buildings are empty already and Council itself has failed to attract new industry for decades now, but the few new projects in town have mostly been heritage based tourism of one sort or another.
    In the past, our suggestion that an imaginative approach to reuse of the Small Arms Factories would attract exactly the creative industries that grow new jobs has been greeted with horror and mutterings about hippies and crystal shops – you’re in a real time warp here. Try and talk to the Councillors about information technology and you very quickly realise that you are talking to “the internet is a series of tubes” sort of people. It is difficult and depressing to try to deal with people whose understanding of the world is about thirty years out of date. A meeting with them quickly sends most proposed new businesses scuttling a further 50 kilometres up the road to Bathurst, where there is much more understanding of what contemporary business is about.
    The whole story will be on http:/www.nationaltrustlithgow.com within a day or so.

  3. Ross McLeod
    Posted 9 Oct ’06 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

    Good luck with the good fight Ian. I am hopeless in such situations and faced with such a knuckle dragging opposition I would wither, scowl and dissolve.

    I share your love of old industrial sites. I’ve worked in stacks as a trades assistant and have found them to be extraordinarily rich and resonant places. I did a stint at the Fishermans Bend munitions factory and that was the most deliriously surreal site I have ever seen. It was a RDO so no one was about, but all the small forges were still burning bright as the morning sunlight streamed in. Stunningly beautiful place.

    I Grew up near the Pascoe Vale gasometer in Melbourne and the memories of that vast, groaning, rusty crown by a small creek with the Pascoe Vale Hunt Club nearby are probably responsible for this passion. They were demolished forty years ago.

Post a Comment

Your email is never shared. Required fields are marked *

*
*