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Monday, December 06, 2004

BT Tower

BT Tower

How can you get lost finding a tower? I was at the Indian YMCA for a course, and decided to go see the BT Tower during lunch. My first mistake was consulting the A-Z when a single look skywards would have revealed the tower, dead ahead, punching into the sky.

When I finally got up close, it's a cracking piece of retro architecture. Concrete like this is old school, and the building oozes it. Its slabbed base walls, expanses of flat grey concrete, are a calming contrast to the busy modern buildings opposite.

The glass panes on the tower's main rise are clouding over with age. It's like one of your granny's old vases - dusty, with no sheen, but still an idea of the former glory.

Everywhere on the building are features that architects would not dream of using now, such as pebble-dashed concrete. I think it looks great. I have a feeling the building must know that it is no longer a world leader. The BT Tower is top of noone's list when they think of the world's greatest towers. The only time you see it is as a puny little comparison next to newer, snazzier, glitzier buildings.

THe tower entrance itself is a classic piece of British understatement. There is no placarad, no display, no celebration. Just a sign saying "The Tower: not open to the public".

Brilliant, why do we always fail to celebrate our recent heritage? The thing is, this lack of appreciatio is its appeal to me. Without a marketed, branded, or approved display, I have to stand in awe of the tower and make up my own history based on what few images and memories I have of the tower. My semi-ignorance seems to improve the visit. It was a random thing to go and see, on a fairly random sunday, in a random part of London. A happy accident, then.

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