By continuing to use the site you agree to our Privacy & Cookies policy

Your browser seems to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser.

Close

Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Close

I'd rather destroy Finsbury Health Centre than pimp it out

MONDAY. Great excitement at the launch of our campaign to Rebuild The Tampon. This elegant structure, originally known as the Tamworth Pontlevis, was an ornamental drawbridge fixed permanently in the raised position to salute the 1951 Festival of Britain.

A year later it was dismantled. In the ’60s the parts were reassembled as a luminescent Christian coffee bar. When the ring road arrived in the ’70s, the bits were carted away by community architects and rebuilt as a Claimants' Union office. In the ’80s it was converted into a brasserie full of yuppie haircuts and synth drum sounds. By 1998 it had become a chic, retro internet cafe. Now everyone's mincing about with iPhones, so it's scrap again.

The Tampon will rise phoenix-like from its own recycled, sustainable history. As will Tamworth itself, which is destined soon to snatch back its rightful heritage as capital of all England. Don't think the Tories aren't interested in this, either. David Cameron's already talking about Tamworth as 'the new Brasília'.

TUESDAY. I'm even angrier than my old friend Dusty Penhaligon, the conservactionist. We're standing in front of Finsbury Health Centre, Berthold Lubetkin's little gem of petrified 1930s socialism, still shining like a good deed in a shitty world. Grade I-listed, but these days hemmed in by three-quarters-scale starter housing and office lumps. Dusty, in common with everyone who dwells in the past, is worried about the future.

Finsbury Health Centre is owned by the NHS. That's us. It's ours. And 'we' are putting it up for sale. The phrase 'not fit for purpose' will no doubt be prominent in the estate management report. 'Couldn't care less who buys it. Long as they preserve it', says Dusty, pulling on a roll-up and squinting into the distance. 'Function follows form. Simple as. Important thing, keep it intact…'

I beg to differ. This building symbolises the way we were. Quaint as it seems, it's what Labour politicians stood for in the 20th century. A public sector that served the working class, rather than the Kuiper Belt of glittering private consultancies orbiting the NHS today. It's perfectly possible that the health centre could be sensitively restored as, I don't know, a boutique spa. Fine. As long as it stays in the public sector.

The prospect of capitalism's flag being flown above Finsbury Health Centre should be too humiliating for us to bear. I would rather see it smashed up and used as fucking crusher run for Heathrow Terminal 6 than fall into the hands of the enemy. At first Dusty thinks I'm joking. Then, after some squinting, he's on board. 'Like some architectural Masada, yeah? Just as they're about to hand it over, we blow it up. Finsbury Health Centre lays down its life that others might live. Or whatever. Love it….'

We decide not to tell anyone else for now, in case blowing up a Grade I-listed building breaches any local authority by-laws. Or whatever.

WEDNESDAY. Dusty rings. Apparently pulverising listed buildings for a greater good may just have got easier…

Our doomed government, reduced these days to pulling faces and admonishing us, is scandalised to discover that more than four million tonnes of perishable household built environment are wasted each year.

With so much habitable space being thrown away, at a cost of hundreds of pounds per household, the pressure is now on to use up our leftovers. Sadly for Dusty and his crew, the focus here is not building preservation but land. We've now got the epic space equivalent of the arable vs biofuel debate. And with three million new human farms required by 2020, good luck hanging on to that seminal post-war housing with the generous play area.

THURSDAY. I have designed a bent tower in Milan, affectionately nicknamed Il Flaccido. Despite having won over the critics with its 'soft eroticism' – AND getting outline planning permission from the Mafia – the scheme is suddenly controversial.

The bastard Italian prime minister Silvio Mussolini has told everyone it would create a 'sense of impotence'. Predictably, my email inbox is clogged with sarcastic erectile dysfunction spam.

FRIDAY. Panic over. He actually said it would create a 'sense of importance'.

SATURDAY. Low-carbon lunch with Dusty; neither of us has fizzy water.

SUNDAY. Form an architectural jelly in the recliner.

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment.

Related images

Related Jobs

Sign in to see the latest jobs relevant to you!

The searchable digital buildings archive with drawings from more than 1,500 projects

AJ newsletters