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Paolozzi arches at Tottenham Court Road ‘already demolished’


Huge public protest fails to prevent ‘key’ artwork being lost under £400 million revamp

An extraordinary public protest against the planned demolition of some of Eduardo Paolozzi’s famous murals at Tottenham Court Road tube station appears to have been largely in vain after it emerged that the tiled arches above the escalators have already been dismantled.

After AJ revealed 10 days ago (see AJ 20.01.14) that not all of Paolozzi’s work would be salvaged under Hawkins Brown’s £400 million redevelopment of the station - part of the wider Crossrail scheme - an online petition was launched with gathered more than 7,500 supporters in little more than a week.

However, the heritage group campaigning for the retention of the mosaics, the Twentieth Century Society, confirmed that three of the four arches have already been lost following a meeting with Hawkins Brown and its client Transport for London (TfL) yesterday.

Three of the four arches have already been lost

During the meeting, TfL did however pledge to save a Paolozzi mosaic panel at the entrance to Oxford Street, which is now set to be relocated at platform level following specialist conservation advice.

Director of the Twentieth Century Society, Catherine Croft, said it was saddened that the arches - described by the society as a ‘key’ part of Paolozzi’s ensemble at the station - had already gone.

She added that the petition had highlighted the degree of public interest in the artwork.

She said: ‘There has also been a sizeable amount of replication of the murals on the platforms, rather than retention of the original works which we would have preferred.

‘We were given assurances when the station upgrade plans were first mooted that the mosaics would be safe, and because of this we held off putting them in for listing. With hindsight we feel these mosaics would have been better protected through the listing process. We would have then been more involved in the decision making process from the beginning, and the outcome may have different.’

However, Croft welcomed what she described as TfL ‘changing its mind’ over the Oxford street entrance panel and opting to relocate the original panel rather than replicating it.

‘They have also given us assurances that we will be consulted on the methodology for removal and relocation,’ she added.

A spokesman for TfL denied it had changed its mind, claiming that it had always intended to relocate the decorative panel. However, he confirmed that three of the four arches have been dismanted.

Gareth Powell, London Underground’s director of strategy and service development, said: ‘We consider the Paolozzi mosaics to be an important artwork and over 95 per cent of the mosaics will be retained in their current place or with a mixture of new and original tiles. Throughout the vital upgrade of Tottenham Court Road station we explored all the options possible to preserve the mosaics attached to the arches at the top of the main escalator. 

‘Unfortunately they could not be retained as the structure that they sat on was supported by the roof, which has now been removed to enable the station to be expanded to meet increasing demand as London’s population grows. The decision to remove the arches was agreed with the Paolozzi Foundation in 2012 and we have worked closely with them, and other interested parties, throughout.’

Hawkins Brown declined to comment.




Readers' comments (10)

  • I made these mosaics originally, and they could most probably have been saved using conservation techniques I was using in the 70s and 80s. Replicas could also be made using the same materials in large part, as I still have the stock. Although the contractors are aware of this, no-one has consulted me about possible ways forward. A very sad day for me.
    Christopher Smith.

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  • Until the UK Government agrees to aligning England with the rest of Europe and the USA, by upholding Artists Moral Rights Pertaining To Publicly sited artwork, this destruction will continue. The Moral Rights prevents, destruction, alteration, removal, and non maintenance of such specific works.

    The Paolozzi Foundation no doubt are unawares of this situation, and why Hawkins Brown and TFL with sublime ease achieved their result. Shameful.

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  • Chris Rogers

    Mosaic can be removed from any surface at any orientation, so this is a nonsense excuse. Very sad.

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  • 400 million pounds to create yet another generic station like every other... shame!

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  • Stelios Voutsadakis

    I wonder what the people at the Architects Registration Council think as regards the professional ethos and practice of the architects?

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  • No doubt the three arches can be replicated, using what remains and extended as necessary. No doubt the work was well recorded photographically.

    No doubt enough dosh in Crossrail's budget and Christopher Smith might oversee!

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  • Lesson for all of us: list early, list often, list always.

    Fat controllers cannot be trusted. I have busked in that station since 1984 and have enjoyed the murals for 30 years. I was told by the Group Station Manager only two weeks ago while looking at the extraordinarily boring new station concourse that the murals were all safe. I'm sure to him and other non-specialists "all" and "95%" are the same thing when it comes to some tedious murals (and of course the 95% includes entire lengths of platform with just green and white tiles, rather than the delicate work on the arches).

    Don't trust fat controllers; don't trust councillors; don't trust schools or hospitals, churches or arts venues; don't trust architects like Hawkins Brown: IF IT'S WORTH SAVING, LIST IT.

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  • This seems to be in the same dismal tradition as the decision to flatten the Euston Arch. I thought we'd moved on.

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  • Not just the architects. The trustees of the Paolozzi Foundation - Adrian Barr-Smith, Sir Christopher Frayling, Robert Hiscox, The Marquess of Queensbury and Toby Trebes, should also hang their heads in shame for failing to protect the mosaics.

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  • I notice they claim that 95% of the mosaics survive. There are eight main mosaics at the station: the two central line mosaics, the rotunda, the Oxford street entrance, and the four arches mosaics. The two northern line mosaics are of a different quality, being made in a grid pattern and in one material, glass two cm squares.
    My arithmetic makes that four of eight destroyed, or ten with the northern line. The Oxford street entrance mosaic is apparently to be moved, but elsewhere they say they can only save 5% of the material elsewhere, so it may be five lost.
    This seems nearer 50% to me. Shocking.

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