Welcome to The Rubble Club
“It’s a bit like losing a baby," said the Rubble Club's creator Isi Metzstein. "It’s a very touchy matter whether replacements are the superior or not, it’s subject to the vagaries of public opinion and the architect is never in charge, they are always at the behest of instructions from the client.”
Metzstein is talking about the effect of demolition on the architect and the grief that is often overlooked and replaced with the victory cries of developers. This is why, ten years ago, the Scottish Architect set up the Macallan Club, named after his favourite tipple, offering camaraderie for fellow architects who have lost their treasured creations to the wrecking ball. The Club recognises a growing trend in architecture for the rapid demolition of buildings, often within the lifespan of the architect and attempts to draw attention to this pattern, immortalising the structures in digital form and providing a self help support network for recently bereaved architects.
Fast forwarding to today, the group has been aptly rebranded as The Rubble Club, has spread onto the world wide web, and boasts Richard Rogers among its key members. The website incarnation, therubbleclub.com, offers architects the chance to publish details of their terminated buildings, and for other users to rate them. While the new site is currently fairly sparse, there are some fine examples of lost creations and a solid potential for campaigns and awareness.
"We predominantly catalogue buildings which have been demolished but we do have a critical list of buildings under threat of imminent demolition," John Glenday, Secretary of The Rubble Club told WAN. "We hope to raise awareness through debate of these issues such as; is it sustainable to be knocking down buildings within a matter of decades or less? Can anything be done to extend the longevity of our new builds? Should buildings be designed with a greater flexibility of use?"
TP Bennett and Son's Southwark Towers, designed in 1969, appear on the site as a very recent example of architectural loss. A 25 storey office block built as part of a group beside London Bridge Station, the building has now been demolished to make way for Renzo Piano's Shard of Glass. Stephen Furnell of Furnell Associates remembers the building as an early example of energy efficiency: “The reflective glass of the outriggers that clad the building’s main facades produced spectacular patterns in the sunlight and shaded the building from solar gain, as well as giving window cleaning access."
The website, this week, also tipped Richard Rogers' Paul Hamlyn Library building at Thames Valley University for demolition as part of the redevelopment plans for the 'Heart of Slough' project.
"To anyone planning demolition of a building," said Glenday, "I would ask them to carefully weigh up all potential options for re-use. Demolition isn't necessarily the cheapest or easiest solution, recladding, change of use, extension and remodelling should all be given equal consideration."
Niki May Young