Transport for London has demolished the iconic Eduardo Paolozzi mosaic arches at Tottenham Court Road station in one of the biggest acts of cultural vandalism in recent memory. Despite public protests and a petition from groups and the 20th Century Society, which attracted nearly 8000 signatures, TFL has now confirmed that three of the four arches at Tottenham Court Road station featuring the murals have been dismantled and most likely destroyed. 28 year old Etan Smallman, from West Hampstead the organiser of the petition, said “I am absolutely disgusted in the disregard for the general public in this whole process. The fact that the decision was made without involving members of the public is an outrage”.
Architects Hawkins Brown who are well known for their lacklustre design projects have made little or no effort to intervene in the saving of the arches. This is most likely due to keeping the project on budget. The Twentieth Century Society announced that they were informed of the news during a meeting last week with TFL. The 20th Century Society said assurances were given that the large Paolozzi mural above the former Oxford Street entrance to the station would be saved. It will be relocated to a new site. TFL stated; “We have extensively explored the possibility of removing the arch tiles individually but less than five per cent could be removed undamaged because of the particularly rich mortar in which they are set.” Artlyst spoke to experts who have stated that this account is debatable and that removal was not throughly explored. The actual arches are false structures that could be cut out as a whole with the backing tiles removed by conservationists.
Catherine Croft Director of the Twentieth Century Society said, “We are very pleased that TFL has confirmed that it is set to save the large entrance panel at the former Oxford Street entrance. They have also stated that we will be consulted on the methodology for removal and relocation.” However, we are sad that the arches over the escalators have been lost. 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.”
Whether the V&A had been explored as a taker for the arches is not known. The V&A have a large collection of salvaged architecture including an original art deco bathroom from the Savoy Hotel and the former lobby from the Strand Palace Hotel. It is thought that on the open market the Eduardo Paolozzi mosaic arches would be valued at up to £100,000.
Artlyst spoke to Sandeep Dhillon at the TFL press office but he failed to ring us back to confirm details to the many questions we raised.
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