The latest plans to build High Speed 2 and redevelop Euston Station contain a headline-grabbing detail: a rebuilt Euston Arch. The early-Victorian landmark was famously destroyed in the 1960s despite a fierce campaign from national treasures like John Betjeman. Now it could be rebuilt, using the original stones.
Press and public attention has been wholly positive, with nobody stopping to question whether there’s any merit in spending money on resurrecting the arch. Just to be contrary iconoclasts, here are some reasons to leave it well alone.
Just look at it. Brutish and overbearing, with chunky entablature that was out-moded in Roman times. It can’t even be bothered to present a full set of matching columns to the world. Loser.
It’s not even an arch
Our dictionary defines an arch as a ‘curved supporting structure’. Is it curved? No. Is it supporting anything? Yes, but only its own preposterous bulk.
Was it ever really liked?
- “Gigantic and very absurd”, an 1851 tourist guide to the Great Exhibition, quoted here.
- “A Brobdignaggian absurdity”, Augustus Pugin, 1850s.
- “[A] sepulchral prison-like portico”, George Lynch, 1902
- “A rather gloomy portal”, The Advertiser, 1939
- “It might have looked alright in Queen Victoria’s day with green fields and all that around it, but if you ask me, it’s an eyesore now”, a station porter, interviewed in 1961.
- “A ponderous, lurking cack-bastard whose only virtue is to look marginally better than the shitty Richard Seifert buildings currently adorning the front of Euston Station”, Londonist, just now.
No one will give two monkeys after the fuss dies down
We’ve been here before. Remember Temple Bar? It was absent from the City for well over a century, before it was rebuilt to great acclaim in Paternoster Square in 2004. We suspect that the vast majority who now pass through it neither notice nor care.
It’s a smoke screen
Hey everybody, good news. We’re going to undo the nefarious work of evil 1960’s planners and rebuild this much-loved icon. While you’re all focusing on that bauble, we need to expand the station, so we’ll go right ahead and demolish lots of other stuff. Like, say, the beautiful disused tube station on Melton Street, which is so handsome it makes these construction workers dance for joy.
It’ll block two of London’s finest bars
Mock-ups of the reinstalled arch show it squatting between the two lodge buildings on Euston Road. The one to the west currently houses the Euston Tap, which you lot voted the best pub in Euston. The lodge to the east is the equally meritorious (if you like apple booze) Cider Tap. Rebuilding the arch would surely require these to close, at least during construction. And with the doors facing in towards the arch, they’d have to be substantially remodelled afterwards to remain as pubs.
So, anyone want to write a riposte?