Harrison Richards had the chance of a lifetime yesterday to do something that most Londoners would love to have a go at themselves: he put on a hard hat, heavy boots and drove a bloody huge crusher into the Greater London Council Island Block, otherwise known as "that frigging horrible octagonal concrete eyesore that sits in the middle of the traffic island just outside Waterloo like an embarrassing toothless incontinent great-aunt who just won't go away." We can't envy Harrison too much, however as he is only six years old and got his chance to bring down the maligned London eyesore through the Make A Wish Foundation. It wouldn't be right to be insanely jealous.
Harrison lives with Willms' Tumour and was nominated for this demolition job by a nurse at the Wexham Park Hospital in Slough after he had gone through nine-months of chemotherapy and two weeks of radiology last year. He was driven in a luxury limo from Paddington train station to the site of the architectural catastrophe at 11.00am yesterday morning and was invited into the cab of the crushing machine to start the dismantling on the Greater London Council Island Block. Everybody present cheered when the first chunk of stained, unattractive, crumbling concrete was ripped out. We would have added our voices to the jubilation too, not just for Harrison's sake but also because the damn building is finally being pulled down.
The Greater London Council Island Block was originally intended to be an extension of County Hall and was opened in the 1970s. External solar blinds failed to work, the raised pavements designed to connect it to the original building never appeared and the entire building became unfeasible to run. It has stood empty for 16 years, but is now being pulled down in a 16 week demolition. By 2010, a 14-storey hotel with more than 900 rooms and penthouse suites, each costing at least £195,000, will occupy the site instead.
We think there are big smiles on everyone's faces today, not just Harrison's (though he gets a picture here for being so cute in his hard hat and his gappy teeth.)