There's a petition doing the rounds to save Sir Eduardo Paolozzi's mosaic murals from being destroyed during work to renovate Tottenham Court Road tube station. Transport for London has already committed to save 95% of the famous artworks, but 5% — including the arches over the escalators — will be lost to construction. The petitioners, as well as the 20th Century Society, believe the whole lot should be saved.
We doubted the reason TfL decided not to preserve 5% of the mosaics was that, during a planning meeting, someone got bored and said "shall we just not bother with the rest?". So we asked and — as we're sure you'd expect — there are practical reasons why not all the work can be kept. The arched mosaics above the escalators are supported by the roof, which is being demolished as part of the station upgrade. TfL even looked into taking down each of the tiles individually, but because of the type of mortar they're set into, only 5% of the tiles would come away undamaged. We can't say they didn't try.
Gareth Powell, London Underground’s Director of Strategy & Service Development, expanded on the process being used to preserve the mosaics:
"We consider the Paolozzi mosaics to be an important artwork and we have worked closely with the Paolozzi Foundation to ensure that Tottenham Court Road station continues to provide a home for the work. As part of the station upgrade we have worked to successfully restore and replace the Paolozzi mosaics on the Northern line, which will shortly be followed by the Central line tiles. This process involved colour matching and following the same production used for the original tiles."
Any inference that TfL doesn't care about the murals is clearly nonsense — it's gone to great lengths to preserve them and the unique character they bring to Tottenham Court Road. It's sad that not all will be saved for the future, but let's not forget that they're not paintings or sculptures in a museum, they're part of a living, working tube station in the heart of one of the world's busiest cities.