Building demolition a sad occasion

Amongst my earliest memories is standing on a chair in our bathroom one Sunday morning together with all my family and watching the demolition of the town’s cooling towers. I must have been only three or four, but I remember it with vivid detail. We were living in Wigan at the time, a city in the north of England.

Amongst my earliest memories is standing on a chair in our bathroom one Sunday morning together with all my family and watching the demolition of the town’s cooling towers. I must have been only three or four, but I remember it with vivid detail.  We were living in Wigan at the time, a city in the north of England.

My father took photographs and we still have a marvellous picture of the disintegration of the first tower. Quite a sight. But I can recall a feeling of melancholy – odd, considering these cooling towers would be considered an eye sore to any sky line.

We have had our own demolition in Vanderhoof this week … I went over there while it was coming down to take a photo and once again, for whatever reason, it made me feel sad. I don’t know why. I have no particular personal connection to it. But it was old, a former government building. In its own way it was an integral part of this town and its history.

In its demise I felt something had been lost. Buildings are important. During my childhood my sister had a very serious illness and was in hospital for a long time. It was a time of anxiety and worry in our family. The hospital was a famous old hospital in Oxford, the place where penicillin was first used. It was huge with a complex series of buildings, old and new. But it had a beautiful facade with a splendid waterfall in its courtyard. And within sight of the ward where my sister lay, was a famous 17th Century observatory, a structure modelled on the Tower of the Winds in Athens. These two edifices had a beauty and elegance which at a difficult time seemed to lift our spirits and feed them. I remember my father commenting on this at the time.

I have come to realize just how important buildings are to communities. Every town and village needs buildings which have beauty. Historic buildings can remind us of important things, of our continuity with the past, of our connection with generations gone by. And care should be taken in the design of modern constructions, whether they be public buildings, churches, shops or just our houses.

They too should bring something of beauty into our day-to-day lives. Good buildings feed our spirits and nurture our communities, not just now but for the future. We were perhaps right to mourn this week’s demolition. Perhaps, however, this event will make us think about the value of of architecture past, present and future.


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