Video: Alphaville and Sir Richard Rogers’ massive erection

It is more than 20 years since BBC2’s The Late Show devoted an entire programme to an examination of the merits, or otherwise, of Croydon’s architecture.

Late Show logoThe programme drew parallels with a French film noir called Alphaville, a dystopian vision. The darkest parts of the programme were when it asked architects for their ideas for Croydon.

“Croydon: The Future” was a competition staged by The Architecture Foundation which, they say, was “one of the most successful architecture shows ever held in Britain, which showcased the work of 15 then-emerging designers that generated creative yet realistic solutions for Croydon’s problem areas”.

The competition was so “successful” that the marquee in which the exhibition was staged blew down, and none of the “creative solutions” were ever implemented. Although some may have formed the basis for a comedy sketch in the intervening quarter-century or so.

One of what the AF describes as the “then-emerging designers” was none other than Sir Richard Rogers, 20 years on from overseeing the Pompidou Centre in Paris and Lloyd’s in The City. A real up-and-comer. His entry to the competition: what appears to be a giant mobile phone mast, plonked in the middle of Wellesley Road.

What strikes many Croydon residents when they see the programme again today is how familiar so many of the architects’ “solutions” appear to be, as many have been re-cycled and re-presented at least twice since. Yet none of them have been implemented.

Perhaps that’s why there’s growing doubts about the Hammersfield “regeneration” proposals: the absence of vision and dearth of real imagination. And yet the fundamental “problem areas” identified in the programme from 1993 remain with us in 2015.

Elsewhere on this website, John Grindrod examines the lessons which ought to have been learned from The Late Show’s critique of our town and the exhibition, “Croydon: The Future”.

Because of the historical perspective it offers, the insights and hindsights, the BBC documentary ought to be required viewing for every councillor, planning officer, developer or architect with designs on our town. And here, you can view the programme in its entirety (in four, YouTube byte-sized chunks):

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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1 Response to Video: Alphaville and Sir Richard Rogers’ massive erection

  1. Peter Gillman says:

    Great stuff Steve

    Alphaville is a comparison for Croydon I have made myself

    We were big Godard fans after A Bout de Souffle and used to see all his movies as soon as they were released

    Keep up the good work!


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