Following the first trip to London Vintage TV Museum, the next installment in series moves focus to London’s infrastructure with a bus trip to Beckton sewage treatment works and Crossness via Thamesmead. These waste disposal and transport sites form the functional backbone of the city, interconnected by largely unseen subterranean systems, moving fluids, waste and data around in a constant, necessary flow.
The group will travel from Somerest House via mini-bus to Beckton, which marks the confluence of London’s northern and southern outfall sewers. The 260-acre site has been home to a treatment works for a century, and displays a rare array of different architectural tropes in its myriad buildings and structures. It also plays host to wildlife, a collection of Brutalist incinerators, a cylindrical pond, and all with an unexpectedly agrarian look to it.
The second part of trip explores Crossness, a now out-of-use Victorian sewage pumping station, fronted by ornate, almost church-like nineteenth century ironwork, a sunken void at the back hinting at its less attractive function. Crossness – adorned in ornate, richly painted ironwork – has been dubbed a ‘cathedral on the marsh’. It is both an expression of grand nineteenth-century ambition and a fundamentally utilitarian structure serving the most unglamorous necessities of a human population.
Between sites the group will stop briefly at two above-ground pumping stations, 1980s architectural commissions by Thames Water: the richly coloured, temple-like frontage of John Outram’s stormwater pumping station on the Isle of Dogs, and Richard Rogers’ pumping station at Royal Victoria Dock. These structures, designed by pre-eminent architects: acting as houses for huge utilitarian machines. Taken together, we may find surprising echoes in these sites’ adornment of our utilities through the ages, and will have a chance to consider the possibility of the architectural containment of infrastructural sites as a genre in itself.
The Anabasis Tours website serves as a record of the trips, to which attendees will be invited to add images, text and other contributions. This open-ended process is intended to form a starting point for new modes of exchange.