It's old news. Or at least that is what it seems. The demise of one of London's most symbolic landmarks, the Swiss Centre, has barely been reported in the British press. So to my surprise, I find myself blogging on the disappearance (discovered only today, and by accident) of one of the key features of my childhood together with the strange sensation that nobody else seems to care.
Above, you can see how it was, in all its glory with its clock, its glockenspiel, and the regular crowd of tourists.
And this is what it looks like now:
Apparently, the site will henceforth be occupied by a rather drab and tasteless hotel building, completely out of place on London's Leicester Square:
The lighting effect on the virtual image does not convince me in the slightest. Maybe for the headquarters of Acme Public Assurance, but not for the Swiss Centre. More Dresden than Geneva, this glass 'office block' could be anywhere, but above all makes for a rather dark, cramp, uncomfortable and hostile environment at the heart of London's theatre district.
Yes, something needed to be done about the Swiss Centre. It no longer fulfilled its original purpose and was falling into decay. However originally the public were duped into this dreadful alternative by being told that the new building would at least maintain the spirit of the original. Nothing of the sort.
How is it possible that a city that fiercely defends 'listed' monuments and buildings such as the concrete Royal Festival Hall and National Theatre, allows this jewel of post-war London to disappear without a sigh? People then go and complain that the British have never felt less sure about their identity. Well, if you transform the London West End into a replica of a Milton Keynes shopping mall, can one really be surprised? Shocking!