Taberner House: story of a demolition


By - Friday 17th April, 2015

A building vanishes. Rossella Scalia reflects on Croydon’s newest public space


Since April 2014, Rossella Scalia has been watching the demolition of one of central Croydon’s chief landmarks. Taberner House was built between 1964 and 1967, the work of architect H. Thornley, and named after Ernest Taberner OBE, Croydon’s Town Clerk from 1937 to 1963. Generally unpopular with locals, the building was notable for being not oblong but coffin-shaped, widest in its mid-section and narrowing towards both ends. In September 2013 Croydon Council moved its main offices into a new public services delivery hub adjacent to Taberner House and a new residential building is planned for the site.

Photo author’s own.

“Future history will no longer produce ruins. It does not have the time for them”. (Marc Augé)

It is always a violent image that which depicts man’s heavy fingertip destroying the shape of a building under the regular beats of empty carcasses. The city never stops when a building dies; sometimes it throws an oblique look of compassion, once in a while writes nostalgic memoirs, other times keeps chatting nearby, breathing cigarette smoke mixed with the arid dust of scraps, piled as hills in the flat landscape of a construction site. The water gush that quenches the fumes issued by blocks of angry concrete does not appease the survival instinct of architecture, that in a desperate attempt to defend itself from destruction clings to the inexplicable tangle of iron bars wrapped in the last shreds of an old-fashioned grey cement coat.

Demolition is important in order for heroes and dreamers to build

I wonder what destroying a story truly means: whether the act of constructing encloses an end in itself or if the latter occurs beyond any creative gesture. Stories are made of characters; the bond between them depends on the depth of their nearness. Relationships are like rings in a chain that occasionally opens itself to allow other rings to find place between existing spaces, and other times slam suddenly the door to the approaching of any effort.

Some people have the natural attitude to annihilate what others have assembled; they tend to exclude rather than include so that a conflicting milieu becomes the set of a rivalry between main characters and antagonists of the story. The latter often possess the great talent to divert with simple but focused actions the course of events. Antagonists have in the story the important task of demolishing in order for those who despite all oppositions carry on building to become heroes or remain dreamers.

Rossella Scalia

Rossella Scalia

Rossella is a London-based architecture critic and researcher. Her interests focus mainly on architectural education, photography, cinema and communication. She has been studying the potential of forgotten spaces and unfinished buildings within the concept of participatory design. Rossella has been shortlisted for the Architects Journal Writing Prize in 2012.

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  • Ian Marvin

    I have also been watching this with interest in particular how the last few floors vanished quickly over the previous couple of weeks. It’s been very much like watching history being re-written. Given that the foundations must have been substantial for a building of this size I’m curious as to whether they will be re-used at all, which would leave a small echo of the past. Even future history has been erased with the images of the new structures on the hoardings having been removed.