Inventive Vents (Part One).
The vital structures that allow the subterranean city to operate...
“All across London, appearing in myriad forms, are the vital structures that allow the hidden underground infrastructure of the city to operate: ventilation shafts. They emerge, often disguised as buildings, columns or sculptures, from that other vast city that lies beneath our feet, of tunnels, sewers, bunkers, and other underground spaces, all needed to keep London working.”
From the book, ‘Inventive Vents’ which provides the inspiration behind this photo stroll to hunt out the more interesting ventilation shafts.
This is Part One. A walk taken on Tuesday 27th April 2023 from Hyde Park, around the edge of Buckingham Palace to Victoria. Then onto Pimlico and Lambeth.
Wellington Arch, Hyde Park Corner
Let’s start with one of the more elegant ventilation shafts…
The arch was built in 1825-27 to commemorate victory over Napoleon. It was originally designed as a grand entrance to Buckingham Palace (from the top you can take a sneaky look into the Palace gardens).
In the early 1960’s two road tunnels were built underneath and an emergency ventilation shaft was installed in the south side of the arch. An oddly pleasing use for “a masterpiece of neoclassical design” (English Heritage).
Paolozzi Shaft Cover, Pimlico
This Grade II listed shaft cover (now defunct) was designed by the sculptor Eduardo Paolozzi to ventilate an underground car park. The futuristic metal structure depicts a range of subjects from both the natural and man-made world on the base. Above are exposed rivets, pipes and grills hinting at its real function.
Moreton Terrace, Pimlico
In this well-heeled residential street is a surprise. Amongst the Regency town houses is a building without windows. It’s a poor attempt at disguise. The 1970’s brown bricks are different to the houses it replaced although the slate roof makes a better attempt at imitation. Just visible on the roof are the vents.
There is no attempt at disguise with this corduroy textured concrete wedge opposite Vauxhall bus station. In the background is the MI6 Building (headquarters of the Secret Intelligence Service).
109 Lambeth Road
Another vent which proudly states its purpose. It stands outside Metropolitan Police Forensic Science Laboratory. The vent cools the building’s electric substation in case of power cuts.
To be continued…
Thank you for reading.