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Wembley's Twin Towers: Asset or Liability?

Introduction

In this article Anatole Kaminski, IRIS Consulting’s economics and social trends analyst, points to the scope for incorporating historic symbols into new facilities fit for the 21st century

The British are more like the north Americans than the Europeans in the way they look upon buildings as disposable wasting assets due for redevelopment once they become a bit out-dated. This difference was well evidenced by the differing manner in which the British rebuilt their war-damaged cities after the 2nd World War. Whereas Warsaw and Munich and countless other European towns were painstakingingly recreated in the style and appearance of their previous form, the British took the opportunity to carry out comprehensive redevelopment. schemes Even the centres of some of the most historic ancient cities did not escape – such as Canterbury. Other towns with interesting but old town centres (such as Worcester and Harrow) have been subjected to the town centre redevelopment fad – an approach which has given us the bland nondescript town centres to be seen up and down the country.

This same mentality which pervades the thinking of British officialdom is again apparent in the approach being taken to the future of Wembley Stadium. Without exaggeration Wembley is one of the most, if not the most, famous sporting arenas in the world. Not only was it the venue for the first Olympic Games held after the 2nd World War in 1948, but also England’s Football World Cup victory in 1966 and the universally acclaimed successful European Finals in 1996. Apart from these truly international events it has been the venue for innumerable other sporting events which are etched into the collective memories of the millions who watched them through television’s global coverage over the years.

As the site for a new national stadium it clearly has a lot going for it: As the admen and media professionals would say it is a “global brand”. And what is the symbol of that brand? What is its ready-made universally recognised logo? Why none other than the twin towers. They are the symbolic physical representation of “Wembley”: they encapsulate both its history and its potential for the future.

How much money and time would have to be spent in trying to create such a powerful brand image and universally recognised symbol? But if narrow-minded officialdom get its way they will demolish the twin towers as “uneconomic”. Surely any architects worth their salt (and given the right brief) should be able to find a way of incorporating the twin towers into a new facility.

Any other country in the world would cherish and protect its symbolic structures. Why is it that English Heritage and others have thought fit to list and protect high-rise blocks of council housing such as Trellick Tower in Notting Hill and Sir Paul McCartney’s childhood council home, but not the “theatre of dreams” in Wembley?

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© IRIS Consulting. 5 Golden Square, Soho, London, W1F 9BS  tel 020 7 287 0822 mobile 07973 414669
e-mail: johnharvey@irisconsulting.co.uk
or barbararoberts@irisconsulting.co.uk