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Protection not demolition for north London gasholder!

The Victorian Society believes that a key part of London’s industrial heritage is under threat from plans to develop a five hectare site in north London.

The gasholder, known as Hornsey no.1, is one of only two remaining gasholders built using an innovative design developed in 1888. The design uses geodesic principles and is an interesting early example of a building style now associated with the curves of London's Gherkin building and geodesic domes.

The other surviving example is in Tunbridge Wells in Kent, but its days are numbered as permission has already been granted for demolition to make way for housing.

Now Hornsey no.1 is also under threat. It's earmarked for demolition as part of the National Grid's plans to redevelop the old Hornsey Gasworks in Wood Green. The company has applied to build 1000 homes on the site as well as offices, restaurants, cafés and a new public square.

'This is not just any old gasholder. Hornsey no.1 will soon be the last surviving example of a highly innovative design and it must not be lost', said Heloise Brown, Conservation Adviser for the Victorian Society. 'It could be easily incorporated into a new development and keeping the gasholder's elegant and geometrical frame would provide a link with the past and a remarkable engineering achievement.'

Gasholder frames have been successfully reused in Dublin, Vienna and Germany. Permission has also been granted to reuse three gasholders in Kings Cross.

The Hornsey no.1 gasholder has no statutory protection from demolition as it is not listed despite an English Heritage report which described it as ‘probably the world's first ‘geodesic design'. In 2006 Haringey Council controversially removed it from its own list of buildings of architectural and historic interest.

Samuel Cutler's innovative design used geodesic principles, where a lattice of equilateral triangles forms a strong but lightweight 3D structure.

The Victorian Society has written to Haringey Borough Council recommending that the application be refused.

Why is Hornsey no.1 interesting?

The structure of Hornsey no.1 is so important because of its highly innovative design. Helical (or spiral-like) girders are joined to vertical members to form triangular cells with each side being equally stressed. The vertical elements also act as guide rails for the gas tanks to rise and fall. The top of those rails rise above the girder like finials and the resultant form is strong, lightweight, functional and elegant. It was built in 1892. 30 years later the same geodesic principles were used in the design of airships, and more than 100 years later by Norman Foster for the Gherkin building.

Thursday 7 July, 2011

More recent item: The Victorian Society declares Manningham Pool a heritage crime scene
Earlier item: Fears for the future of Ripley Town Hall

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