Watch Richard Sykes demolish something important

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What university rectors do for fun: Richard Sykes demolishing a Grade II listed building

If you would like to see a couple of the major players in this saga in the virtual flesh as it were, head off to this page on the Imperial site or click on the picture above to watch a rather scary video in which the rector of Imperial College, Professor Sir Richard Sykes, leaps into a drilling machine to begin the demolition of the Grade II listed Southside halls of residence regarded by specialists as ‘one of the flagship buildings of the post-war university development’.

Tearing down Southside was a controversial proposal, fought bitterly by the Twentieth Century Society until it accepted that the state of the building was so bad it had to come down (apparently neither Imperial’s science or David Brooks Wilson’s estates skills were sufficient to save it). All the same, it is a little odd to watch a squeaky-voiced Yorkshire academic don a hard hat to take a whacking great demolition machine to the thing. What will he do if he gets the chance to build on Wye? Sacrifice a lamb before the bulldozers are let off the leash?

You will also get the opportunity to hear Mr Brooks Wilson describing how the project began with ‘the decision to knock down the building’. Not ‘apply for permission to knock down the building’, you will note, which legally is the case. A Grade II listed edifice, even one in a terrible state, cannot simply be demolished at will.

Imperial’s web video skills are sadly lacking I’m afraid, and there is nothing we can do to change that. They have put up this video in such a way that it requires the horrible Real Player to watch it, and demands a ridiculously fast broadband connection. Nor is anyone allowed to download the file and repost it in a more watchable fashion. So if you are on a speedy net connection… enjoy. Otherwise, you will probably just get still pictures and the audio. If the Imperial website would like advice on how to post video so most of us can watch it, just ask.


About David Hewson

Professional novelist, published in more than 20 languages. Creator of the Nic Costa series set in modern Rome, Pieter Vos in Amsterdam, adaptions of the Sarah Lund stories in Copenhagen, and versions of Shakespeare worked for Audible.
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7 Responses to Watch Richard Sykes demolish something important

  1. London Student says:

    Your article is extremely biased. Did you ever live in Southside? – No – if you had you would understand why it had to go. The building was made of experimental concrete that had rusting steel bars inside – not the fault of Sykes or Brookes-Wilson. It was designed to be riot proof, and hence was completely unsuitable for current students, who want en-suite rooms, with corridors and social areas, rather than damp dark basements and spiral concrete staircases. You will also find the College did two studies – one to refurb the building, and one to start again. The second one was only a few more million to do, so that is why they went that route.
    The 20th Century group were entirely ridiculous about it, and the College agreed to restore “Weeks Hall” the original of that style of design to its former glory for these insane people to look at.
    From a technical point of view, you will find there is nothing wrong with REAL player, the BBC use it, and it is not spawned from Microsoft.
    If you want to comment on buildings that you have never lived in, or even visited, I suggest you speak to people who live/lived in them.

  2. David Hewson says:

    You seem to have failed to read the article in full. Nowhere did it claim that Southside was a wonderful place to live or deserving of preservation in spite of its reputation as a flagship building. In fact it said, ‘Tearing down Southside was a controversial proposal, fought bitterly by the Twentieth Century Society until it accepted that the state of the building was so bad it had to come down.’ We also link to the article in which these problems are spelled out in full.

    Real Player is a source of constant complaint from users who find they are nagged to pay for subscriptions they don’t want, and if they do take them out it is a nightmare getting Real to stop charging their credit cards. This is one reason why the BBC now also offer people the choice of Windows Media; they got so many complaints from Real users. The video is also encoded at the astonishing rate of 450kbps, for no good reason whatsoever. This may be fine for a student living in halls with free T1 internet, but difficult if not impossible for ordinary people using standard ADSL. Though perhaps they are not meant to see it…

  3. Mark says:

    “lone of the flagship buildings of the post-war university developmentl” So are council blocks, but they get blown up all the time. – I know you are quoting someone else, but you are quoting someone else with an extreme viewpoint. Further, you aren’t (again!) being representative and putting forward arguments in favour. For example, higher density student accomodation reduces the need to build elsewhere (Hyde Park, perhaps?).

    “Tearing down Southside was a controversial proposal” – Um, no it wasn’t, it has been expected, desired and planned for about a decade now, from the neighbours, the district and the poor students forced to live there for a year. Furthermore, the new Hall will be built in keeping with the neighbouring architecture (as required by the Council). Students were forced to live in appalling conditions because people who had never been inside the building (and personally, had no taste) concluded that it was the pinnacle of the worst period of architecture in human history.

    “Sacrifice a lamb before the bulldozers are let off the leash?” Thank you once again, Mr ‘This isn’t an opinion site.’

    “A Grade II listed edifice, even one in a terrible state, cannot simply be demolished at will.” It wasn’t. To quote your own article “fought bitterly… until it accepted that the state of the building was so bad it had to come down”

    I’m not commenting on the Real Player issue – it is irrelevant.

  4. David Hewson says:

    Where does it say this isn’t an opinion site? It says we are non partisan – that is not aligned to any of the parties involved, including Wye Future Group. The site, as I have said countless times, is open to all opinions, including those of anyone who thinks Wye Park is a great idea, not that anyone who thinks that has come forward yet. Nor have we ever claimed to represent anyone; these are individual viewpoints. The reference to a listed building being demolished ‘at will’ refers to Imperial’s announcement that will be knocked down – before they have even applied for permission to do so. Given that the college has recently broken planning laws in Wye by erecting signs without permission it seems reflective of its stance towards planning issues.

    Since you have already emailed us separately to say you live in East Anglia and would welcome such a project there I suggest you email Imperial and see how amenable they are to your idea. Although since I see you are sending us these grumpy messages from a computer in an Imperial halls of residence perhaps you could just pop down the corridor and do so.

  5. Mark says:

    It’s good to see you respond quickly and that you are a marvellous detective. I don’t live in London, I study here. I would imagine that is true of the vast majority of Imperial students, as I expect you are well aware. I wanted to provide the information that I live in a location not enormously dissimilar (I gather) from Wye to attempt to reconcile at least partly the fact that I study at Imperial and am therefore accused of being a UN-bashing, African child beating communist.

    Regardless of whether you feel that the announcement of the decision was made before or after consultation (the request for demolishing the building was put in about a decade ago, I read today), I don’t feel that specific word placement or implication can be used to define the underlying character of the ruling elite in Imperial, if there exists such a thing.

    My other points stand.

    I would appreciate it if you now remove my IP address.

  6. Justin Williams says:

    And if you decided to come down to Wye to have a look, you’ll find that it bears no comparison with Oundle.

  7. David Hewson says:

    It requires no detective work. As we have pointed out to the college before it follows the dubious practice of naming IP addresses — sometimes with the names of individual members of staff. WordPress, like all similar systems, simply collects that IP address and attaches it to comments when they go into the queue for approval. Your Imperial halls are consequently advertised to everyone when you fill in any form at any website. You may wish to bear this in mind the next time you send messages that don’t tell the full story. In case you have mislaid it, here is an extract from the first such one you sent us, which made no mention of your being an Imperial student, though this would seem to be somewhat relevant. Though you did say you were a little biased on this issue…

    ‘I live in a quaint, rather old village eutra(borderline town) of 7000
    inhabitants in East Anglia, so I would gather I am in a not dissimilar
    situation to Wye.

    Forgive me for being a little biased on this issue, for which I apologise.
    However, if I were offered £1 billion of development, the creation of a new
    “university town”, improvements in infrastructure, and the subsequent creation
    of a potentially immense knowledge base, along with 12000 (temporary or
    permanent?) jobs, I would snap it up! As you say, this project would be on the
    scale of the CTRL, which generated enormous income for a number of local

    This thread is, by the way, now closed.

Comments are closed.