A zany Postmodern pumping station in London by architect John Outram has been awarded a Grade-II* listing.
The Isle of Dogs Storm Water Pumping Station was built between 1986-1988 for Thames Water. It is the first PoMo building to win listed status as part of Heritage England’s Post-Modernism project, which seeks to protect the country’s best examples of the divisive architectural style.
‘Decoration is the origin and essence of architecture,’ says Outram. ‘I was told, in 1955, at the beginning of my life as an architect, that my medium was both to be illiterate and devoid of metaphysical capacity. My work has been a rebellion. I refused to live in a city designed by proudly subliterate haptics whose ambition was to reduce it to mere “plant”. I aimed to invent that “meaning” and confirm those epiphanic techniques.’
Outram’s Isle of Dogs Storm Water Pumping Station is one of his best-known buildings thanks to it’s brightly decorated façade, and ornate columns.
His design riffed on the city’s tradition of commissioning grand municipal pumping stations, built from the Victorian era up until the 1930s, the most notable example being Sir Joseph Bazalgette’s ‘cathedral of sewage’, the Gothic Abbey Mills Pumping Station in Stratford.
The listing by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport is a coup for Heritage England. Postmodern architecture is typically not eligible for listed status in England due to its relative youth (buildings have to be over 30 years old to be considered). James Stirling’s No.1 Poultry is an exception: completed in 1998 and famous for its pink and yellow limestone stripes, it was awarded Grade II* status in November last year, making it the youngest listed building in the country.
The pumping station joins the top 8% of Grade-listed buildings in England on Outram’s 83rd birthday.