Icons: they come in all shapes and sizes.
And today in England we have said goodbye to two such iconic places.
One has been slowly leached of all its staff, each to a new base elsewhere; and at 5pm today, hordes left the other and no-one seems very sure what happens to them now.
The first, opened in 1960, is now a grade II listed building, in the parish of St Michael and St George, White City, about four miles from the centre of London. BBC Television Centre is a national institution because it has formed the backdrop to some of our best-loved TV moments: Top of the Pops, Morecambe and Wise, Dr Who; the list is endless.
But all things must end, and property prices have made flogging the building an absolute necessity. Stanhope, the developer, has bought the place lock, stock and barrel and plans to turn it into a hotel, apartments, shops and even some television studios into which the BBC will move when it is complete.
Meanwhile, hordes of BBC staff have been putting all their clutter in boxes and shipping it to Broadcasting House in Langham Place and Portland Place, bidding a wistful farewell to the buildings we all know like the back of our hands.
It seems a very long time since it was just a question mark on an envelope scribbled by architect Graham Dawbarn. Its great circular central building is affectionately known as the doughnut, wrapped about by an idiosyncratic curve of purpose-built blocks which have held all that is familiar for us British.
We will not forget the bombastic Jeremy Clarkson touring its corridors in a very small car; nor the children’s magazine series Blue Peter and its garden; we mourn the backdrop for Crackerjack, the kids’ Friday night programme of yesteryear, and the corridors which have hosted daleks and members of the Monty Python team alike.
It had its dark side. It has only been in the last year or so that shocking, deeply upsetting revelations have come to light about what went on in its rooms. That dark corridor has yet to be lit properly. Let us hope wrongs can be atoned, though lives have been scarred.
We will remember.
Yesterday, Madness – the band to hire if you are British and important – sealed the building and its history shut. For better or for worse, Television Centre is empty. Take a look at its deserted rooms and corridors here.
Yesterday afternoon, staff at another icon walked out for the last time.
But it has always received mixed reviews, for it is a great, towering coal-fired power station.
Didcot A is a landmark for the area surrounding Oxford for all the wrong reasons. As you drive past it is impossible not to be impressed by the sheer audacious scale of Didcot’s six cooling towers and a chimney which is still amongst Britain’s tallest structures.
Its design – I will own- pleases me. The great apocalyptic shapes rise up out of the green and pleasant land as some sort of post-parochial, industrial vision, a county set concrete nightmare straight out of a Russian propaganda poster.
It is uncompromising. How they ever got it built there in the first place baffles me.
It has been stormed and scaled by Greenpeace, and voted Britain’s Worst Eyesore by readers of Country Life Magazine. It is recorded in local f0lklore that on a radio phone-in for Radio Oxford callers flooded the switchboard. One outraged caller complained bitterly that it was just like ‘somewhere up North’.
Last night a laser light sign illuminated the station, which has been decommissioned due to the expense of making it comply with EU laws. The sign says: “Powering the nation, 1970-2013.”
Goodbye, Television Centre. Farewell, Didcot A. It’s been a blast.
In every sense of the word.