2001: Here we see another Listed buiding, blown up by some nasty terrorists, but
surviving to some degree, only to be blasted again by its only protectors, that
being the government and various so called conservation regimes. How amazing
that a so delicate building and its treasures can stand defiantly against bombs from
the sky and from the street and then be betrayed by our dastardly unfeeling
leaders. But this is indeed was the fate befalling the beloved Baltic Exchange.
This great and awesome construction, such a great sight to behold, was one sad casualty of many when that bomb devastated the city.
But unlike most of the other
targets, the Baltic did not delight in some careful and loving restoration
work to rescue it from oblivion. Unlike the skyscrapers, or the local church,
this vandalism resulted only in the Baltic's death warrant. It seemed the
perfect opportunity for London's speculative spivs to move in and capitalise
on the dirty deeds. How wonderful for them that terrorists had done the
demolition job. Now all they had to do was to make sure the poor old Baltic
was never rescued. But surely, with most of the Exchange intact, they
would not succeed?
This superb building was a typical representation of what, in 1903, was the standard majestyk facade and interior that greeted clients to the global institutions and ministries that covered London, with all their marble, ironwork and crafted carpentry.
The finished Baltic trading palace was the ultimate showpiece for a company that by that turn of the century was already a dignified 150 years old.
And with its compliment of chandeliers and artwork it was the perfect
centerpiece for this shipping and commodities exchange outfit. What a grand
structure for St Mary Axe it was. Surely something forever to be proud of.
Built to last a thousand years, and very much the complimentary architecture
for the City of London.
It wasnt till the 1980's that the Baltic Exhange got its all so useless 'listed' tag, which showed its true worth when, in 1992, the building was bombed into instability. It was a great task to recover as much of the building and its interiors for a celebrated defiant rebuild, and engineers saw the Baltic as fit for construction to former glory.
Hundereds of items awaited in storage for the day that never came,
for how sickening it was when this project was 'sold-out' to the developers cash. Suddenly, this very salvageable beauty was not to be saved, but
to be savaged. With a promising return on the
selling off of individual pieces, the financial fools
signed the Exchange's death warrant. This was terrorism in it's worst form.
The devastated and cleared plot was, by 2003, delighted with a frightening 'gherkin' shaped disfigurement. A very trumpeted effort which, as novel as it is, has needlessly trampled over a great part of London's heritage. Whilst the media falls over itself to praise this new cigar shaped blimp, please spare a thought for that once vast Baltic temple of olde, now scraped off the face of the earth. It should have been saved. We are now, without doubt, much poorer with the loss of the exquisite Exchange.
Update 2004: It's 2004, and the Baltic Exchange sits, in pieces, in a London warehouse. Ready to be sold off to where? Could we still return this precious monument to our city? Or will the collective parts be sold off as seperate plunder?
Update 2007: Well, to my surprise I find the remains of the Baltic Exchange were finally bought up for reconstruction... In Estonia! Some Estonians have siezed the opportunity to buy the cut price ruins and transport them off across the world. And so, fifteen years after being blown up by terrorists, and then being betrayed, and then being left to rot in storage, the Baltic might actually be saved. No doubt, however, the Baltic should have been rebuilt on its original site, and it's the Gherkin that should actually be dismantled and sent to Estonia, along with all the back slapping developers that ensured that the Baltic Exchange scandal took place. Still, rather than see the Baltic go the same way as the Euston Arch, and used as landfill, I think this is a reasonable outcome. I still proclaim that the killers of the original Baltic Exchange site remain unforgiven for all time.
Charles (of London Town)