Eternity evades Egyptian Deities in Kensington

Seth, God of Chaos and the Desert, bought a powerdrill. Neith, Goddess of The Hunt and later Protector of the Dead, sits boyishly on the Fire Exit. Their eight companions, all also Egyptian deities, stand around, in peace now that the cars and car wash before them have gone. But all are set to leave this world.

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Once, there entered here DIY people

Neith sits on the Fire Exit

Neith sits on the Fire Exit

Seth has lost an ankh but gained a power drill

Seth has lost an ankh but gained a power drill

The car wash was just beyond the deities, in the corner

The car wash was just beyond the deities, in the corner

Gods protected by bollards

Gods protected by bollards

These are the deities of the long wall at Homebase, Warwick Road, in Kensington, London. The building was designed by Ian Pollard in 1988, built by his company Flaxman, and opening in 1990. It may be the maddest building in London’s brief but mad Post-Modernist architectural period, up there with Terry Farrel’s TV-AM egg-cups in Camden (1982), or GMW’s faux-gothic Minster Court offices (1991) in the City, which Walt Disney made into a star in 101 Dalmations. Pollard’s other PoMo masterpiece, the Marco Polo Building in Battersea, was senselessly destroyed earlier this year, 2014.

On the Warwick Road, Pollard’s design contains not just deities but lines of Egyptian columns, a monumental Egyptian temple entrance, and curiously, a window shaped into a wave by bright green ribs, just like one designed by another great PoMo architect, James Stirling for the Neue Staatsgallerie in Stuttgart (1984). But in London, the parade of Gods is the Homebase highlight.

The Warwick Road facade includes a near replica of the Neue Staatsgallerie window

The Warwick Road facade includes a near replica of the Neue Staatsgallerie window

Only Khnum, Horakhty and Thoth retained their gold

Only Khnum, Horakhty and Thoth retained their gold

Sadly, when Homebase saw them emerging, they called a halt to further whimsy and so only three deities are painted with gold and other colours.

Even sadder, the building is due for demolition and redevelopment into luxury flats by humourless speculators. Homebase closed in June 2014, and the car park was closed in July. Even as you read this, this fantastic frieze of the Gods may already be history.

Too late for bargains, too late for Gods

Too late for bargains, too late for Gods

In Egypt, respect for the deities faded but returned after two millennia and they are now treasured. In quick-buck developers’ London, the deities last barely a quarter century.

The golden night

The golden night

All photographs © Herbert Wright 2014

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About herbertwright

I am a London-based writer interested in art, architecture, the future and more. I am the author of three non-fiction books. Published articles online appear on www.herbertwright.co.uk.
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5 Responses to Eternity evades Egyptian Deities in Kensington

  1. Interstat says:

    Yeah, I’m not too happy about this either. It seems like PoMo is the new modernism now and senselessly wrecked at the easiest opportunity. Future generations will only have books and images to look at and very little of the important era to see. Nobody will write about or even look twice at the identikit flats coming in to replace this.

  2. earlscrt says:

    Thank you for highlighting the proposed destruction of the Warwick Rd Homebase Hieroglyphic frieze. The proposed development is being amended, and the public can view the plans, and make comments at http://www.rbkc.gov.uk/PP/14/03861 or sending comments to planning@rbkc.gov.uk by 8th August 2014. May be this is an opportunity to request that this masterpiece is preserved. The 20th Century society trled to persuade English Heritage to list the design; it is a shame that Pollard’s educational commentary on the throwaway commercial world, should be lost. It provides a sense of place to this neglected vicinity.

  3. Thank you Interstat and earlctrt. I will certainly be examining the “Kensington Row” plans for this Warwick Rd site, and commenting. I will also be writing (again) about Earls Court Exhibition Hall, and its American architect C Howard Crane. Maybe something can be done about this bonanza of developer’s greed which is sterilising London.
    PS I wish I had mentioned the fantastic Cobra-head drains on Pollard’s Homebase!

    • Interstat says:

      It’s too late anyway – the heavy machinery are already one site as of Friday (possibly earlier). What a shame Pollard’s work is now all gone.

      We must fight to save other important buildings of this era or we’ll have nothing left. Developers’ greed (remember most of them don’t even reside in the UK or London so have no idea, or care for the importance, that these quirky and quintessentially British examples make to the overall fabric of the city).

  4. Sadly, today I see that half the Wall of Gods is now destroyed. What heathen vandals, these developers St Edwards. Shame on them, and on architects Squires & Partners for designing these fantastic walls out when they could have incorporated them, and the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea for brazen indifference to heritage and aesthetics. They are all contemptible.

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