written by Adam Carthy
The M40 on a late Friday afternoon is not a great place to be. But we were determined to make it to the 7pm instagrammers meet-up at Welbeck Street Car Park in London, and so there we were, fighting through the trickling traffic that crawled towards the capital.
Our hometown, Birmingham, is becoming renowned for the demolition of its significant brutalist buildings. But hearing of the refusal to protect such an exemplary London structure and of its potentially impending destruction to make way for a hotel filled us with saddened empathy and a need to pay our respect. As we journeyed down from our hometown, to be alongside those who appreciated its value, we discussed the current financial value of such plots of land and the crazy economic markets largely responsible for the removal of modern monuments like Welbeck Street Car Park.
With the last 5 miles of the 120 mile journey taking over 30 minutes, I reminded myself once again not to drive to London next time. I wonder if I’ll ever listen. We arrived, ironically at the car park ripe to welcome us, but unable to afford it (£8 per hour), and regrettably missing out on driving up into our meeting point.
Instagram is a strange world, where people are able to connect emotionally about shared ideas and passions without ever actually meeting. Knowing more about the personalities of the people we were now meeting and nothing of how they looked made it like a surreal interpretation of guess who.
Even stranger was our ascending of the car park ramps by foot as we marched in groups, as if in protest, up to the tenth level and roof. There were fantastic views across the London cityscape and a calmness and quiet that obliged introspection. Maybe our car parks really are the best publicly accessible places in our cities.
After a moment of calm de-stressing me from the inner-city commute, it was back on to the streets as we walked half a mile or so to the local venue hosting the meet-up. An endless labyrinth of Friday night fun, full of merry Londoners led us to the pub, and up the stairs into a cramped and overly warm room where the fifty attendees awaited our key speaker.
The treat of visiting Welbeck Street Car Park itself was completely outdone by the short speech of Barnabas Calder. This event suddenly gained an academic spine – not one of the boring and mostly irrelevant kind – an inspired and passionate ideology, with a discernible weight. Most of us were a little biased in favour of modernist and brutalist architecture, but his passion spilled into a debate and discussion that felt like a sincere movement towards something. It felt like the beginning of something. And maybe like most things it won’t lead to much else, but for that night I felt awed by the privilege of living in a time so close to an era that produced arguably some of the “greatest architecture that has ever been produced in the history of Architecture”.
photography and video by space_play