diamond geezer

 Sunday, February 24, 2008

Highbury revisited

East Stand, HighburyNever go back. Never return to a much-loved place to see what it looks like now, not if you value your memories. Because you know what you'll find. Crumbling perfection, decaying reality, and misplaced priorities. And so it is with Arsenal's old Highbury Stadium. Two seasons ago this was the red and white home of football, and now it's a building site with residential aspirations. I went back. Mistake.

What's happened to the East Stand? This used to be a pristine Art Deco masterpiece, with an imposing white facade and bold red detail. And yes it's still standing, the shell of the building at least, but now looking pretty sorry for itself photos. All the glass in the windows has been removed, there's scaffolding propping up one end, and the paintwork has a distinctly weatherbeaten look. A series of big rectangular holes has been punched through the wall, presumably to house joists that will support the new apartments to be packed inside. A hundred yard stretch of pavement outside has been fenced off, and a small red sign on the main entrance door bears the single word "SOLD". It's as if institutional rigor mortis has set in, and it's rather sad.

East Stand, HighburyAnd where's the Clock End gone? There used to be a stand on the south edge of the stadium, and now there's isn't. It's been completely demolished to make way for a mighty apartment block of steel and glass. It's not even an impressive block, not in any way, just the perfect 21st century way to cram as many house-buyers as possible into a confined space. Same up at the other end, where the North Stand used to be. All gone, and a series of characterless cuboids being erected in its place. It's amazing how much acreage the developers have found on which to build within the confines of the old Highbury site, leaving only the old pitch as a central garden feature. Purchase one of the 711 apartments around "Highbury Square" and you're buying little more than a living space on the site of eradicated history.

Emirates StadiumAcross the railway at Ashburton Grove, the new Emirates Stadium gleams in a way that Highbury never did. Like many a modern mega-stadium it has the appearance of a giant glass bowl surrounded by a windswept concrete plaza, severed from the surrounding streets to make crowd control a little easier. On non-match days the footbridges and walkways are merely a cut-through for the occasional passer-by, or red-striped Gooner families trying to locate the club shop, or a few kids kicking a football around photos. This is no longer the heart of the community, this is a tacked-on fortress.

And even here, around Arsenal's new football focus, the emphasis is on residential cramming. A string of new apartment blocks has sprung up above the railway cutting, bringing glee and delight to the face of many an N5 estate agent. To the north, squeezed in between pincered railway tracks, stands the 11-storey Ashburton Triangle development. This grey and red rollercoaster-style design is Europe's largest zinc-clad building, and houses 249 affordable apartments for key workers. No chance of any Arsenal players living here, but more than a few keen supporters have already moved in. A glowering concierge guards the entrance, and doubled-up security doors keep out all but the most persistent undesirables. It's a bit of a rabbit warren inside, and no expense has been spent on decorating the internal corridors. But select your flat carefully and the view from the balcony is really rather impressive photosphotos. Maybe those new Highbury flats in the distance won't be quite so awful after all.

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan20  Feb20  Mar20  Apr20  May20
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19  Apr19  May19  Jun19  Jul19  Aug19  Sep19  Oct19  Nov19  Dec19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

my flickr photostream