Going Nuclear – and Bath Cabinet Makers

The following letter has been received from BIAS member Michael Bussell of London W14 Nov 07
With nuclear power stations, there is clearly a case for listing or scheduling the more notable structures. Both Dounreay and Calder Hall at Sellafield (nd Windscale) merit consideration. The criteria for retention should focus on their technological significance rather than what is often their desperately banal `architecture’ – by a well-known architect, brought in to ‘cosmeticise’ what doesn’t easily take to wearing make-up. Alas, technical significance may not count for much…
Which, as in your essay (in the last bulletin), brings me to the former Bath Cabinet Makers’ factory on Lower Bristol Road, Bath. You will know, Stuart, from when we met and I passed you the booklet commemorating the opening which I attended, that I have a personal interest to declare, in that my late father was chairman of the Yatton Furniture Group, of which BCM was part. The Mero space frame roof, of which this was the first to be used in Britain, was and probably still is the most elegant `modular’ space frame system, although sadly it is being undercut by cheaper systems. They seem to be vulnerable – the first Mero roof in the Middle East, to my knowledge (1975, VIP entrance to Doha Stadium, Qatar) was recently demolished to make way for something more like the new Wembley Stadium roof If it’s either survival as a Lidl store or demolition, I’m for the former! If we have to wait 50 years before such modem structures can be listed, then there might be nothing left to list. On the other hand, the decommissioning and ‘cool-down’ periods for nuclear facilities – often lengthier than their productive lifespan! – might leave more from which to select, although I fear they will be on cleared sites from which the `clean’ buildings have been removed – as unhelpful to proper understanding as are the splendid, but empty and forsaken, .nL,ine-houses of Cornwall to an understanding of the Cornish mining industry.