Saturday, September 23, 2017
Wait, it will be restored

Wait, it will be restored

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Old Waiting Room At Peckham Rye Station
Old Waiting Room At Peckham Rye Station

Victorian excess has earned a poor reputation in the last century.
The opulence of many Empire-era public buildings, regarded as worthless frippery by the puritanical modernist know-alls, has been allowed to fall into mossy disrepair.
But not Peckham Rye railway station. That’s because architect Benny O’Looney – eccentric by name, unconventional by nature – loves it.
And he’s spent 10 years, £1million of grant money and a lot of time to prove it.
“I live around the corner and I am really into its architecture,” he said.
“Especially the Victorian stuff there.
“It is so strong. Modern buildings can be a bit lean in comparison to the rich, robust
decoration of Victorian.
“The station architect, Charles Henry Driver, was particularly passionate about cast iron. Most of that was moved out, first in the 1930s and then in the 1960s.
“We got grants from a whole range of sources, including Southwark council, to open the derelict parts of the station.
“That involved unblocking some bricked-up windows so people could see inside to the space around the forecourt – plus the abandoned north wing and the amazing staircase in the southern wing.”
He started raising money to restore the spectacular stair and to extend it upwards so people could see and use the Old Waiting Room above, without having to go through
the station barriers.
He’s spearheading a revival of buildings to which Queen Victoria might have resisted the temptation to say “We are not amused.”
A revival of Gothic Revival, if you like. Or Gothic Revival version 2.0.
The Old Waiting Room – built in 1865, the same year as the first publication of the South London Press – was once considered the grandest in South London, but for decades was bricked up and forgotten about.
After falling out of use for passengers, it became a billiard hall in the 1920s, finally closing its doors in 1962.
Mr O’Looney successfully campaigned to get the building Grade II listed in 2007, and has been working with Network Rail to open up and celebrate this local treasure.
The restoration included repairing windows and doors, opening up and repairing the floor, conservation of paintwork in the stairwell and the design of a new staircase to provide public access from the ground floor. There is also a restaurant, the Coal Rooms, in the north wing.
The results can be seen as part of Open House, the weekend celebrating London’s
architecture, from Saturday and Sunday.
“I am so excited to show it off,” he said, who has also worked on new minarets and a prayer room for Peckham Mosque and several buildings along the High Street and Rye Lane.
“We are super-focused on Peckham and are campaigning for a conservation area in central Peckham.
“We want to revive abandoned buildings. We are on the lookout for that which is forgotten and overlooked.”
He has also helped uncover a non-Victorian gem – the modernist glass ceiling, with 1,000 sparkling lenses, of the former Holdron’s Department Store in Rye Lane – now Khan’s Bargains.
“It’s an amazing bit of early modernism,” he said.
Well, it’s art deco, so perhaps it just qualifies.

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Wait, it will be restored