Riverside east of the Tower and south of the river. Dome

Riverside east of the Tower and south of the river

This post covers only the parts of the square on the south bank of the river. The post for the north bank is Leamouth

Post to the north Canning Town
Post to the south Greenwich Marsh
Post to the west Old Blackwall and Blackwall Point

The Dome. This was originally called the Millennium Dome and built at public expense as an exhibition arena. It is now a private entertainment venue called the O2 and run by an American group. It is dome is one of the largest of its type of structure in the world. It is a large white tent with twelve yellow support towers, one for each month of the year, or each hour of the clock face, representing the role played by Greenwich Meantime,. But in fact very reminiscent of structures at the Festival of Britain – i.e. the Dome of Discovery and the Skylon.  The architect was Mike Davis, of the Rogers Rogers Partnership. As the Millennium Dome it was inaugurated under the Tory Major Government continued by the incoming 1997 Labour Government. The London Borough of Greenwich was keen to kick start regeneration on an area which had been taken out of the Docklands Development programme.  The press however took against the scheme and this was not helped by transport chaos on the opening night. Many of the exhibits were very bland – partly as a result of a decision to exclude anything which spoke of the past.  There was however a lot of local support and communities from all over the country had a day in which they could describe and explain themselves. On many days the building was full to capacity and visitor feedback was extremely positive. It was the most popular tourist attraction in 2000. When the exhibition closed the Dome was used for a number of one of events – although most of them were unable to fill its vast spaces. A number of schemes and operators were put forward – although the decision on this was up to government departments. It was eventually contracted to Meridian Delta Ltd. – now AEG -as an entertainment centre, owned by American Philip Anschutz and the building was renamed the O2. Currently it hosts high profile entertainment events, and there are cinemas and night clubs as well as the main arena. These are surrounded by fast food franchise restaurants and expensive car parks.
Tunnel vent. The vent for the ‘’new’ southbound Blackwall Tunnel pokes up through he roof of the Dome. These were designed by Terry Farrell and are listed.
Gas works, The Dome area is part of the site of the South Metropolitan Company’s East Greenwich Gas Works – with major parts of the site in the squares to the south and the west. At this northwest corner of the site were the scrubbers and purifiers – the Greenwich Vestry had asked that the smelliest bit of the works be the furthest away from Greenwich centre. Here chemicals would be removed from the newly made gas before it went out into people’s homes. The chemicals could of course be processed and sold. This area had its own narrow gauge railway system.    The jetty was of course served by a complex railway system largely serving the retort houses which lay to the south of it – and to the south of this square. There was also a main office block in this area.  To the north of the purifiers was an area used by the Ordnance Tar Works –   but still part of the gas works complex.

Penrose Way
Ravensbourne College. Ravensbourne is a university sector college specialising in digital media and design. It began as Bromley Technical College, opened in 1959 and it relocated to Penrose Way in 2010, having has other existences on the way. Its new building is designed to replicate the working environment of industry, with an emphasis on student and industry collaboration. The outside of the building has a tiled design inspired by Sir Roger Penrose known for his work on theories of general relativity and cosmology and the inventor of this tiling pattern with five-fold symmetry.

Gas Works Jetty. This structure was built after 1883. By 1902 it was handling 1,200,000 tons of coal annually. It was originally L shaped but in 1904 it was increased in length to 500 feet to accommodate ships of up to 2000 tons. It had four hydraulic cranes with 25 cwt grabs 75 feet above the river and shifting 1000 tons in 7 hours. The coal was unloaded into railway trucks and then taken by rail to the retort houses, or wherever. There was a control cabin at the shore end, next to the works clock tower. It was demolished for the Millennium Exhibition but 8 of the original cast iron legs into the river remain.
Queen Elizabeth Pier. This is on the site of the gas works jetty and provides a base for the Thames Clipper Service. It was designed by the Richard Rogers Partnership and built by Contain. It has an 87metre long, bowstring brow is supported on three bearings.
Quantum Cloud. This sculpture is sited on the remains of the gas works jetty, It is an elliptical cloud sculpture by Antony Gormley, and is made of 1.5 metre lengths of randomly oriented steel sections which condense into a 20 metre high human body form at the centre. In 1999, it was the tallest sculpture in the UK. Fractal growth software was used to develop the structural form, and modelling. Gormley has asked how can you convey the fact that the presence of somebody is greater or different from their appearance? And that it is an open question in the quantum clouds, whether the body is emerging from a chaotic energy field or the field from the body.

A Century of Gas in South: London
Anthony Gormley. Web site
Lusas. Web site
Mills. Greenwich Marsh
Mills. Innovation, Enterprise and Change
Nicholson. Regeneration
Ravensbourne College. Web site
Wilhide. The Millennium Dome


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