Few modern buildings can be described as "iconic" in London like the BT Tower. Absurdly kept secret in the Cold War by not featuring on London maps, despite its role in dozens of films and TV programmes and being blown up by terrorists, the tower was finally listed on the 26th of March 2003 meaning it would get the protection deserving of a historical building.
Today however if Londoners look up they'll see just how hollow this has proven to be - the BT Tower has been defrocked. What only a year ago bristled with microwave communications dishes is now bare.
It was the first such example of a civilian microwave communications network in the world with another prominent tower in Birmingham. The most impressive example Harold Wilson's supposed White Heat revolution of technology is now stripped of the potent symbolism that showed the tower leaping into the future. The dishes have been officially removed on the grounds that were old and would need repair.
This sounds odd though when one takes into account the fact that the tower is specifically called BT Communication Tower, and the listing details of the building specifically mention the aerials and dishes, plus the fact they had to set between 365 feet and 475 feet to clear the ground adequately. Likewise there is also a 40-foot mast on the top.
They were thus not only central to the external look of the building, defining it visually as a telecoms tower, but the entire raison d'etre for it. Without those dishes and the mast the tower would never have needed to exist.
It therefore comes as a surprise that the listing details specifically mention that the telecommunications equipment are not included in the listing. They are inherent to the design and function, so what is the point of listing the BT Communication Tower and excluding the large part of its official title that in this case makes up 26% of the exterior and is so mentioned in the listing?
If buildings are to receive protection for their historical importance, surely we should seek to preserve what makes them so important to start with. If we fail to do this we will end up with an ever-growing collection of poor facsimiles that were once great buildings, but now stripped of the core things that made them important.
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