Essays — May 26, 2014 10:52 — 0 Comments

Tate Modern – Mansour Chow

The Midland Grand Hotel, adjoining St. Pancras Station and now known as St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel, was designed by George Gilbert Scott. Among the many of his highly regarded creations, he also designed the Albert Memorial in Kensington, leaving a lasting legacy on London and British landscape.

He was born in 1811 and died in 1878, having fathered three sons. One son, Dukinfield Henry Scott, went into a notable career in botany. The other two, George Gilbert Scott Jr & John Oldrid Scott, decided to follow in their father’s footsteps.

John Oldrid Scott is not particularly remarkable, noted merely as a capable architect. It is his brother, George Gilbert Scott Jr, who had by far the more significant influence on British architecture. Less, it may seem, by creation and more by procreation. However, this presumption is most likely based on the ravaging unfairness of time.

Without rhyme or reason, history tends to randomly forego some men whilst stooping for others. History leaves George Gilbert Scott Jr as a minor note, an architect seemingly eclipsed by the achievements of his father and son, all because, in the rubble of war, his most notable designs were lost along with any opportunity for legacy.

His later years proved hard for him. Suffering mental health difficulties and alcoholism, he eventually succumbed to cirrhosis of the liver in a bedroom within the building considered the most successful of his father’s designs — The Midland Grand Hotel. He left six children for which history stooped the most for one of them: Giles Gilbert Scott.

It’s hard to conceive of what London and, indeed, Britain would be like without Giles Gilbert Scott. The red telephone box we all know was the result of his winning design for a 1924 competition set up by the Metropolitan Boroughs because the current boxes at that time were considered as unsuitably ugly. For most, this would perhaps seem like legacy enough but Giles Gilbert Scott had already achieved considerable success and would continue onwards.

Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral is a building of remarkable size and presence (the fifth largest cathedral in the world) and actually one of his earlier projects, with construction commencing in 1910, undergoing a bold redesign during the process. However, perhaps the best known projects contributing to his legacy, at least within London, came about following his appointment from the London Power Company in 1930.

He was commissioned to work on the outward appearance of Battersea Power Station. Work was completed in 1933 and within six years, it was considered in a poll ran by The Architectural Review, to be the second best modern building in Britain. London’s aesthetics and skyline transformed unquestionably, but not quite enough for Giles Gilbert Scott’s standards. In 1947, Giles Gilbert Scott was commissioned again, this time to design the Bankside Power Station. Sadly, he died before this construction (1963) and also Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral (1978) was completed.

Due to financial constraints linked to the price of oil, Bankside Power Station closed in 1981 and was left derelict and disused for just under twenty years before it was finally given a purpose fitting for such a grand design when it was purchased for £12m and re-opened in 2000 as Tate Modern. A beautiful building we can all appreciate. But let’s spare a thought for the talented yet nevertheless forgotten.


Mansour Chow is 32. He is a failing/failed writer, editor, publisher, actor, stand-up comedian and human-being. He co-edits literary and art magazine, The Alarmist ( He often tweets (@megapad), but those tweets are usually dogshit.

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