How the abandoned Aldwych station might be brought back to life

It is used quite a bit for filming, but could former tube station return as an underground bar and restaurant?

Up and down the country there is a vast array of historical buildings that are now abandoned or in a state of decay due to lack of funding, but if given a surge of investment – what could these wasted structures be transformed into, and what benefits could they bring?

To find out, Barratt Homes used its knowledge and creativity to redesign five of the UK’s most infamous decaying buildings for modern day living. Working with a 3D render artist, it transformed:

  • Aldwych Tube Station into an exclusive underground bar and restaurant
  • Maunsell Forts in Kent as a luxury glamping retreat
  • Point of Ayr Lighthouse, Wales, into a remote wellness spa, harnessing renewable energy
  • Air Raid Shelter in Inverclyde, Scotland, as a sustainable indoor farm
  • The Victoria Arches, Manchester, redesigned as modular tiny apartment

Here, we will concentrate on the Aldwych station and take a passing look at the forts site in Kent which lies about eight miles off Whitstable. The others are a bit far afield.

The before and after of the reimagining of the Aldwych tube station

Subterranean bars and basement restaurants have become quite the trend in recent years, so Barratts reimagined London Aldwych tube station as an exclusive underground speakeasy bar and restaurant, inspired by the likes of Cahoots in Soho and Le Wagon Blue restaurant in Paris.

Transport for London says there are at least 40 overground and underground stations still in existence that are no longer used for travel. Aldwych – which was known as Strand for the first eight years of its existence – is one of the most well-known in the list but is said to be one of London’s most pointless underground stations. It was closed in 1994 when the cost of replacing the lifts was considered too high compared with the income generated by the branch line which ran from Holborn.

Aldwych remains in disrepair, however in more recent years, the tube station has doubled up as a filming location for productions, including The Prodigy’s Firestarter music video, and zombie movie, 28 Weeks Later.

In a sorry state, the Maunsell Forts as they are today and how Barratts imagine they might be transformed

Rising from the water like rusty invaders, The Maunsell Forts off Whitstable are armed towers built in the Thames and Mersey estuaries during the Second World War to help defend the Kent shoreline from German troops. They were operated as army and navy forts, made from a mixture of concrete and metal, standing approximately 30-78 feet tall.

Each fort consisted of a cluster of seven stilted buildings – one central command tower surrounded by six protective forts which, when operational, were interconnected by suspended walkways over the water.

Originally there were three of these forts, but only two are left standing – the Shivering Sands Fort and the Redsands Fort. Plans to preserve the forts in 2005 came to nothing, as did a proposal in 2015 to turn each into a luxury getaway, with the seven forts accommodating bars, restaurants, retail, banqueting rooms and rooftop terraces.

Barratts decided to bring that luxury getaway concept to life in its own way, by reimagining the location as a glamping retreat. With views to die for and a remote location that is a necessity for every good camping trip, the forts would be accessed by a private boat that serves the retreat.

It should be stressed that the illustrations are only concepts. They do not represent actual plans although in London Inspire’s opinion the Aldwych designs especially look like they have potential … provided the cost of replacing those lifts could be resolved.

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David Buckley

Dave Buckley is a career journalist. “I once went painting girders for a week and discovered I didn’t like heights,” he says. “Apart from that it has always been journalism for me in one form or another.” Past publications worked for include the South-East London Mercury*, Kent Messenger, Daily Express, Today*, News of the World* and Hong Kong Star*. All those marked with an asterisk no longer exist (trend emerging?). He owned and edited a Thailand-based property magazine before returning to England and currently works as a production editor for an East Midlands-based publishing group.

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