Elephant & Castle

In 1961, the year I was born, the Berlin Wall went up, and Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space on his street.

Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre, Elephant & Castle, Lambeth, SE1

Closer to home, in Walworth, south-east London, an 80ft-wide silver cube appeared on the roundabout at the Elephant & Castle interchange. It is made up of 728 stainless-steel panels, and rises 20ft above pavement level.

Cuming Museum, Old Walworth Town Hall, Walworth Road, Lambeth, SE17

The natives never knew why it was there, merely what it symbolised: an eyesore on a patch of land destined to be lumbered with more doomed monoliths than any postcode in London.

Cuming Museum, Old Walworth Town Hall, Walworth Road, Lambeth, SE17

To its architect, Rodney Gordon, it was a clue to  the urban future we might inherit, the more modern and moonstruck we became.

Rodney Gordon's Michael Faraday Memorial, Elephant & Castle, Lambeth, SE1

For me, it became a Checkpoint Charlie beyond which the West End beckoned via the roads stretching from the Elephant & Castle to London’s main bridges and, in the words of my nearest and dearest, ‘over the water’.

Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre, Elephant & Castle, Lambeth, SE1

From Michael Collins’ The Elephant’s Graveyard, The Observer (2001)

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