The development programme at Tottenham Court Underground Station and the transformation of the public square beneath the Centre Point tower into a pedestrian plaza in preparation for the new Crossrail train network led in 2009 to the removal of the pond and Grade-II listed concrete fountains. These were designed in 1963 by the German-born émigré artist, Jupp Dernbach-Mayen (1908-1990) and had been commissioned by Richard Seifert and partners, the architectural firm responsible for the design of Centre Point, who had asked the artist to create some public art for the ground level of the tower block (fig.1).
The fountains, inspired according to Mireille Burton, the artist’s daughter, by designs he had seen at Alhambra, Grenada in Spain, were of different heights and were installed in a blue mosaic pool beneath the Centre Point tower. An integral part of the overall Centre Point design; the ‘Y’ flower shape of the fountains reflected the same ‘Y’ form as the pre-cast concrete inverted and faceted external mullions of the tower block above.
The removal of the fountains, regarded at the time by Dernbach-Mayen’s daughter as ‘a form of cultural desecration’, was apparently to make way for the ventilation shafts for the new enlarged ticket hall of Tottenham Court Road Station. They are to be replaced by two new glass pyramids. TfL refused to return the fountains to their original location, because it was ‘simply not relevant to put something back that does not function.’ An unfortunate point of view in so many ways!
When the fountains’ removal was threatened, a public campaign was launched in 2009 to find them a new home. Various locations were suggested including Whitestone Pond in Hampstead where Dernbach-Mayen had been resident. Finally, however, through the intervention of the artist’s daughter and her husband the fountains were given to the Architectural Association. They are now being restored and will be installed at the site of the Association’s school for rural architecture at Hooke Park in Dorset. 3rd Dimension is looking forward to reporting on this new installation when it has been completed.
Main image: Jupp Dernbach-Mayen, Fountains at Centre Point, 1963, concrete (photo: courtesy of Tony Mott)