At Red Kite, we seize every opportunity to work on projects in our local community of the Ironbridge Gorge. When we discovered that the Ironbridge power station cooling towers were to be demolished in 2020 as part of a planned development, we decided to launch a project to reflect on and celebrate these significant features within the local cultural and physical landscape before they are lost forever.
Some might be surprised that we are encouraging the commemoration of such a utilitarian industrial landscape feature. However, they are as much a part of the Gorge as the infamous Iron Bridge.
‘The major challenge that faces the archaeology of the industrial period in future years is the need to move beyond the documentation and the history of technology, to create stories that highlight the individual and collective social experiences of industrial worlds that are now fading, but which still cast a long shadow over our post-industrial lives’. E. Casella and J. Symonds, Eds. (2005). Industrial Archaeology: Future Directions, p.53.
It is no accident that the power station’s cooling towers have become such an iconic feature within the landscape. It was designed by landscape architect Kenneth Booth and project architect Alan Clark with the intention of ensuring that the structures merged as seamlessly as possible into its natural surroundings. Design interventions included terracing and major ground remodelling, pigmentation of the concrete, and woodland belts, meant that the development was shortlisted for a Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors/The Times Conservation Award in 1973.
We have launched a project to reveal the past, celebrate the present, and inspire the future of the Electric Landscape of the Ironbridge Gorge. It will seek to commemorate the demise of the cooling towers and capture the living memories of local residents before such an iconic landscape feature is lost.
Local artists and residents are being invited to exhibit their works and photographs featuring the cooling towers, which will be shown at The Electric Landscape exhibition at the Coalbrookdale Gallery, 21 September – 4 October 2019. The project is part of the Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Festival of Imagination, and is kindly being supported by Telford and Wrekin Council and the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust.
For more information and to participate in the project, visit our Facebook page.