A real Art Deco gem: London Fire Brigade Headquarters

Wandering around the streets of London often rewards one with sights of amazing buildings from all architectural ages, but it is not often that one would come across an entirely unfamiliar building which so perfectly epitomises a particular style. On Saturday, walking along the Thames from Westminister towards Battersea, we discovered the old London Fire Brigade Headquarters (8 Albert Embankment, Lambeth). Its construction, along with its external ornamentation, is for me the complete embodiment of the 30s Art Deco spirit. I am, of course, adding it straight to my Art Deco London list.




Arguably, the most eye-catching features are the fire engine doors, with their oriental motifs.



Relief works

The sculptor behind the amazing relief works is Gilbert Bayes, who was also responsible for the Queen of Time statute welcoming shoppers into Selfridges.


The work above depicts the story of Phaethon, who was the original boy-racer, almost reducing the planet to ashes.

This next frieze is my favourite piece of ornamentation on this building. Firemen with shell-shaped helmets, putting out fire with water-spouting fish! Hell yeah!

A couple of superbly carved blocks pay tribute to our brave firefighters.



Note the hook ladder the fireman on the left is holding in the photo above. Not sure how it is (or was) used? Check out this crazy Youtube video:

Future unknown

The London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority (LFEPA) stopped using this building as its headquarters in 2007, and has been trying to sell it off. Neighbouring residents campaigned against private redevelopment plans in 2013. The future of this Grade II listed building is yet unknown. This seems to be a classic case of a clash of interests, not an uncommon problem when it comes to heritage buildings:
  • current owner wanting to sell off a disused building to make money
  • private investors wanting to make loads of money
  • English Heritage wanting to save the building
  • local residents (quite rightly) looking after their own interests


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