Boris Johnson wanted to decorate “boring” London Bridge Station with gargoyles

A bored Boris Johnson demanded that Grimshaw Architects jazz up their London Bridge Station re-design when he was Mayor of London, suggesting they should decorate it with gargoyles

Boris Johnson asked Grimshaw to jazz up its re-design of London Bridge Station when he was mayor of London, suggesting the studio add “gargoyles along the front”.

The UK prime ministerial hopeful met partners at Grimshaw several times during the process of re-designing RIBA award-winning London Bridge Station, a major infrastructure project in central London completed last year.

During these meetings, the then-mayor called the elevation plans “boring”, and suggested that the brickwork arches should be covered with gargoyles to make it more interesting.

This was delivered, Grimshaw partner Mark Middleton told Dezeen, while Johnson had his feet on the desk of the presentation room.

London Bridge Station refurbishment by Grimshaw
Johnson complained the roof of London Bridge Station wasn’t big enough. Photo is by Ralph Hodgson

Johnson is currently one of two candidates in the running to become the leader of the UK’s Conservative Party and therefore the prime minister.

“I’ve never experienced that before in my professional career”

The two meetings Middleton had with Johnson and the Greater London Authority (GLA) were more of a “courtesy” he said, as the designs had already been given planning permission at this stage.

“At the first meeting he kept going on, asking why it wasn’t like St Pancras, why didn’t it have a big roof?” said Middleton.

“We didn’t get into the aesthetics of it, but there was a bit of an argument. He couldn’t accept that the space underneath was a grand space,” he added. “He kept giving me a lesson on Gilbert Scott.”

At the second meeting, where Grimshaw Architects presented the elevations, Johnson responded negatively to the design.

“He walked into the room and put his feet up on the table, leant back in his seat with his arms folded,” said Middleton. “I’ve never experienced that before in my professional career.”

After the presentation, Middleton and his co-presenter invited questions.

“And he says, well, it’s just a bit boring, isn’t it? It’s the facade, the brick, it’s just a bit boring. It needs something else. It needs gargoyles along the front.”

“He was chuckling to himself”

The exchange continued with Middleton asking Johnson to clarify his position on the gargoyles.

“He was chuckling to himself, and all his acolytes were all chuckling away to themselves,” Middleton said.

London Bridge Station refurbishment by Grimshaw
The then Mayor of London feared the station wouldn’t look grand enough

This behaviour, Middleton said, felt like schoolboy antics.

“It felt like you were in second year at school and you’d been brought into the sixth form common room, and the head boy was having a laugh at your expense,” he said.

“It’s entertaining, I didn’t dislike him. He just doesn’t listen and comes in with an idea or makes something shocking up to stir the pot.”

In the last few weeks Johnson’s behaviour has been called into question, after a slew of people have come forward with stories, following an incident in which police were called to his girlfriend’s flat.

Boris’ bridges are back in the spotlight

Johnson’s bid for prime minster has also brought renewed interest in his failed projects from his time as mayor, including the  Garden Bridge and so-called Boris Island airport in the Thames Estuary.

Designed by Thomas Heatherwick, the green bridge covered with shops and attractions planned for central London cost £53 million before it was scrapped, £43 million of which was public money.

Other bridges floated by the potential prime minister include a 22-mile link with France, and a bridge-building project to link Scotland with Northern Ireland.

Johnson fuelled renewed speculation on the Irish Sea bridge idea this week, saying he was an “enthusiast” for the idea at a Conservative Party hustings.

Photography by Paul Raftery unless otherwise stated.

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