The fist electricity sub-station I noticed is in Etruria. A massive brick building that seems to be based on the early dynastic Egyptian mastaba tomb. Once you become aware, subs-substations start appearing all over the place. Their unifying charicter is the yellow notice on the front door showing the chap fatally struck by lighening, also on the front door is their name, usually that of the street in which they are situated.
In the way that banks, who’s business is based on trust, have buildings designed to inspire confidence through a look of solidity, of permanence, of dependability, Electricity Sub-stations seem to display a similar sort of self-satisfaction.
These buildings of a prior age have been built to a high specification, they include un-needed flights of decorative fancy, they seem to be ‘built to last’, to express a confidence in the future, there is an optimism and a quaint ‘futuristicness’ about them and, like so many other interesting buildings, they will pass, probably un-mourned. A fine rather Art Deco-Egyptian substation has disappeared since I photographed it. The replacement has no aesthetic attributes, it is just housing for necessary equipment; an optimum between cost and protection.
I have been making stencils of the substations and with collaged colour; they have a certain look of 1930s tube posters. The interest in stencils started from a wish to convey monotony through repeated images in the second year. I very much like stencilled images; the contrasting sharpness of cut lines and the softness of sprayed paint. Where spray escapes the stencil’s restrictions it seems almost to suggest the aura of power emanating from these silent buildings.
Kingsway, a sub station in the centre of Stoke, having acquired festive decorations, became a Christmas card. There is an interesting air of misty night around the lamp and the Christmas lights.