Goodbye Cowbells, Hello Nothing.
Look at old photos of Leicester Square and you’ll see a graceful tree-lined space with greenery-covered theatres around it. Go there now and you’ll walk ankle-deep in pizza boxes through mimes, tourists and pickpockets standing around waiting for something to happen. It’s like Night Of The Living Dead with more mobile phones.
The Swiss Centre was always the odd building out. I mean, what was it for? It was a peculiar structure that rang cowbells on the hour. The building was rather like the country it represented – pleasant enough, nobody knew what it was for. Cowbells, Toblerones and bank charges are Switzerland’s cultural gift to the world.
Now the building has been replaced by the W Hotel, probably very nice inside but a staggeringly invasive glass stump from the exterior that gives nothing to the surrounding area apart from the finger, because it’s set among victorian and Edwardian buildings. Perhaps it’ll be better when they have shops around the base.The W’s own CAD photographs of its new building picture it as a hazy neon palace of light, a hilarious exaggeration when you consider that it actually looks like a suburban Sainsburys managers’ office.
Every time I walked past the Swiss Centre I remembered something that summed up Switzerland for me.
My colleague and I were staying in Geneva on our way to the Cannes Film Festival, and had the entire company float in cash with us. Just as we were driving into Cannes, we realised to our horror that we had left the float in the room safe, and called the hotel.
The manager very kindly offered to send it down to us.
For twenty percent of the take.