The visionary architect behind London’s tallest tower

Written by By Malathi Nayak, CNN

In 1915, a railway viaduct carried an ill-fated number of construction workers down the middle of the Victorian city of Harrow. The results of the derailment — 67 laborers, 14 horses and some farm animals — would go down in history as one of the worst accidents in London.

The only survivor of the accident was William Massey, a young architect who had been employed by a local company to oversee the reconstruction of the viaduct.

“(The accident) has been cited as a factor in his quitting a job with a major employer,” explains Rohan Silva, the Senior Adviser to the Prime Minister on Cybersecurity and Digital Transformation.

Silva, who is also an author of the book “Beacon,” a documentary about Massey’s early career, has lately become a passionate advocate for new architecture and urban design that helps London break away from its stale past.

Futuristic design

Although Massey was working at a London company at the time of the accident, Silva has made it his mission to rescue the man’s memory and encourage Londoners to think radically about what the city should become next.

“Futuristic space that is exciting and inspiring, but also feels accessible to all people,” Silva says, describing the approach he hopes the Jubilee line rail terminus, which Massey designed, will take.

Massey Hall was designed by British architect William Massey and opened in 1910. Credit: Patrick Howey/Corbis via Getty Images

The hall will be located at a new station for the Jubilee line, replacing the current station (renamed The Westfield Stratford) at the north end of Stratford.

The cultural heart of Stratford

“I’ve been coming to Stratford for the last 10 years. It’s one of the major project sites in London. There has been a lot of regeneration going on. What I really want to do is create a new culture hub at Stratford, (which is) where all of the mixed use, mixed immigration, mixed income areas of London will emerge,” Silva says.

His vision comes amidst controversy over whether the south end of the Jubilee line terminus should be destroyed to make way for a skyscraper — an issue that is currently the subject of a judicial review . Despite the station’s adverse history and the fact that it currently only serves one train per hour, Massey Hall was chosen as the location for the rail terminus.

“Futuristic space that is exciting and inspiring, but also feels accessible to all people.”

– Rohan Silva, Senior Adviser to the Prime Minister on Cybersecurity and Digital Transformation

Silva believes the hall is ready to set an example for its surroundings.

“I think it is a radical, futuristic design,” Silva says. “I think the hall has got a very bright future and I think it’s time that it replaced the one we have.”

More museums

Initially, Massey Hall was intended as a railway building. However, it was inspired by Japanese tea houses and set to be commissioned as the city’s headquarters, under the newly designed catchphrase “liberty art.”

Because of the accident, “Massey Hall is known worldwide as the place where the inferno happened, but it wasn’t designed as the place where the inferno happened,” Silva says.

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