Folks with loads of cash who are looking to build their wildly extravagant dream home in London are getting around strict architectural preservation laws by building down, not up. And after excavating space for subterranean ballrooms, pools, and bowling alleys, the diggers that do the dirty work are being abandoned underground and there, covered with cement below the streets of England’s capital, they find their final resting place.
The “luxury bunker” trend dates back a few years and only seems to be becoming more popular amongst landowners who want more space but can’t make it happen on the already tightly packed streets filled with listed structures — those with historical interest — governed by strict building and planning codes.
Ed Smith at the New Statesman reports that going deeper usually involves “basement-conversion specialists,” who are experiencing a serious boom in biz. “Sometimes they simply knock a hole in the wall and drive the diggers straight through the house. In other cases, the windows are so large that a digger can squeeze through without dismantling the bricks and mortar,” he writes.
So these diggers team up, usually two-per-property, and carve out a little slice of heaven underfoot, sometimes as much as 75 feet into the earth (where else are you supposed to store your fleet of vintage Ferraris, eh?).
Then what? Well, these super heavy mechanical shovels are basically stuck. Cranes can be used to lift them out but that’s expensive and generally a logistical nightmare. It’s cheaper and easier to essentially do nothing, so these machines being given a burial of sand and gravel right there where they have finished their work.
The cruel irony that these machines are literally mining their own graves obviously owes its poignance to a bit of anthropomorphizing. But the crazy contrast between what lies above — fiercely protected facades and highly regulated appearances — and what lies beneath — an incongruous mix of exorbitantly unhinged conspicuous consumption coupled with these monstrous cast-off industrial tools frozen in concrete like a kind of ultra-modern Pompeii — is pretty incredible. Plus, as Smith notes, the archaeological implications for future generations are incredibly surreal.
And it’s not just London! Apparently the United Kingdom’s Tunnel Boring Machine that helped drill the Chunnel is still somewhere in the English Channel. I’ve reached out to Bertha, the world’s largest TBM, for comment on the fate of her kind. [New Statesman via @NicolaTwilley ; Vanity Fair; The Guardian]
Image via Lars Plougmann/Flickr