Listed: the lavish waterworks temple that defied Thatcher

By Oliver Wainwright

Part Greek temple, part jet engine, and now officially ‘one of the most exciting buildings of the 80s’, John Outram’s pumping station put the fun back into architecture. It is just one of his many works that deserve listing

Standing on the banks of the Isle of Dogs like a toy temple washed up from some colourful cartoon, John Outram’s strikingly postmodern storm water pumping station has been grade II* listed, as part of a new wave of listings that recognise an era of wit and fun in architecture.

Built between 1986 and 1988, the pumping station is a playful collage of references: classical Greek temples, riverine mythology and even jet engines, all fused in a uniquely colourful vision. “It’s one of the most exciting buildings of the 1980s,” says Roger Bowdler, Historic England’s director of listing. “Outram exulted in the panache and exuberance of classicism – and gave this utterly functional structure an exterior that is unforgettable.”

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