Baltic Exchanged

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London’s old Baltic Exchange building is probably best known for being blown up by the IRA in 1992 by a fertilser bomb in a large white truck. This bad piece of luck has precipitated a strange story whose resolution sees the old building heading for an unusual retirement. The Baltic Exchange is being rebuilt on the Baltic coast.

After the bomb, English Heritage and the Corporation of London initially insisted that any redevelopment should restore the building’s old fa???ade. But the Baltic Exchange organisation were unable to afford such an expensive undertaking. They sold the land to Trafalgar House in 1995. Most of the remaining structures on the site were then carefully dismantled; the interior of Exchange Hall and the facade were preserved and sealed from the elements.

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During this period, the physical activities of the Baltic Exchange trading floor became electronic. Now that the ‘exchange’ happened virtually, there was no need for a building to house the act of exchange. The site now hosts the Gherkin.

The old Exchange building was built from red granite, coloured marble, Portland stone, with plaster interiors complete with sea monsters, and mermaids riding dolphins (tributes to the mysteries of the oceans where exchange members investments were at the whim of fate). Dismantling, recording and moving it cost ???4 million. The building was first stored in a Reading warehouse before being sold to salvage dealer Derek Davies in 2003. He shipped the 50 or more artic loads – weighing around 1,000 tonnes – from Reading to Cheshire.

Davies advertised the Baltic Exchange in SalvoNEWS. Restorer and dealer Dennis Buggins of Extreme Architecture bought it and moved the building to various farm buildings and barns around Canterbury.

Buggins promoted the building-in-bits with an unconventional marketing campaign:

“Every year we hold the world’s only architectural salvage fair at Knebworth in July, so last year Dennis booked the biggest stand at the fair and brought some of the Baltic Exchange, including the 40ft long stone pediment carvings. We commissioned performance artist Mark McGowan to highlight our ‘Reclamation before Recycling’ campaign, and he chose to do this by somersaulting from the Gherkin to Knebworth, which took him an arduous two weeks, arriving at Knebworth during the Salvo Fair.”

Weather McGowans somersaulting performance art promotion was behind it or not, the Exchange has exchanged hands again. This time, it’s been bought via an ad on SalvoWEB for around ???750,000 by two Estonian businessmen, Eerik-Niiles Kross and Heiti Haar. They are shipping it to Tallinn where it will be rebuilt as part of a prestige office and housing development.

Eerik-Niiles Kross is a Tallin based businessman and historian who at one time ran Estonia’s secret service and represented Estonia at NATO talks.

The Baltic Exchange is an organization that, among other things, arranges for the ocean transportation of industrial bulk commodities from producer to end-user. It’s as though the activity that the building contained has influenced its fate. That it should also find a home in the Baltic is almost beyond coincidence.

The listing is here with the building described as ‘Boxed and Documented’

The idea of messing with chunks of history has a tremendously perverse appeal. Other building parts on sale at Salvo Fair include parts of the Royal Box from Ascot, flagstones from Paternoster Square, some bits of Lord Snowdon and Cedric Prices London Zoo aviary, a possible Roman stone aqueduct from France, a pillar box from Mortlake, ten brutalist 1960′s stone planters from Stevenage town centre, and even some bits of old Serbian smokehouses. Of course, any listing or other heritage preservation order that any of these items might have incurred during their working life no longer apply, so your would be free to use these items in any way you might like.

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