Number 58, Audit House, stands on Victoria Embankment and, on a daily basis, has spent its lifetime watching London. Number 58 has seen it all… a century of a city’s comings and goings.
It was a sunny morning, May of 2011, people gathering with their bicycles on the opposite bank of the Thames. “Few of them…” thought Number 58… “have any idea what is about to happen.” A doctor was newly out of hospital, stitches in her face and a leg set in plaster, the culprit driving off into the London dawn. Two had died on that same bridge in 2004, 16 cyclists went down fatally on the roads of London in 2011. “I suppose“… thought number 58… “that enough is enough.“
The building watched as 8:30 came around, and people with bicycles became people on bicycles became people riding bicycles. Chain clung tooth clung chain, sprocket turned hub turned spoke, turned rim to rubber, and two hundred people on bicycles – to some known only as ‘cyclists‘ – rode slowly in protest, back and forth of Blackfriars Bridge. On a sunny morning, in May of 2011.
Number 58 had seen the change, for ten years earlier, just 300 of these bicycled creatures had made that crossing each Blackfriars morning, a current of cars all that went from bank-to-bank each day. As 2011 had closed, the number… as far as 58 could make out… had been precisely 1452, in the same small hours that opened each day. The cars had all gone, driven from a city that no longer had such use for them.
“It seems…” thought Number 58… “that my future will be quieter than my past… for why build a city for machines… when it might instead be made… for human beings?”