Occidental Oil Refinery Jetty

Nominated for the Design Museum's "Lesser Known Architecture" display, 2013

via Dezeen Magazine

Lesser Known Architecture is a free exhibition celebrating extraordinary London architecture. Nominated by leading architecture critics, these ten buildings, structures and subways contribute to the mix and diversity of the city but are all too often overlooked and forgotten. Curated by Elias Redstone, Lesser Known Architecture presents an alternative architectural map of the city. Each site has been photographed by Theo Simpson and will be displayed as a series of single colour offset prints in the Design Museum Café and Tank.

Owen Hatherley of The Guardian nominated an oil refinery jetty in Canvey Island on the Thames estuary.

Canvey Island was ‘oil city’, a seaside town with a massive sideline in the petrochemical industry. The exceptionally long, spindly, worn jetty that was once part of the Occidental Petroleum site is both a remnant of and currently provides a view of one of the least commented-on but most astonishing ‘unknown architectures’ around – the buildings of the petrochemical industry, here more specifically, the Coryton refinery in Essex.

Anonymous and hardly even strictly definable as ‘architecture’, refineries are among the most dreamlike and complex things in the built environment, usually placed at a safe distance from actual cities, the sort of zones where the real workings of the economy, and the structures that house them, can be seen. Refineries themselves are the unacknowledged architectural inspiration for the Lloyds building and much else, bafflingly intricate steel structures made up of dozens of little towers, protrusions and connections, which have a spectacular sense of sheer spatial exuberance and a total lack of the cowardice of so much actual architecture.

Pick a refinery, it doesn’t matter which – Wilton, Fawley, or Canvey, where the beach and the jetty provide a view of a site that was mostly established by Mobil in the 1950s; the village of Coryton was razed for the purpose. By day, refineries are stunning enough, but  lit up at night, each one is a pocket metropolis, a constructivist’s dream of steel, flares and flashing lights, from a distance much more impressive a skyline than many actual cities. Therein, these all-but-illegible, bafflingly complex structures are processing our increasingly irrational oil economy in an appropriately mind-boggling way.”

Comments about this page

  • Not to be difficult but the refinery on Canvey was never finished and has long been dismantled and the occidental jetty has nothing to do with Coryton

    By Janet Penn (11/06/2013)
  • I agree.. the text is somewhat vague; the first paragraph suggests the jetty provides a view of the Coryton refinery (which is possible), but the last section asks the reader to pick a refinery, and listing Canvey as an option, which might have been true a decade ago but as you mention the structures (mostly storage tanks) have been dismantled. Perhaps he’s referring to the remaining ramps and tank’s foundations on the island… that suggest a refinery once existed (or almost existed).

    By Oneb Lackline (11/06/2013)

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