Facebook enters the little photographic enclave of Rathbone Place
Rathbone Place in London’s West End, just west of Tottenham Court Road and north of Oxford Street, has something of a reputation among photographers. Not only is there the upstart, Park Cameras' London store, to delight visitors, further up towards Charlotte Street, is one of the capital’s gems: Aperture. I’ve spent many a happy hour chatting to Patrick and his colleagues against the backdrop of the cabinet of used Leicas and accessories. And next door is the TAP No.36 café, rumoured to have the best coffee in London.
Yet Rathbone Place is a rather dowdy little street. Once dominated by the gargantuan nd forbidding Royal Mail depot, it is now a vast building site. Yet this is a building site with a very important difference. Within two years it will become the UK headquarters of no less a corporation than Facebook. The new complex, which is just taking shape, will house hundreds or maybe thousands of techies. This can only be good news for the photographic and technological credentials of the area.
The enormous new building, with shops, homes and offices, will transform the appearance of Rathbone Place and will give a new vibrancy to the rapidly changing area. Once upon a time nearby Tottenham Court Road was the Mecca for audio and computer enthusiasts—shop after shop of specialist retailers. I used to spend a whole Saturday browsing the wares. Sadly, TCR is a shadow of its former self, now dominated by the ubiquitous Sainsbury’s, Boots, Caffe Nero, Starbucks and Costa. It has gone the way of all specialist streets.
Clearly, though, the centre of interest is shifting west by a block as good old Rathbone Place takes off in in the wake of Mark Zuckerberg and his thousands.