Grey Room

Liquid History: Millbank, London and the Thames Flood of 1928

Tobah Auckland-Peck

Flooding of the Tate Gallery, 1928. Photo: Tate.


To connect natural, governmental, and societal forces to one another through water highlights the inherently unfixed nature of such relationships. This approach challenges the teleological urban history typically associated with government intervention in the built environment. The overwhelming riverwaters of the Thames illuminated the failure of legislation to suppress two types of disruptions: natural forces and the working class. While each threatened the ideal city envisioned by London authorities, where the government sought to represent its power through a cohesive monumental architecture cleanly divided from working-class homes and workplaces, the history of Millbank shows that natural and class-based influences were already integrated into the site. As environmental forces increasingly shape our day-to-day lives (even in cities where infrastructure works to suppress nature), this article adopts the disorder of natural disaster to challenge established narratives of chronology, infrastructure, capital, and government.