Built between 1976 and 1978, Keybridge House on London’s Lambeth Road had been described as one of the last hurrahs of the modernist architectural style in London.
Although not designed specifically as a housing block, it had, over the years, become irresistible as a place to live for at least one pair of London’s celebrated Peregrine falcons, a very special, rare and officially protected species.
So out of bounds are these delightful creatures that when one such couple of soon-to-be parents sets down for a spell, as they did atop the Keybridge House in the middle of the SENTINEL experiment, no one is allowed to go anywhere near them, meaning the project, with all installed equipment, had to be abandoned until the birds were well and done and the little ones had flown the coop.
“By February, it was too late to get on the roof,” says Curry. “The nesting Peregrine is protected by law, so we couldn’t get back up there until July.”
“The presence of the birds meant that our GAJT could not be removed for some months,” says Soar, “although the trial was initially supposed to last only for a few weeks.” However, he adds, the antenna remained working and protecting GNSS signals throughout. So the fine, feathered, and very happy couple had in fact helped researchers to prove not only the power of the GAJT but also its durability and longevity.
Alas, none of them will be coming back again, neither the birds nor the researchers. In the summer of 2014, after the chicks had flown the nest and the SENTINEL node had been dismantled, Keybridge House was demolished. With a major UK-based telco relocating and the venerable old building beyond refurbishing, city planners had given the OK for the place to be put to rest, permanently.