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This paper explores the contribution made to debates over the redevelopment of the nineteenth-century Bishopsgate goodsyard site in Spitalfields, London, by an experimental architectural artwork entitled Intact by Office for Subversive Architecture. Readings of the urban character of Spitalfields are reviewed, as imagined and captured in film and in literary narrative. Applying in this way an approach related to what Luckhurst terms ‘the spectral turn’ in urban historiography, I use these readings as a background for examining the site's recent development. Over the last twenty years, it has been subject to a variety of urban proposals. While some have pressed for virtually complete demolition of existing structures, others have focused on aspects of urban character and possibilities for intensifying use through intervention. The Intact project involves a reinterpretation of a small fragment of railway architecture. I argue that it suggests, playfully, the potential for re-imagining the site that interacts nonetheless with readings of the past.