The Twentieth Century Society

Listings reports

Summer 2014

Added

Alpha Tower, Queensway, Birmingham; George March of Richard Seifert & Partners, 1970-72; Grade II

We are delighted that Alpha Tower has been listed Grade II. EH described it as ‘one of the most aesthetically successful buildings in Birmingham, with a shaped outline and careful detailing giving it a dynamic forcefulness.’ The overall plan form remains, as do original staircases, doors and windows. This is the second Seifert building, after Centre Point, to be listed.

 Victoria Coach Station, London SW1; Wallis, Gilbert and Partners, 1931-32; Grade II

One of London’s most striking Art Deco buildings, the station was listed for its bold and striking architectural design, remarkable for a transport building of its period, and its group value with the Imperial Airways Empire Terminal building opposite. It also has historic interest as part of the rise of motor-coach excursions in the inter-war period.

Ready Mix Concrete (RMC) International Headquarters, Egham, Surrey; Edward Cullinan Architects, 1990; Grade II*

This innovative late 1980s 5,000 sq m development was built in the grounds of Grade II-listed Eastley End House. The scheme linked three existing, disparate buildings by mainly single-storey offices within a framework of courts and axial paths, with each office having a glazed wall onto a courtyard. The offices had green roofs (mostly of close-cut lawn) to blend into the greenbelt site. EH called it ‘an outstanding instance of integrated architectural and landscape design… an outstanding example of contextual planning on a green-belt site, weaving together new and historic elements to create a seamless and site-specific design.’ It also praised the design’s visual richness, colour and humour.

Former Bus Station, Station Square, Milton Keynes; MKDC, 1982/83; Grade II

EH praised the structural interest of this freestanding pavilion, provided by the deep projecting canopy, slung from exposed steel girders supported on lightweight steel columns; the travertine cladding of the core building which is detailed to an unusually high standard; and the sculptural treatment of the internal and external naturally-lit waiting areas. Phoenix House and Elder House were excluded from the designation, but noted as of local importance as part of Milton Keynes’ planned transport hub.

Balwearie High School, Kircaldy, Fife; Fife Regional Council Architectural Services, 1960-64;
Category B

Historic Scotland recognised this school as ‘among the very best examples of school building of the post-war building period in Scotland’. The design incorporates modernist architectural devices such as concrete pilotis supporting the main concrete superstructure, glazed curtain walls, elevated walkways and linking corridors, angular projections and glazed cut-outs, and roof-top classrooms. A nautical theme runs through the design detail, adding to its period interest. We think the assembly hall ceiling and curved concrete pillars within the stained-glass window are particularly noteworthy.

Turned Down

The Studio, Paignton, Devon; Mervyn Seal and Associates, 1976/77 and 1981

The Secretary of State went against EH’s advice and refused to list this regionally important architect’s office for which we supported a third party application. Described by EH as an ‘eclectic and well-realised example of the late 1970s architectural zeitgeist’, it features an unusual plan form, and lavish interior design. EH recommended it for listing because of its strong organic design, innovative plan, intact fittings and bespoke furniture.

Sainsbury’s Greenwich, LB Greenwich; Chetwood Associates, 1999

We are disappointed that this unique eco-millennium store now has immunity from listing for five years, as it represented a complete re-think of traditional supermarket design. Every aspect of the standard retail ‘shed’ was re-assessed to maximise energy efficiency, minimise environmental impact and improve customer experience. It now looks set to be lost and replaced by an IKEA ‘shed’ of the type Paul Hinkin (who died in August 2014) and his team so successfully challenged. EH praised the ‘graceful, humanised and inspiring’ design, but said it did not meet the high special interest bar for listing at Grade II* (needed for a building under 30 years old).

8-13 King William Street, The City of London; Fitzroy Robinson & Partners, 1974-78

This former HQ of the Banque Nationale de Paris was included on the long list of EH’s National Heritage Protection Plan: Commercial Offices 1964-94, but not deemed a sufficiently strong candidate to progress to full assessment, and it has now been turned down for listing. Although recognising that the colonnaded composition reflected the classical banks on King William Street, EH described the design as overscaled and lacking in finesse.

Empress State Building, LB Hammersmith and Fulham; Stone, Toms and Partners, 1958-61

This landmark building dominates the skyline in the Earls Court area. We think it is a good example of its era, a landmark building that is capable of sympathetic refurbishment and alteration. EH concluded, however, that its interest had been diminished through extensive remodelling.

Novartis Pharmaceuticals UK Ltd, Horsham, W Sussex; O’Donoghue and Halfhide, 1937/38 and Arup Associates, 1963/64

EH assessed the whole of the Novartis site but with a focus on Buildings 1, 2, 3 and 18. We think the complex, and Building 3 in particular, is a rare example of a late 1930s commercial development; the buildings are largely unaltered, and their very high original quality is still evident. EH agreed that the scale and setting are impressive and that it survives with relatively little alteration, the quality of the stair tower interior being particularly good, but it said that overall it lacks the quality of design, detailing and craftsmanship needed to warrant listing. It also refused to list other buildings on the site.

Euston Station, LB Camden; Taylor Woodrow in-house design group (led by Theo Crosby) with BR London Midland Railway’s architecture department (under WR Headley), 1967

Euston Station is a rare example of a major post-war terminus, reflecting changes brought about by electrification. But EH said that, while the concourse building, with its lofty main circulation hall, is not without merit, the other elements (notably the train shed) are disappointing. The complex makes innovative provision for motor traffic, but ‘the plan is seldom given any memorable architectural expression’, and the design has been compromised by later interventions. EH also concluded that the station is poorly integrated with nearby listed buildings.

Former Gaumont Cinema and Trafalgar Public House, King’s Road, RBKC; Cinema by Trent & Tully, 1934, converted 1972; pub by Sidney Charles Clark, 1932

Certificates of Immunity from listing were granted to this cinema and pub. In both cases the original 1930s façades remain, although the cinema interior was lost in an earlier conversion. The cinema, in particular, retains its distinctive original fenestration pattern of classic long windows with square ones above.  EH, however, said that both buildings are of limited architectural interest and have been significantly altered.

Civic Offices, Chester le Street, Durham; Neil Taylor of Faulkner-Brown, Hendy, Watkinson, Stonor, 1981/82

This award-winning post-modernist civic centre with health centre, police station and magistrates’ court, used a pioneering external walling system, with a dramatic and futuristic silver and glass form and central curved atrium. But while EH called the building a competent example of the high-tech concept, it said the building did not show the levels of imagination, ingenuity or sophistication demanded from listed examples of the genre and that the complex sits awkwardly within the wider townscape.

Clapperhill House, Pamber End, Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council; Boulton and Paul, 1926

The Norwich-based engineering firm Boulton & Paul produced a wide range of temporary and permanent prefab structures, and this is a rare surviving example of one of their largest and most expensive designs. It is built of unpainted rough-cast on a timber frame with decorative half-timbering, its attractive yet subtle vernacular having both Arts & Crafts and Tudor influences. We felt it was an unusual example of an inter-war prefab, but EH concluded that it lacked the competence in design present in earlier and smaller houses by the firm, while the technology was by then no longer innovative.

Former Copyright House, 29-33 Berners Street, LB Westminster; R Seifert & Partners, 1957-59

An interesting feature of these offices is the use of Portland stone cladding alternating with horizontal strip windows, with no reference to the structural frame behind. The building hints at the influence of the Spanish-Mexican architect Félix Candela, particularly in the pierced, undulating concrete shell canopy at high level. While EH recognised that the rooftop canopy provides an enjoyable flourish, it felt that the building is otherwise a fairly standard (and somewhat altered) post-war commercial building, essentially similar to scores of others erected during the late-1950s office boom.

Put Forward

Horizon Tobacco Factory, Nottingham; Arup and Associates, 1968-1972

We put this factory forward for listing for its outstanding significance as a work of modern industrial architecture. The design had to meet the stringent atmospheric demands of tobacco production, with a significant degree of flexibility to meet changing needs. The simple grid layout allows for the building to be extended in any direction. It’s also of interest as one of the largest and most complex buildings erected in this country at the time, and used sophisticated contract management techniques.

Studio Complex, 1-8 Langtry Walk and 61-83 Loudoun Road, LB Camden; Tom Kay Associates,
1974-80

This complex, next to the Grade II*-listed Alexandra Road Estate, consists of two separate sites: one a combination of small mechanical workshops and housing, the other a mix of ground-floor shop units, studio spaces and flats. The complex provides an important segue between the sculptural concrete and high-density housing of the Alexandra Road Estate itself and the older residential brick housing to the east. It seamlessly combines industrial and work space with living accommodation in an intricate arrangement characterised by staggered heights and an unusual curved profile which gives the volume of the building the impression of movement.

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