The Twentieth Century Society

Listings reports

Summer 2015

Added

British Library, Euston Road, London; Colin St John Wilson with MJ Long and others, 1982-99;
Grade I

Historic England praised the BL’s ‘stately yet accessible modernist design rooted in the English Free tradition with Arts and Crafts and classical influences’, its craftsmanship, skilful handling of a range of materials externally and internally, well-planned interior spaces, and fusion of art with architecture as a component of the design ethos, e.g.Paolozzi’s Newton in the piazza.

Former Western Morning News Building, Brest Road, Plymouth; Sir Nicholas Grimshaw, 1993;
Grade II*

This award-winning building was listed at Grade II* after a high-profile C20 Society campaign with Sir Nicholas Grimshaw and support from the regional group and local residents. Recognising that the combined newspaper office and production building met the high standard for listing a recent building at Grade II*, HE noted the ‘powerful and striking design’ and ‘audacious, fully-glazed curved wall with steel tusks’. Grimshaw is a pioneer of high-tech, and this is a rare example of a large newspaper production facility integrating industrial and commercial functions.

Gulbenkian Centre, University of Hull; Peter Moro, 1967-69; Grade II
This purpose-built drama studio formed a key component of the University’s post-war plan by Sir Leslie Martin. HE cited its distinctive sculptural form, group value, and place in Moro’s career as a theatre designer.

Men’s Social Services Centre for the Salvation Army, City Road, Newcastle; Ryder and Yates, 1974; Grade II
HE recognised this building as the best example nationally of the new-style post-war Salvation Army Hostel. The exterior has an unusual and striking pattern of windows and a curving form that responds to the rise and curve of the street. The building demonstrates the influence of Lubetkin and Le Corbusier on the healthcare and welfare buildings by this important post-war regional practice, much of whose work has been lost.

Church of the Ascension, Wembley Park, LB Brent; J Harold Gibbons, 1957; Grade II
This church was the last work of a noted C20 church designer working within the high Anglican tradition. HE praised the ‘assured essay in a free and simplified Gothic’, and the clarity of line, spatial organisation and rich colour scheme of the interior. It also has a notable Ascension mural by Hans Feibusch.

Turned Down

Robin Hood Gardens, Robin Hood Lane, Poplar, LB Tower Hamlets; Alison and Peter Smithson, 1967
This key work is modelled on the ‘streets in the sky’ concept, comprising two concrete slab blocks arranged around a landscaped setting of raised mounds. After a protracted and frustrating assessment process during which the Society and leading architects and academics, organised by Lord Rogers, pressed for listing, the DCMS is set to issue a second CoI, preventing listing for a further five years and enabling its probable demolition. We have issued a Freedom of Information request to determine how the decision was made and what expertise HE drew on to arrive at this decision.

Bernard Morgan House, 43 Golden Lane, City of London; Chief Architect and Surveyor of the Metropolitan Police, J Innes Elliott, 1960
This section house for the Met is characterised by varied, exuberant and high quality detailing and elevation treatments. But HE said the overall design lacked the rigour and finesse of the best post-war examples of Modern Movement section houses. Also, although it lies close to the listed buildings of the contemporary Golden Lane estate, it had no strong visual or functional interrelationship with them.

Museum of London and Bastion House, 150 London Wall, City of London; Powell and Moya, 1971-76
The Society did not object to the issue of a CoI in respect of the Museum of London, given the extensive alterations made to the building in the 1990s. However, we argued that Bastion House has unaltered facades of a Miesian character and, as a rare survivor of the City’s post-war planning, deserves listing. HE nevertheless issued CoIs for both buildings, finding that neither compared favourably to listed examples of Powell and Moya’s work, and that Bastion House’s historic interest in planning terms was not sufficient to compensate for this.

Pembroke Road Depot, Offices, Housing and Nursery, Pembroke Road, RB Kensington and Chelsea; Arup Associates, 1972-75
This striking 1970s mixed-use development houses the borough’s refuse depot and council offices on the two lower floors and residential flats and maisonettes on the upper floors around a central courtyard; a ‘London square in the sky’ above the monumental depot and workshop below. HE recommended against listing and granted a CoI, finding that it was not among Arup’s best work, with neither the vertical segregation of functions nor the revival of the urban square and terrace being particularly novel concepts at this date.

Commonwealth House, New Oxford Street, London; H P Cart de Lafontaine, 1939
This is a prominent office building on the triangular site where New Oxford Street and High Holborn meet. HE concluded that although it drew on a variety of sources, including stripped classicism and Art Deco styles, ‘the result is less than coherent and lacks the compositional interest that might be expected of a substantial commercial building in a prominent urban location.’ Key features such as external doors and shop fronts have been replaced, and no internal features of note survive.

Former Highshore School, Bellenden Road, Peckham; Noel Moffett & Associates, 1967-69
HE recognised that this school was a noteworthy example of planning for children with learning disabilities, with classrooms staggered and separated to create sheltered open-air bays, but concluded that it did not meet the standard for listing. HE said that the layout was not intrinsically innovative and the contrasting geometries of the parts not fully resolved. Moreover, architectural detailing was ‘wilful and flawed’ and the overall design let down by ‘crude and unresolved detailing’.

Panshangar, Weare Street, Capel, Dorking, Surrey; Michael Newberry, 1956-57
This was something entirely new in England at the time: a ‘modern’ steel-framed house entirely glazed on all four sides. It is a single-storey, 36ft-square glass box with a steel frame, with the bathroom, WC, kitchen and boiler room in a central core within the free-standing glazed envelope. HE recognised Panshangar as the earliest British steel-framed house, and unlike later examples not inspired by American precedents. But it said that the house had been substantially altered in the 1970s, with new internal partitions, and much of the glazing replaced by brickwork panels, so losing ‘the refinement of its careful detailing, its minimalist plan and material palette, its precision and sense of weightlessness – the qualities which marked [it] out for its radicalism and singularity.’

The Denys Wilkinson Building, Keble Road, Oxford University, Oxford; Philip Dowson of Ove Arup and Partners, 1963-71
This dramatically sculptural and innovative building helped establish Oxford as a major centre for university-based nuclear research. Its function is expressed in the fan-shaped accelerator tower, a dominant marker on the Banbury Road. An early example of design by Ove Arup and Partners, the complex is significant as an early example in the use of post and lintel design in concrete. The office and laboratory buildings follow the traditional college quadrangle arrangement but with modern materials and functionality. Despite HE’s recommendation to list, this was turned down by the Minister.

Put Forward

Central Hill, Lunham Road, LB Lambeth; Edward Hollamby (with team leader Rosemary Stjernstedt) for Lambeth Architects Department, 1974; Ove Arup Engineers
This high-density low-rise development is a strong example of the important legacy of progressive public housing in Lambeth under Ted Hollamby. Built on a steeply sloping, bowl-shaped site, it shows some of the fundamental principles and design features he advocated during the period: the use of a variety of unit types to suit different age-groups and family sizes, the complex inter-layering of mixed size units, the exploitation of natural topography, the arrangement of blocks to create a genuine community, the provision of generous private patios and balconies, and the simple robust detailing. As Lambeth has identified the estate as an area for potential regeneration, it is now under serious threat.

Cotton Gardens, Kennington Lane and Renfrew Road, LB Lambeth; George Finch (main job architect and group leader, under Edward Hollamby, Lambeth Borough Architect), 1966-68 and 1969
This mixed-use housing scheme is in two parts: three 22-storey point blocks (Ebenezer House, Fairford House and Hurley House) to the west on Kennington Lane, and Knight’s Walk, a group of low-rise patio houses to the east, separated from the point blocks by landscaped gardens and open space. The point blocks used a prefabricated concrete panel construction system developed by Wates, each tower consisting of two-storey maisonettes stacked above one another, producing a boldly articulated design with a strong silhouette. The low-rise housing acts as a counterfoil, with bungalows and blocks of flats distributed asymmetrically on either side of a central walkway. The overall design is strongly rectilinear, with flat roofs and an L-shaped footprint for each bungalow.

Birmingham Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Harborne Road, Birmingham; John Madin, 1961
A 2004 application to list this building was turned down due to alterations to the interior, and permission has been granted for demolition and redevelopment. We have renewed our submission after an application for a Certificate of Immunity (CoI) from listing. With a simple T-shaped plan of two individual blocks and a bridge element, this outstanding example of 1950s rational architecture has elegant proportions, attention to detailing and high quality natural materials inside and out. A large and intact John Piper mural adorns the entrance hall.

Church of St Mary, Wakehurst Drive, Southgate, Crawley, West Sussex; Donald F Martin-Smith and Henry Braddock, 1958
St Mary’s is built of reinforced concrete, with an elegant façade of brick and flint panels. An integrated hall to the west of the main church has wings providing meeting spaces and a stage. Its curved roof sweeps upwards over the nave and is topped with an openwork bell tower and fleche. The church’s walls step out to form a transept and a flat east end. There are metal-framed ‘slot’ windows, a leaded clerestory window that follows the sweep of the curved roof, and a large roof light under the bell tower.

Supported

Benthal Primary School, Benthal Road, LB Hackney; GLC Architects’ Department (Paul Maas),
1966-67

This school, which is under threat of demolition and redevelopment, is an excellent example of a design for ‘child-centred learning’. Loosely centred in a pinwheel fashion around a central hall (vaulted by four concave ribs which spring from the ground), individual classroom pavilions are modelled on the idea of caves and tents, each having generous proportions, a large central sky-light, its own exit to the playground or a small court, and small windows at children’s eye level.

The Lantern, Church Close, West Runton, Cromer, Norfolk; William Francis Tuthill, 1933
This moderne-style house is by a well-known local architect working in the north Norfolk area between the wars. It is an early example of a modernist house in a county often believed to have little notable modern architecture from this period.

Ellen Gates

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