1926: Shredded Wheat Factory, Welwyn
Architect: Louis de Soissons
Location: Welwyn Garden City
My choice is Louis de Soissons’ 1926 complex for Nabisco, the Shredded Wheat factory. The ranked silos and spreading sheds alongside the railway track in Welwyn Garden City have always fascinated me, glimpsed almost kinetically from the train windows. American companies, drawn by innovation, were quicker off the mark to move into Ebenezer Howard’s radical ‘cities’ (another example being Spirella at Letchworth, built 1912-20). Here, long before I’d learned that le Corbusier had published the grain stores of the American Midwest prairies as the epitome of modern form following function, was an anglicised version, a cathedral in a leafy Beaux-Arts planned town.
What I did not know when I proposed it is that the sheds have now been razed, leaving the Grade 2 listed elements (notably the silos) standing beached on a vast apron of vacant land. In January 2012, Welwyn Hatfield Council refused Tesco’s application for redevelopment. There was no appeal and since then the remaining buildings have fallen increasingly derelict.
by Gillian Darley
photo c. Elain Harwood