The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

Click to see full size Photo © John East

100 Buildings 100 Years

1990: Vauxhall Cross, London

Type: Commercial/offices
Architect: Terry Farrell
Location: 865 Albert Embankment, London

Terry Farrell’s Vauxhall Cross, widely known as the headquarters of M16, has been blown up twice – in the James Bond movies The World is not Enough (1999) and Skyfall (2012). I imagine a few hardline modernists cheered as the place went up. The building, one of a trio of big London projects which marked Farrell’s conversion to postmodernism, has been controversial from the time of its completion more than 20 years ago. Denys Lasdun, who had an office facing it across the Thames, particularly loathed it – just as Nikolaus Pevsner loathed Wallis Gilbert’s Hoover Building, now revered as a deco icon. Tastes change, and my prediction is that Farrell’s building will eventually be recognised as one of the more distinguished products of the brief flowering of British postmodernism in the 1980s. Its eclecticism offends some, but as Charles Jencks remarked, ‘who said Postmodernism is pure?’ How superior Vauxhall Cross is to most of the subsequent development along the river: forget stylistic issues, this is a building which responds to and enhances its setting.

by Ken Powell

Search 100 Buildings 100 Years

Look for buildings by entering the name of a building or architect or browsing the drop down list. Each entry gives the architect and location, and the icons show listing status. Where available, we have linked to detailed online information about the building, such as the Historic England listing description.

  • Search

  • Or