To mark our 40th anniversary we asked a number of our members and supporters to talk about how and why they joined C20 Society, and which buildings matter to them. Watch out for more coming soon.
Edmund Bird Heritage Manager, Transport for London
“My first memory of visiting a C20 building was seeing the very old fashioned 1920s Woolworth’s store in Bishop’s Stortford as a young boy in the 1970s. Later on, as I researched dusty old records for my dissertation on the 1920s grouping of the railways, I remember being totally overawed by Charles Holden’s London Senate House Library of 1937, with its acres of travertine and English walnut panelling. 25 years later I found myself working in another Holden classic, 55 Broadway which is also very dear to my heart. I continue to support C20 Society because as the pace of town and city development grows, and the pressure of over-population in the U.K gets more acute, fine 20th century buildings are increasingly threatened with demolition. C20 Society is needed even more today than in its early days. In the future, I’d love to visit the extraordinary Union Station in Cincinnati opened in 1933 and if I could see one 20th century building that has been destroyed be faithfully reconstructed, it would be The Ocean Terminal, Southampton (built in 1950, demolished in 1980). It was such a stylish and elegant edifice with a tragically short life, demolished just a few years before transatlantic voyages and cruising became popular again.”
Rosemary Hill Writer and historian
“My first encounter with C20 was in the 1990s. I knew Alan Powers who told me he was going to Dublin with the Society and firmly said that I should come. I replied that I wasn’t a member and he said ‘you’ll enjoy it, you can join later’. He was right. When we arrived at Dublin airport, Alan announced that we were going straight onto the roof of the original building by Desmond Fitzgerald. I didn’t know Dublin at all and the whole trip was a revelation. Not least the amazing speed and intensity with which it went. We charged through the Lying-In Hospital’s amazing interior to the astonishment of a several women in dressing gowns holding babies. I felt that I had found my tribe and joined immediately. I was always affected by architecture before I could articulate my feelings about it even to myself. My childhood home was a cosy inter-war chalet style house (my mother was adamant that it was NOT a bungalow) in New Eltham. I liked it, but when we later moved to a c1906 Arts and Crafts house in Surrey, I liked that a lot more. Furthermore, the houses of Baillie Scott are some of my favourite C20 buildings. I love the interplay of hall and staircase, all the intricate volumes fitting and flowing together in a domestic space. I also love the wind tunnel at Farnborough – vast sublime machinery. If I could get any architect to take me around their C20 building, it would be Lutyens to see his amazing Castle Drogo. I continue to support the society for my own enjoyment and for the furtherance of the cause of intelligent planning, good architecture and the ethos of the amenity society.”
Robert Drake C20 Society Trustee and Events Secretary 1988-99
“I have been involved with the Society since 1981, when it was the Thirties Society. I heard about its existence through the Victorian Society and it reflected my strong interest in inter-war buildings developed from living in New York and Berlin. I later attended an event they held to see Holden’s Senate House, led by Bevis Hillier. My active involvement started with an invitation to join the Committee from Gavin Stamp who thought I could contribute and I quickly found my role in organising the events programme and setting a template for it which we have virtually continued to this day. I continue to support the Society because post-1914 buildings are still unappreciated, unloved and vulnerable to damaging alteration, even demolition, in a way in which buildings of earlier periods are no longer. My first memory of visiting a C20 building is going to a Dental Hospital in Glasgow around 1963. My father parked outside this amazing building with equally impressive nearby railings which I later realised was Rennie Mackintosh’s School of Art, which I visited with the C20 Society in 1990. I live in an Edwardian mansion block in Chiswick and I love its space, high ceilings and concrete floor insulation ensuring it’s quiet. It’s also now in a Conservation Area adjoining one in neighbouring Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham which helps with protection of the area. I went to school in East Kilbride, Scotland in a now demolished Basil Spence school, Duncanrig Senior Secondary opened in 1956, which had a fantastic mural of the Clyde Valley by William Crosbie – lost when the school was demolished a few years ago. The furthest I have travelled on a C20 event is Finland to see the fabulous Villa Mairea by Alvar Aalto for the Gullichsen family built in the late 30s.”
Thaddeus Zupancic C20 Instagram Manager
“I joined the C20 Society after seeing the 2009 exhibition ‘Robin Hood Gardens Re-Visions’ at RIBA. The Society’s battle to save the estate was a real eye-opener. One of my first contributions was helping to organise the Ljubljana tour, ‘Plečnik and More’. Before I moved to London in 1991, I studied comparative literature at the Ljubljana University’s Faculty of Arts. The faculty is in a very elegant 1961 building by Stanislav Rohrman, a lesser-known, but important Slovenian architect, a real link between Plečnik and Modernism. Brutalism is my favourite C20 architectural style and my favourite building of all time is Denys Lasdun’s National Theatre. I visited London for the first time in 1982 and I was running across Waterloo Bridge to get to it as quickly as possible. I love everything about it. My appreciation of brutalism only deepened the following year, when after seeing King Lear at the Barbican Centre, I spent hours wandering around the Barbican Estate, a Chamberlin, Powell & Bon masterpiece. I have been managing the Society’s Instagram account since August 2017, led a few more tours, including our first to Thamesmead, and have been a contributor to the magazine. Finally, if I could have an architect-led tour of a C20 building, I would love Neave Brown to take me around his Dunboyne Road Estate, where he lived for a few years until his death in 2018. It’s the best small council estate in London and it’s perfect.”
Patty & Michael Hopkins Founders of Hopkins Architects
“We continue to support C20 Society because it is doing good work. As C20 architects, we have designed many buildings including our Hampstead house in 1977 and our Marylebone offices in 1984. Both are steel structures with lots of glass and we like the spacious, airy feeling. There’s also much inside meets outside space, which is very important. We love many types of C20 buildings but as students we liked buildings from the 1930s because they weren’t terraced houses and gave opportunities. Whenever we have been abroad we’ve tried to see C20 buildings – America, India, and Japan: one thinks of the temples, but we’ve seen lots of twentieth century architecture in Tokyo where we have also built. Top on our list of C20 buildings to visit next are the Carré d’Art contemporary art museum in Nîmes by Norman Foster as well as his Millau Viaduct in the South of France. We’d also love to visit Le Corbusier’s Unité d’habitation in Marseille. Beyond architecture, we collect C20 paintings by friends and early C20 furniture.”
Susannah Charlton C20 Special Projects Consultant
“I first heard about the C20 Society when I went on a walk in London organised as part of Open House. After going to other events and lectures, I volunteered to help with the magazine. I was a trustee for 6 years and, years later, worked for the Society on publications, communication and most recently the brand new C20 website. I continue to support the Society because without it, many significant buildings would be at risk of demolition or damaging changes, as the planning of our built landscapes is increasingly abandoned to the brutal forces of the market, with little regard to the value of our heritage. C20 buildings shape the world we live in, record the history of our communities and create the character of our everyday landscape. C20 Society works in the vanguard of taste, helping us to appreciate buildings before it is too late. I used to work in One Canary Wharf when there were few other buildings on the Isle of Dogs. It felt very glamorous, and my office had fantastic views over south London. The flat I live in now is in the Brunswick, a building I would not have got to know without my involvement with C20 Society. I love the fact that it has a genuinely diverse community of residents, that it was designed as a mixed use development, so you have everything on your doorstep, and it is right in the middle of my favourite area of London. And the soaring internal spaces lift my spirits every day.”
Photo c. Thaddeus Zupancic
Julia Lane C20 Trustee & Honorary Secretary
I first became aware of C20 through the newspapers, but did not have the time to become an active member until I retired. A newsletter mentioned that the Society was in need of a trustee, preferably a lawyer, so I put my name forward. It is so important to protect modern architecture and to raise people’s awareness on this subject. My first memory of a C20 building was as a young child, aged 8. I walked into the newly built St William of York RC Church, Thornton, Lancs. I was astonished and wondered whether it was a sin to fall in love with a building. I did my degree at New Hall, Cambridge (Chamberlin, Powell and Bon 1964). I loved the concrete, the exposed brick and most of all, I adored the library. Later, my first job was in the India Buildings in Liverpool, where I purposely avoided the lift to admire the beautiful staircase. My next wish-list building visit would be to the De La Warr Pavilion and a one-to-one tour with Frank Gibberd around his Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral (1967). Finally, I would love the RC Cathedral of SS Peter and Paul, Bristol (Percy Partnership 1973), where I married my husband, to be preserved forever.
Jonathan Meades Writer and Film-maker
I first heard of C20 Society around the time it was founded, when I was working at the Architects Journal. Today, I continue to support it as I value the work they do, although it was a shame that the Tricorn and Trinity car-parks could not be saved. My first memory of a C20 building was the Wilton Carpet Factory near Salisbury. I passed it regularly and watched the hyperbolic paraboloid roof by Robert Townsend appear almost overnight. I now live in the Cité Radieuse, Marseille and as Piers Gough said – ‘it’s not a modern movement building, it’s an arts and crafts building in disguise’. My favourite C20 buildings would be Gottfried Boehm’s Mariendom in Neviges, nearly everything Michel De Klerk designed and Lars Sonck’s Helsinki Telephone Exchange. For a one-to-one architectural tour, I would love to step back in time with Sir John Vanbrugh for a visit of Seaton Delaval Hall (1727) – although not strictly C20. Finally, I would love to see the Lloyds Building preserved for ever.
Cela Selley Trustee & Events Secretary
In 1999, I saw a job advert in The Guardian headed ‘Do you like twentieth century buildings?’ I did, so successfully applied for the role of Office Manager. C20 is the organisation best placed to preserve and protect our c20 architectural heritage. Indeed, collectively, its members and staff have vast and interesting knowledge and expertise. My first memory of visiting a C20 building was when I was 4 years old: we went to see our new build 1960s house before it was finished. My younger brother knocked over an unattached radiator onto my grandmother’s foot. Now that I think about it, every building I’ve lived in for any length of time has been a c20 building. A 1930s flat above a row of shops, then a new build 1960s and currently 1930s suburbia. In my current house, I like the generous proportions of the rooms, the good-sized garden and the layout of the neighbourhood. The furthest I have ever travelled to see a C20 building was perhaps Havana, Cuba on the C20 trip led by Gavin Stamp or perhaps or perhaps Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West in Arizona. Not sure which is further from London!