The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

We are C20

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.

We are C20 photo Edmund Bird Cincinnati Railway Station

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.”

We are C20 Rosemary Hill Photo Dublin airport

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.”

We are C20 Robert Drake Villa Mairea Finland

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.”

We are C20 Thaddeus Zupancic National Theatre

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.”

We are C20 Patty and Michael Hopkins Photo Hopkins Houses House

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.”

We are C20 Susannah Charlton Photo Brunswick Thaddeus Zupancic

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!

Dr Alan Powers Author and C20 Trustee

My first contact with the C20 Society was actually with its predecessor, the Thirties Society, when in November 1979 I received an invitation via Clive Aslet to its launch and I joined the society then. I later became a member of the committee in 1981 when Clive asked me to take on the casework, which I did for the next ten years. After that, I became Honorary Secretary, Vice-Chair and later Chairman.

My first memory of visiting a C20 building could have been the house in Hampstead my father designed, which we moved into in 1959. I remember a site-visit during construction, when I must have been four and lived there until I was sixteen.

In terms of living in a C20 building there’s the Hampstead house obviously but, before I left home, we lived in another 1950s house in Highgate. Both houses had a nice relationship to their gardens, and plenty of light which I liked. I also had a college room at Cambridge for two years in a building of 1959 designed by David Roberts, it was also well-lit, and I preferred it to my first year room in a building by Giles Gilbert Scott.

My favourite C20 building could well be 3 Church Walk Aldeburgh by Jim and Betty Cadbury Brown. It exemplifies how modern architecture is different to what went before, being designed from the inside outwards with a simple plan but surprising variety and complexity of spaces, outlooks and moods.

Finally, if I could ensure one UK building is preserved forever, it might be the De La Warr Pavilion. It was rescued from a rather despondent state, and is looking good now, but being by the sea isn’t easy.

Photo credit: https://3churchwalk.blogspot.com/

Tony Stokoe C20 South West Regional Group Chair

I first heard about the C20 Society in about 1995, I think it was a result of a flyer I picked up at a vintage fair and after that I started attending regular events, the first being Richard Gray’s ‘Six Pillars and other monuments’, around Dulwich.

My reason for continuing to support the C20 society is quite simple, it’s because of the important work it does as the only statutory body established to save and celebrate post-1914 architecture.

Growing up in Northumberland the first memory I have of visiting a C20 building is Ryder and Yates’ Mamourian House (though I didn’t know this at the time), it was owned by the then chairman of the local antiquarian society which my mother was involved with; the building was an absolute revelation to me, I had never seen the likes of before!

Of the houses I have lived in Don Stevens’ Pinewood is my favourite, I think of it as a fine example of mid-century modernism with acres of exposed brick, pine cladding and glass, in a rural setting (the house featured in the ‘Members Homes’ autumn 2006 C20 newsletter).

Though I didn’t actually go to school or work in an interesting C20 building, I did do my degree at Newcastle Polytechnic from where I spent many hours looking out at and admiring the Newcastle Civic Centre across from there, a masterpiece of Scandinavian inspired architecture.

On the subject of my favourite C20 building, I love the work of Aldington and Craig and their trio of houses at Turn End are, to me, the perfect example of quiet, accomplished, beautifully detailed and yet modest modernism becoming part of the landscape. To me the title of Jane Brown’s book about it ‘A garden and three houses’ says it all.

Travel wise, the furthest I’ve ever been to see a C20 building is the ‘States I suppose. On my first trips to California in the early 80s we would take what we called the ‘Red Book’, which details all the work and locations of the Frank Lloyd Wright buildings. We toured the State and would rock up at a house saying loudly in our best plummy English accent how much we loved it, which gave us access to many private houses not open to the public!

I have collected quite a lot C20 stuff, furniture, crockery and cars! My first job was working for GPlan and I have many of their pieces including our dining table – this is a prototype of a range they decided not to put into production – they were going to destroy it, but I managed to acquire it instead.

If, given the chance, the architect I’d most like to take me on a one-on-one tour of one of their own buildings, that would be Richard Neutra, it would mean raising him from the dead but, I’d love him to show me round the Kaufman House in Palm Springs.

And finally, if you could ensure one UK building is preserved forever, which one would it be? Gosh, an impossible question, there are so many candidates… If it has to be one and with my particular interest in houses, then more special to me, with its clever layout interlinked spaces and wonderfully preserved 1950s interior, is Farnley Hey by Peter Wormesley, in Yorkshire.

Ellen Gates C20 Trustee & Volunteer

I can’t recall when I first heard about the C20 Society as it’s so long ago and for many years after I became a member, I simply didn’t have time to do more than attend the occasional walk and lecture. This changed when I retired and I began looking for volunteering opportunities, and being passionate about the built environment when I saw a note on the C20 website that they were looking for volunteers I got in contact, and 7 years later I’m still here.

My reason for supporting the C20 Society is centred around my belief of the need for having attractive and interesting surroundings with buildings from a variety of periods: to me, it makes for a more civilised society, creates interest and simply makes people feel better. I think the best architecture from all periods should be protected but, recognise that C20 buildings face an extra burden; the C20 Society does a great job of raising awareness of Britain’s great C20 heritage, and I’m very happy to be part of that.

If asked whether I had ever lived in a C20 building, what it was, and why I liked it you might be surprised by my answer, as I was, it being only until fairly recently that I realised the house I grew up in, in a small Texas town, was a classic American Mid-Century modern house.

My mother had found a picture and floorplan in a women’s magazine (this would have been about 1956 or 57) and the local builder (‘old’ Mr Evans) managed to turn it into a workable plan. The result was a fairly modest two storey building on a square plan with a flat roof and an open carport on the front. Half the ground floor was orange brick, surrounding the very simple dark green door; the rest of the exterior was clad in asbestos shingles painted a mid-grey.

Inside, the ground floor was open plan, with the living room along one side of the house flowing into the dining area and then the kitchen in a U around a central utility core. The walls were painted a dark mossy green—a classic 50s colour. The furniture was mostly Scandinavian in design, with a low sofa and simple coffee table of blond wood with screw-in legs. A tiny WC was tucked under the stairs. Upstairs there were three bedrooms and a single family bath.

It was probably representative of a style of house being built all over the country at the time, the main distinction being that it was not a ranch style house. But in a town characterised by anti-bellum mansions and Victorian cottages, it must have been noteworthy, and I am somewhat surprised that my mother (a newcomer to the conservative rural town) had the courage to build it.

One of my treasured possessions is a painting of the house done by the neighbour across the street shortly after it was completed, with my sister’s bike and my tricycle under the carport, and a large Texas live oak tree in the background.

The furthest I’ve been to see a C20 building is Delhi. On my first trip to India, my husband and I were being driven from Jaipur back to Delhi and I remembered having listened to a talk by Gavin Stamp on the C20 website about brick churches in which he mentioned Shoosmith’s, St Martin’s Garrison Church, located in the military cantonments west of Delhi.

I realised that we would be passing nearby and asked our driver if we could go there – he had never heard of the church and was very dubious about taking us to a place so off the beaten track but, between he and my husband they worked out a route and he reluctantly took us there.

We arrived in late afternoon and were blown away by the church, with its massive red brick walls glowing in the afternoon sun, small windows (allowing the church to play a defensive role if necessary) and dominating tower. Arthur Gordon Shoosmith was Lutyen’s assistant in Delhi, and this was the only major work he ever completed, well worth the detour, and even a trip to Delhi!

John Gringrod Architectural Writer & Author

I first came across the C20 Society and its existence through buying a few of the Society’s journals and although an overt interest in modern architecture and design came to me quite late discovering the C20 Society was brilliant, I found it a great place to find out more and meet like-minded folk.

Then I went on my first trip with the society which was to the Smithson’s Smithdon school in Hunstanton, I and countless others see as ‘the cradle of new brutalism’ – the trip was aseccentric as the building itself, so I was sold!

 In relation to having a first memory of visiting a C20 building, I grew up in a mid-century council estate so in one sense everything around – my school, the houses and flats, shops and factory units – were my first memories of experiencing any type of building. That the whole world wasn’t like that came as a bit of a shock.

Reflecting on my favourite feature of a C20 building I simply can’t think of anything better than the glass and art in Coventry Cathedral, I find the whole place incredibly moving.

And finally, If I could ensure one UK building is preserved forever, I’d love to see Kate Macintosh’s Dawson’s Heights preserved forever, an inspiring symbol of creative and beautiful municipal housing, a reminder of an era of optimism and generosity.

Pauline Mousley C20 Society Southern Group Joint Co-ordinator

My first contact with the C20 Society was a long time ago and I continue to support the Society for two reasons: firstly I very much believe the architecture of this era is undervalued and secondly because I absolutely love visiting them!

I feel very fortunate to have worked in three C20 buildings that I consider very interesting: Barclays House, Poole by Wilson Mason Partners – the 3 circular towers were always reminiscent of gas holders, Palmer & Turner’s Jardine House (formerly Connaught Centre) Hong Kong – in early 80’s I worked on the 35th floor of this 1970’s building once the highest in the region and finally  Portsmouth Water offices, Havant.

At the top of my wish list to visit next is Falling Water, Pennsylvania by Frank Lloyd Wright.

Stuart Tappin Structural Engineer and member of C20 Society Casework Committee

My first contact with the C20 Society was when they moved into Cowcross Street & I joined the Casework team.

My first memory of visiting a C20 building was seeing the Daily Express building in Fleet Street during a London by Night coach trip – I guess sometime in the mid 1960s.

The C20 building which I live and/or work in is easy, I’m lucky to both live/work at the Patrick Hodgkinson’s Brunswick Centre in London.

My favourite C20 building is the De la Warr Pavilion and top of my wish list to visit next is the Sydney Opera House and finally, the UK building that I would like to see preserved forever is easy, it’s the Royal Festival Hall.

Suzanne Waters C20 Member and former event leader

My first contact with the C20 Society was through Nicholas Long, who was Treasurer at the time. I was attending the Victorian Society Summer School in 1989 and I met him and of course Gavin Stamp who was leading the programme.  Nicholas suggested I join what was then the Thirties Society, which I subsequently did.

My first memory of visiting a C20 building is easy in that I was brought up on the Roehampton estate (Alton West) so apart from my home, the first C20 building I visited would be the library (when I was 5) which sadly is slated to be demolished.

I grew up in one of the maisonettes on the estate (not the Le Corb ones their rent was quite high) – people often ask me what did I like about it and are somewhat surprised when I reply that I wouldn’t say I particularly liked it, they weren’t very well insulated – notorious ice-boxes!

My favourite C20 building is Denys Lasdun’s National Theatre. I simply love the building and the detail in the boardmarking, it would be fantastic to hear from Denys himself the genesis of the building and of course, it is ‘THE’ UK building that I would like to see preserved forever!

David Heath C20 Society Trustee and Chair of the Casework Committee

I can’t remember when I first got involved with C20 – all I know is it was a very long time ago! My principle reason for my involvement is centred around my passion to try to promote the belief that all buildings are of importance of and worthy of similar care regardless of the period in which they were built.

My first memory of visiting a C20th building was as a child being taken to special concerts for children in the Royal Festival Hall – the arrival, the foyers and the hall itself were all magical.

Although I haven’t lived in a C20 building, I did used to stay at a family friend’s during the school holidays who lived in one of the William Lescaze designed buildings on the Darlington Hall Estate, I remember wishing that all houses could be like this.

I’m not sure whether this is the furthest I have ever travelled to see a C20 building but I did travel to Finland to see all the Alvar Aalto buildings I could & the best thing about it all was getting to stay in one of the guest rooms at the Säynätasalo Town Hall.

The architect I would like to take me on a one-on-one tour would have to be Peter Zumthor to talk to him about his Kolumba Museum in Cologne.  His journey from being an architect working on the repair and protection of ancient buildings in Switzerland to one who designs buildings is endlessly fascinating to me.

The one UK building that I would want preserved forever would be Berthold Lubetkin’s  Finsbury Health Centre as he said “nothing is too good for ordinary people” – and I still believe that.