The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

Department stores

The Centre:MK – Milton Keynes

Nominated by: C20
Have C20 acted upon before? No
Region: South East
Former names: Binns
Dates from: 1979
Built for: Milton Keynes Development Corporation
Architect: Architects were Derek Walker, Stuart Mosscrop, and Christopher Woodward, who had been Chief and senior architects at the Milton Keynes Development Corporation; and the engineers were Felix Samuely and Partners.
Listed: Grade II
Features of merit: The cool, elegant, steel framed design was influenced by the architecture of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and echoed glazed shopping streets or arcades on the grand scale of the Galleria in Milan. The designer, Derek Walker, also likened it to the Crystal Palace. It was described in 1993 as "still the best-looking if no longer the biggest shopping centre in the British Isles". It is unusual for second generation shopping centres in Europe for the amount of daylight allowed into the public areas, for the rigorous control of retail facias along the arcades themselves, for its public art, the unusually high level of accessibility for visitors with limited mobility (and other users laden with children and shopping), the lavish extent of the public spaces and their interior planting (reduced since the buildings was completed) and for the cool mirrored exterior. Public access to all units is flush and at ground level. Some of the shops e.g. John Lewis, Debenhams and Next have two or three floors inside. A service road for deliveries runs above the shops, so that large trucks may service the shops at roof level, removing the peripheral service roads and loading bays at ground level that mar so many large shopping malls. This means all deliveries take place out of view of the shoppers, though tall trucks can sometimes be seen from the arcades as they pass at high level. The internal landscaping was very lavish with 47 plant beds with large plants and trees; temperate in the northerly arcade and semi-tropical in the southerly one. The planters were finished in the same travertine as the floor, but approximately one third of these have been removed since the building was opened, with consequent loss of both planting and seating for shoppers, to accommodate market barrows and stalls.

New owners: In March 2013, Intu Properties plc bought the property from its original owners, Legal & General, for £250.5 million. In June 2020, Intu Properties went into administration. In September 2020, property group ‘Ellandi’ took control of the centre.

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