The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

Photo © Richard Glover, courtesy Chetwood Associates

Lost Modern

Sainsbury’s, Greenwich, London

Status: Destroyed
Type: Commercial/offices
Architect: Chetwood Associates
Location: 55 Bugsby's Way, Greenwich, London SE10

Sainsbury’s unique eco-millennium store represented a complete re-think of traditional supermarket design, with every aspect of the standard retail ‘shed’ re-assessed to maximise energy efficiency, minimise environmental impact and make shopping more pleasant for customers..

When it opened, the award winning store, designed by Paul Hinkin at Chetwood Associates, scored the highest ever official environmental rating for a retail building with a perfect 31 out of 31 points, and was the first store to be awarded an “excellent” BREEAM rating.

The opening in 1999 by Jamie Oliver,  was widely covered in the national press.  Although there was keen popular interest in the building’s sustainability credentials, its architectural quality was also widely recognised. Reviews published at the time noted that ‘in appearance as well as sustainable design, the new building breaks with the dismal supermarket tradition of large, rectangular, artificially lit sheds’ (Building, 1999).

The RIBA Journal (November 1999) stated that: “The form of the external design is frankly lovely.  The main entrance elevation uses surprisingly welcoming materials, with the main glazed entrance flanked by untreated oak boarded drums with flank walls, earth mounds and turfed slopes. The service areas are masked using site reclaimed stones within wire gabion baskets filled with demolition waste and planted with creepers and alpines.”

Everything from the form of the building to the construction materials and finishes, was carefully chosen both for its appearance and for its sustainability credentials.  Many of the materials were recycled, such as the entrance lobby floor made from recycled aircraft and car tyres and the toilet wall panelling of melted recycled plastic bottles.

The building’s innovation and architectural merit were recognised through a number of awards, including: shortlisting for the RIBA Stirling Prize; selection by the Design Council as a Millennium Product; the RIBA Journal Sustainability Award; the Design Museum’s Design Sense Award; Retail Week Store Design of the Year 2000; Channel 4 Building of the Year People’s Choice 2000.

C20 Society fought to have the building listed at grade II *, but following English Heritage’s recommendation that it was not good enough, the Secretary of State decided to issue a certificate of immunity. The building was demolished in 2016 and replaced with an IKEA store.

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