The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

C20 launches 2023 ‘Risk List’ campaign

West Burton cooling towers, Nottinghamshire – Architects Design Group (1961-67)

Image: K7 Photography

The Twentieth Century Society is today launching its latest campaign: ‘The Risk List’ (a playful take on that media favourite, ‘The Rich List’) highlights the top 10 buildings most at risk of demolition, redevelopment or neglect in 2023, and how you can help save them.

From a Bengali women’s centre in London’s East End, to a brutalist John Lewis store in Scotland; a 1930s Art Deco holiday camp on the English Riviera, to a 1980s avant-garde pop pyramid in Milton Keynes, the 2023 list demonstrates the extraordinary breadth of architectural styles that characterised the period.

Yet these are also buildings that can divide opinion – perhaps none more so than the power station cooling towers of the Midlands and the North. Taller than the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral yet thinner than the length of a pencil, these modernist monoliths are pioneering structures that dominate the British landscape like a giant, concrete Stonehenge. Despite a stay of execution during the energy crisis this winter, all remaining examples are due to be decommissioned by 2025. Is now the moment to recognise their status as historic monuments of the future?

The Point, Milton Keynes – BDP (1985)

Image: Patrick McCarthy

Re-imagination not demolition

As we begin to fully understand the grave environmental costs of demolition and its contribution to the climate crisis – more than 50,000 buildings a year are demolished in the UK, generating 126 million tonnes of waste — the urgency to repurpose and reimagine these remarkable buildings also becomes clear. Within the steel, glass and concrete walls of so many of these twentieth century landmarks, imaginative new uses can flourish that fully serve the needs of the twenty first century, without resorting to the wrecking ball.

The Risk List also encourages members of the public to get involved, with specific actions to help save each building – from writing to an MP or the Secretary of State, to joining grassroots campaigns fighting for their local buildings. In marginal cases, individual voices really can make the difference.

View the Top 10 for 2023




The Riviera Hotel, Weymouth – L Stewart Smith (1937)

Images: James O Davies

Positive updates on previous buildings at risk

From our 2021 Risk List, Swindon Oasis Leisure Centre was Grade II listed in Dec 2021, with planning permission recently granted for a restoration project. London’s former City Hall has had a COI (Certificate of Immunity from Listing) refused, leaving the door open for future listing and a new tenant to enjoy it. A new scheme for Swansea Civic Centre that retains rather than demolishes the council buildings is being planned with developer Urban Splash, and the future of Derby Assembly Rooms looks promising.

Looking further back, Durham’s Dunelm House – on our Risk List in 2017 – was Grade II listed in July 2021 and the university is reconsidering its potential, while a regeneration masterplan for the Alton Estate – on our Risk List in 2019 – has recently been scrapped, staving off any immediate threat of demolition.

C20 Director Catherine Croft:

‘Once a building is demolished there is no turning back, a unique creation is lost forever. Whilst some of these buildings may need imaginative renewal, all are capable of inspiring and energising new uses. We need to make sure that none of these opportunities are missed. All ten of those 2023 highlighted in C20 Society’s Risk List deserve to survive to make our lives richer and more interesting – the positive benefits of keeping them are immeasurable.’