The Twentieth Century Society has been denied access to Sir Giles Gilbert Scott’s iconic brewery buildings at Park Royal. The Society requested a site visit in order to view the buildings and discuss their future. The site is owned by Diageo, the company which owns brewing magnate Guinness, and which has confirmed plans to demolish the brick buildings.
Diageo plans to redevelop the site. This is backed by Brent Council’s local development plan which has identified the site as a major opportunity area. This comes as a grave disappointment as it could give rise to more low quality office accommodation – the recent development nearby is of no architectural merit. Losing the Scott buildings for more cheaply built office blocks would be a disaster.
The Society has in the past applied for the buildings to be listed but against the advice of English Heritage, the government declined to list and granted a Certificate of Immunity in response to a threat by Guinness to close the Park Royal operation. This was tantamount to blackmail. But now Guinness have decided to close the brewery anyway and to sell up, so the circumstances which led to the C.o.I. no longer hold. There is now no valid political reason for not listing the Guinness Brewery and to sacrifice them for an asset-stripping redevelopment is to bring the whole planning system into disrepute.
The 1930s buildings at Park Royal are not only important architecturally. In view of the government’s commitment to sustainability, it would be quite wrong to destroy such large structures without investigating their economic and social potential for re-use. Buildings represented embodied energy and their unthinking destruction can be very wasteful as well as irresponsible – especially when, as at Park Royal, they are faced in carefully chosen, high-quality brickwork.
Gavin Stamp, architectural historian and chairman of the Twentieth Century Society, says:
“The drama and magnificence of the Guinness buildings at Park Royal are the work of a great architect who had not only already shown himself to be a master of the sublime at Liverpool Cathedral but who had demonstrated a rare ability to humanise vast structures without denying their industrial character at Battersea Power Station. The massing at Park Royal is magnificent; the brickwork superb. As at Battersea and Bankside (now Tate Modern), this is modern industrial architecture of a high order. To sweep away such structures without serious discussion and good reason would be irresponsible and philistine. By abandoning the high-quality buildings they commissioned seventy years ago, Guinness are damaging their reputation.”
The Twentieth Century Society regards the buildings as some of the best industrial architecture built between the wars in this country. With a more imaginative approach the buildings could be successfully reused. We urge Diageo and Brent Council to reconsider their decision.
This call to arms is backed by SAVE Britain’s Heritage, which has consistently campaigned for the reuse of Scott’s masterpieces, such as Battersea Power Station. SAVE’s Secretary Adam Wilkinson said
“The Guinness Factory is Scott at his most powerful and monumental. It is almost unbelievable that these buildings cannot be economically reused. They could form the centrepiece of the emerging business park, but instead they are facing destruction. In light of this it seems petty to not allow the experts in.”
For more information please contact: Cordula Zeidler , Caseworker, The Twentieth Century Society , tel 020 7250 3837, cordula.zeidler(at)c20society.org.uk.
The Guinness Brewery at Park Royal was constructed on a landscaped open site in 1933-36 by the consulting engineers Sir Alexander Gibb & Partners, who brought in Sir Giles Gilbert Scott as architect. Scott, fresh from his acclaimed triumph at Battersea Power Station, designed and detailed the brick exteriors of the reinforced-concrete brewery blocks. The result was a powerful monumental group, vast and yet approachable and friendly.
The Twentieth Century Society is a membership organisation which campaigns for the conservation of the best C20th architecture. It was founded in 1976 as the Thirties Society and is now recognised by government and has a statutory role in the planning process.