The Twentieth Century Society is growing increasingly concerned over the fate of Sir Basil Spence’s Hyde Park Barracks. The Society submitted a listing application for the barracks to English Heritage last year in response to press reports that the Household Cavalry plans to relocate and sell the site.
Catherine Croft, Director of the Twentieth Century Society said:
“This is a major and extremely thoroughly considered work by one of the most prominent architects of the post war period. It is an intelligent solution to a very complicated brief, on a tight site, right in the heart of London. Its tower, although controversial when first constructed, is now an elegant landmark on the edge of Hyde Park. It still works well today, is in excellent condition, and the only reason why demolition is being considered is that the site it is on could be extensively developed for private housing.”
Sir Basil Spence was the prolific 20th Century architect responsible for Coventry Cathedral and Sussex University (listed Grade I and Grade II*). The Society considers this complex to be equally as successful and important as these buildings. This view is echoed by Professor Louise Campbell of Warwick University, who commented:
“The Hyde Park Cavalry Barracks is, with Coventry Cathedral, the British Embassy in Rome and Sussex University, one of Spence’s most important and dramatic projects. It is an ingenious piece of urban design which uses robust forms to create an architecture of modern ceremony, set against the backdrop of the Royal parks. We cannot afford to lose this chunk of modern London, a legacy of the confident and flamboyant 1960s.”
This well-known site in heart of central London has been home to the Army Barracks since 1795, and the proposed sale would sever a long term connection with the Household Cavalry. It also means that a truly remarkable, innovative and singular group of buildings will be lost to the nation. The current buildings date from 1970 and are an accomplished response by Sir Basil Spence to the challenges of a restricted site with very specific requirements, being the provision of fitting accommodation for 500 personnel and 270 horses. It still successfully performs this function 45 years later.
The most striking feature of this complex is the 33 storey residential tower, its tall slender profile and effective proportions providing great drama to the street. The key feature of this tower is that it does not block the view of the park. It would be relatively simple to convert this to apartments, and demand is exceptionally strong in this location for such developments. Recently published proposals fail to preserve the relationship with the Park, favouring the heavy massing of several large blocks.
We are expecting a decision on the Society’s application to English Heritage to list the building imminently.
The archive for Hyde Park Barracks, along with the rest of the Basil Spence archive, is held at Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, to whom we are grateful for the photographs.
Please add your name to the Twentieth Century Society’s petition calling for Hyde Park Barracks to be listed. You can access the petition here.