Former RIBA President Sunand Prasad, along with academics and other leading architects, has written to English Heritage in support of the recent listing application for Cemex House (former Ready Mixed Concrete Headquarters) – the award winning Edward Cullinan landscaped offices at risk from demolition.
The office complex was built as a single storey extension to a listed 18th century house and other historic buildings on a green belt site close to Thorpe Park in a leafy Surrey suburb. It is threatened with demolition by a current planning application for a scheme that would redevelop the site for housing.
In his letter of support, Prasad who once worked for Cullinan, said “The RMC building, designed after I left the practice, has always stood out for me as being a quite exceptional contribution to the evolution of architecture in England with an influence further afield”. He said the design, with its energy conscious passive design, “anticipated developments in sustainable architecture by a decade or so, and was to influence the thinking of my generation of architects.”
Other supporters who have lined up behind the campaign include Brian Ford, professor of architecture at the University of Nottingham, Peter Davey, former editor of Architectural Review, Peter Clegg, founding partner of the architectural practice Feilden Clegg Bradley and professor of architecture at the University of Bath, and John Worthington, co-founder of DEGW and a director of The Academy of Urbanism.
The offices, which link up with the existing buildings, are crafted around three separate courtyards – full height glass walls in effect forming the fourth wall of every office. The courtyards reflect the proportions of the existing historic buildings and carefully planned axial views and routes are created throughout the site.
The low height of the development preserves the setting of the existing buildings, and the rich green roofs provide a whole new landscape of lawns, yew hedges and informal seating. Viewing platforms are built into the gardens for employees to enjoy including spectacular features such as a giant chess board on the sloping roof of the former swimming pool below, with elevated views over the lake and nearby St Anns Hill Park.
The company prided itself on its concern for the environment, and so the engineering brief for the building specifically ruled out air conditioning. Internal temperatures are regulated by using the thermal mass of the structure and roof gardens combined with a system of mechanical ventilation to draw cooler night air through the concrete floor void and up through powered floor outlets. The air handling units are dotted around the site at roof level, masked in playful aluminium cases disguised as chess pieces – individually designed by Ted Cullinan.
English Heritage is currently assessing the listing application – which if successful would be listed at grade II * or I because of its very recent construction date. Due to the pending application for demolition, it is being treated as an urgent case and a decision is expected imminently.
Notes for editors:
1. The Cullinan building (1990) won numerous awards including:
2. The Twentieth Century Society is hosting a public discussion with the original architect Ted Cullinan on 2 June. The event will explore how the building was designed, an why we are campaigning to save it. For more details about the event please see www.c20society.org.uk
3. For more information contact Henrietta Billings or Catherine Croft on 020 7250 3857 or firstname.lastname@example.org