The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

Roger Stevens Building, Leeds University

Photo: Simon Phipps

Simon Phipps’ recent photographic survey, Brutal North (September Publishing, 2020) covers over 120 modernist buildings in the north of England, many of which can claim to be Brutalist and which are, sadly too often, unoccupied, in need of extensive repair or facing threat of demolition.

Taking the basic building information included the book, (which was written by Manchester School of Art’s Matthew Steele), our volunteer Lettie Mckie has compiled a project spreadsheet which we are using  to generate illuminating graphs from the data collected, such as the cumulative listings over time and the number of listings by region and city. This research (which is still in progress) will help C20 track trends in the listing history of Brutalist Buildings in the North of England and help us focus future campaigning priorities.

We have been going back through the C20 case files, to ascertain the listing history of each building, checking the reasons for refusal in cases where listing has been turned down, often on several attempts, and analysing whether we have new information which means that a further application is worth pursuing. We have also been going through the planning records of each local authorities where a building is located, and noting down any significant alterations that have been made to it already, or if there are any plans for redevelopment.  It has been most challenging trying to find out the current state of repair of a building, whether it has ever been coated or painted, or if the building was in fact constructed fully to its original designs, which can make a big difference to a case for listing.

The more information we can find out about the more accurate the overall picture. Please get in touch via caseworker@c20society.org.uk if you can help us fill in any of the blanks on the spread sheet which you can download below. We are particularly interested to hear of any current threats to buildings on the list, or any local campaigns that we might not be aware of. We also welcome any photographs of Brutalist buildings at risk.

Donate to help us protect the Brutal North

Give monthly or one-off to the C20 casework fund to support our campaign to protect Brutalist architecture in the North of England

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Downloads

  • C20 Brutal North Research Spreadsheet

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Maison Zilveli and its elegant balcony

Photo: Weltz family

Readers of C20 Magazine may remember the house in Paris which we featured back in 2013 (issue 3). Maison Zilveli, was designed in 1933 by Jean Welz, a friend of both Le Corbusier and Adolf Loos. Our author, Peter Wyeth described his excitement at coming across the house, and his growing fascination with it as he researched its history.  It was then in a state of extreme dilapidation, but Wyeth was optimistic that it could be sensitively refurbished and gain the recognition it deserved as a major work of early modernism in the city. He has become an increasingly vocal advocate for it.

Sadly, things have not proceeded as expected and there is now a very real threat that the building will be demolished and a replica constructed in its place.  Wyeth describes the proposed replacement as “a cynical pastiche” and points out that it will have almost double the space and leave out key features. He is mounting a campaign against demolition, and calling upon architecture and conservation experts in France and abroad to write to Le Monde and lobby the French Minister of Culture.

We certainly agree that a replica of the house, however carefully constructed, would be an inadequate substitute for the genuine historic artifact, and that the case for demolition has not been justified. Although the house was built on uncompacted land, some of which has been subject to subsidence, a geophysical survey by the nearby Architecture school of Belleville, apparently shows no ‘caves’ under the house, a big advantage compared to a number of the neighbouring houses. Like many buildings of the period, the concrete was built with less cover to the reinforcement within than would be required today.  This does mean that some of the reinforcement has corroded, and some elements of the building have sagged. However there is increasing knowledge and expertise to enable a conservation-led solution to address this, and to properly complete the job by reinstating the original elegant balcony.

Over a dozen international conservation architects and historians have written to the French Minister of Culture requesting a year’s stay of execution pending a professional assessment of the condition of the house.

Read Peter Wyeth’s article for Iconic Houses and C20 Magazine here.

Sign the petition to save the house.

Peter Wyeth’s has written a book: The Lost Architecture of Jean Welz, to be published in November by Doppelhouse Books, Los Angeles.

We are pleased to announce that our Director, Catherine Croft, has written a guided architectural tour of Elephant and Castle as part of Open City’s Pocket London Tours. The tour is suitable for walking or cycling and showcases examples of 20th century architecture in the area, built as part of an ambitious post-war reconstruction effort. It includes several striking buildings including Metro Central Heights, originally known as Alexander Fleming House, by Hungarian-born modernist architect Ernő Goldfinger and constructed in the early 1960s.

Those of you who have been on our very popular “Up the Elephant” C20 walks will know that C20 tour leader, Richard Walker, lives in the Goldfinger building and he has made the below video which gives you a sneak peak into the amazing lobby and his flat in the building itself!

Richard will also be hosting a walk for us on 12th June. Booking will open soon on our events page.

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Eltham Palace, 1933-36 by Seely & Paget. Grade II listed

Elain Harwood

During this Art Deco Month initiative by The International Coalition of Art Deco Societies, we will be hosting a special virtual event about Art Deco in Britain with Elain Harwood.

Elain will talk about cinemas, seaside buildings, factories and other buildings in this most fantastic of styles, based on her book Art Deco Britain, published by Batsford.

We’re also running a competition to win copies of Elain’s book over on our Instagram.

To enter:

  • Book a ticket to our event here
  • Head to our Instagram posts on 12th April and / or 19th April to identify which Art Deco Buildings are represented in the photos posted, enter your answers in the posts comments field and tag a friend who might like to participate too

NB: If you do not have Instagram, you can also email your answers to website@c20society.org.uk.

We will draw two winners at random from amongst the correct answers we receive.

You can also check out the rest of the ICADS Art Deco Month programming here.

Nardini’s, Nelson Street, Largs, North Ayrishire, 1935, C. Davidson & Sons

Competition Terms & Conditions:

  • The competition is organised by C20 Society. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are in no way responsible for its content or the selection of the winners
  • This competition is in no way sponsored, endorsed, administered by or associated with Facebook, Twitter or Instagram
  • Multiple entries by the same person are allowed if they have multiple Instagram accounts
  • You may enter guesses for both posts
  • The winner can decide if they’d like the book sent to them to another person of their choice as a gift
  • The competition will run from 12th April 2021 to 27th April 2021 at midnight
31B St Mary’s Road, Wimbledon

Photo: Peter Ruback

We are delighted that 31B St Mary’s Road, Wimbledon, has been listed at Grade II. C20 Society was consulted by Historic England, so we provided some new information on the house and supported the application to list it. The additional details we supplied were partly  drawn from a 1966 newspaper article that our Caseworker, Coco Whittaker, found during her research.

31B was the first of three almost identical houses in Wimbledon designed by Peter Foggo (1930-93) and David Thomas (1933-2019) and built in 1965 by Forrester Developments Limited. While employed full-time in the late 1950s and 60s, Foggo and Thomas worked together in the evenings and at weekends as Peter Foggo David Thomas Architects. 31B was one of a number of private houses designed by the pair in these decades.

‘A Modern Home on Wimbledon Hill, Marylebone Mercury, 26 August 1966

Photo: British Newspaper Archive

31B is raised 2ft off the ground and constructed of a reinforced concrete frame, with brick end walls and large areas of polished plate glass in steel window frames, and it has a flat roof. The house is entered from under a large carport canopy and up three very wide concrete steps. In its style, the building displays the influence of Mies van der Rohe (who Foggo and Thomas had met) and the Californian Case Study houses. Unlike the other two 1965 houses in Wimbledon: 9 Alan Road and 31A St Mary’s Road which have been rendered and extended respectively, 31B’s exterior has been little altered.

The houses are described in a 1966 newspaper article as “luxurious, and […] designed to suit high standard family living. Special attention has been paid to the needs of the individuals in the family” (‘A Modern Home on Wimbledon Hill’, Marylebone Mercury, 26 August 1966). The four bedrooms are organised into two pairs (each pair with one bathroom) which are separated by the living area. This arrangement means the children’s bedroom can be used as a suite, distanced from the parents. Interior spaces are designed to be flexible: the living room can be used for relaxing and/or entertaining, and dining can be accommodated either here or in one of the bedrooms located close to the kitchen. The living room can be opened up by way of sliding doors onto a private garden at the back of the house.

Interior walls are clad in specially finished sapele veneered panelling and floors (which were all on the same level) are made of polished Canadian maple. Kitchen and utility room worktops are created from Formica and sinks from stainless steel. Other fixtures include Californian louvred doors and built-in cupboards. Services were carefully integrated into the design of the house. Light fittings were flush with the ceiling, and the house heated by warm air generated by a gas fired boiler and distributed through ducts below the floor and out of wall vents, eliminating the need for radiators which would intrude on the interior. This heating system was designed by the engineer Max Fordham. As the 1966 article reported, “the quality of ideas, thought and implementation […] resulted in products of such excellence.”

Trevor Dannatt, C20 Society former President

Photo: Ann Dannatt

We were sad to hear the news that our former President and outstanding C20 architect Trevor Dannatt died on Monday, February 15th. I have many fond memories of Trevor, who was insightful not only about his own work, but about that of others too. He generously shared his first-hand knowledge of his own projects on C20 trips I organised to Leicester and Cambridge and the recording we made of him talking about the design of his Friends’ Meeting House at Blackheath, when we were making the case for it to be listed, gives some idea of what a joy it was to talk with him.

Trevor went to work for  Max Fry and Jane Drew in 1943, leaving them in 1948 to join his former tutor Peter Moro and work on the Royal Festival Hall. But for most of his career he ran his own practice, first setting up in 1952, and keeping working until very recently. He produced some of the most thoughtfully considered and beautifully detailed buildings of the century.

An obituary of Trevor has been written by C20 Society stalwart Elain Harwood for the Guardian and one by Dr Neil Bingham will be in the next C20 Magazine.

Trevor’s College Court building in Leicester is featured in our C20 Holiday Stays list.

This year 77 people entered the competition and submitted a total of 143 photos

We are delighted to announce the winner of the 2020 C20 Society Harry Page architectural photography competition. The award was established in 2013 in memory of photographer and dedicated C20 Society member Harry Page and we would like to thank all 77 entrants for submitting their total 143 photos to the competition, and well as the staff and volunteers who have helped make the competition possible.

The winning photograph is by David Valinsky for his image of the Astra Zeneca HQ in Cambridge.


“The photo does immense justice to the outline of the building. It is very cleverly composed to ensure all the vertical strips are in exact descending perspective, they almost look like pipes in a futuristic organ.”

Tim McCoy-Page, competition judge

The judge, Tim McCoy-Page, said: “this is a very timely photo, being of the Astra Zeneca building. The photo does immense justice to the outline of the building. It is very cleverly composed to ensure all the vertical strips are in exact descending perspective, they almost look like pipes in a futuristic organ. The sky is cleverly subdued in grey to make the building pop out, and the overall lighting give the picture an illustrative effect, almost as if it were a book cover. The reflections in the building’s glass, with clouds absent in the sky, is also a very clever touch that makes the photographic detail of the architecture very relevant”

David received the Harry Page Photo Competition trophy, a book of his choice from our e-shop and a Paul Catherall x C20 Society tote bag as a prize.

The virtual award presentation on Zoom with Catherine Croft, C20 Director (L), Tim McCoy-Page and his son Ollie (R), the winner David Valinsky (B)

In response to his award David said: “It is a real honour to have my work recognised by the Twentieth Century Society in this way. I captured this image during an exploration of the developing Cambridge Biomedical Campus. Two years later it is a reminder that buildings can accrue meanings that were not imagined by either clients or designers: in the intervening period world events have made Astra Zeneca a household name and no doubt this meaning will become richer over the next year or so.

The building section is formed by the simple repetition of mono-pitch bays, but the combination of this with the oval plan leads to a view that is always subtly changing as one moves around the curving  exterior of the building. The precise crystalline form seems to realise Bruno Taut’s dreamlike vision of an Alpine architecture and the photographs that I captured of this then-unfinished superstructure now take me immediately to the Alps; the jagged peaks rising above a reflected cloud bank feel like a gift of Alpine landscape from Herzog & de Meuron’s Swiss home to one of England’s flattest counties.”

Tim was very impressed with the overall quality of photography and quantity of submissions. The three runners-up were:

  • Charlotte Swindell, with her photo of the KPMG building in Canary Wharf

The judge’s comments were: “love the Inception style nature of the composition and building layout. Clever take on what is probably a much photographed building in Canary Wharf.”

Runner up: the KPMG building in Canary Wharf

Charlotte Swindell

  • Pamela Jones, with her photo of the Sydney Opera House

The judge’s comments were: “a stunningly dramatic version of a classic – the light on the roof aspects is brilliantly accentuated by the drop off of darkness in the surrounding more utilitarian aspects.”

Runner up: the Sydney Opera House, Australia

Pamela Jones

  • Peter Barker, with his photo of the Kunstmuseum, Aahrus, Denmark

The judge’s comments were: “a very welcome colourful entry – great composition and brilliantly captured with reflections and the city vista – and a lovely moment in time with the kneeling friends.”

Runner up: the Kunstmuseum, Aarhus, Denmark

Peter Barker

All four photographs will be published on our social media channels @C20Society and in our next Magazine issue.

 

We are currently opposing plans to remove an important 1950s abstract mosaic by leading sculptor Geoffrey Clark from Basildon town centre and relocate it within the entrance lobby of a new residential development. We have also submitted an application for it to be listed as we believe it to be of outstanding national significance. As a reminder of Geoffrey’s striking sculptures, we are offering our article about his work from our 2013 Magazine (Issue 3) for download.

The Spirit of Electricity (1958) by Geoffrey Clarke. The work is
still in place on Basil Spence’s Thorn House (now Orion House) in Upper St Martin’s Lane, London.

Photo: Sarah J Duncan

  • Material World: Geoffrey Clark pushed the boundaries in post-war sculptural technique.

    Download

We were pleased to hear that the immediate threat to dismantle 14 of 18 buildings within the historic Louis Kahn Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad 1968 and 1978  and replacing them with newly constructed dormitories has abated and have sent the below letter to express our support to the global campaign to protect the buildings and give them a viable future. On our 2019 visit to the Ahmedabad campus we were impressed by the sense that this was not only a magnificent example of world class C20 design, but a vibrant and inspirational place of contemporary learning.

Dear Dr D’Souza,

The future of the Louis Kahn Campus at IIM

I am extremely reassured to see the letter of January 1st and the reassurance within it that the Board of Governors of IIM Ahmedabad are “acutely cognizant of the place that the institute and its architecture occupy in the larger community, and of the responsibility that comes with being custodians of the legacy that Louis Kahn bestowed”.     I am delighted that the tender for Expressions of Interest for demolition of the dormitory buildings has been withdrawn, and that IIM has committed to a re-evaluation of options. 

C20 Society is the national statutory amenity society for buildings constructed since 1914 in the UK, and we have been campaigning for the conservation of recent heritage since 1979.   We are very aware of the challenges that this sometimes brings to building owners, both  in terms of practical maintenance and repair issues, and as regards sensitive adaptation of significant buildings to changing patterns of use.    We fully appreciate that the campus as a whole has to have an economically viable future, and that the dormitories must continue to have a beneficial role.   The safety of those who utilize the buildings cannot be compromised and future needs of the institute must be satisfied.   

C20 Society was privileged to visit IIM in November 2019, as part of a tour we organised of outstanding C20 Indian architecture.  This proved extremely popular with our members and supporters, who enjoyed not only seeing magnificent buildings, but in engaging with a range of complex conservation challenges.   IIM was undoubtedly a highlight for all of us, and I am totally in agreement with the excellent description of the campus on your own website where it noted that the “complex instils in the viewer a sense of awe and wonder”.  As this description continues “the closeness of the students’ dormitories to the academic complex-… -helps students take the academic dialogue into non-academic spaces. To quote Louis Kahn, ‘Every time a student walks past a really urgent, expressive piece of architecture that belongs to his college, it can help reassure him that he does have that mind, does have that soul’.”    We were impressed by the sense that this was not only a magnificent example of world class C20 design, but a vibrant and inspirational place of contemporary learning. 

We are firmly convinced that retention of the dormitory blocks is essential to the conservation of the overall integrity of IIM.   We are also certain that this can be achieved in a manner which will maintain their integrity and enable them to carry on being used productively.  

You are to be heartily congratulated on your receipt of the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Award for

Cultural Heritage Conservation for the restoration of the Vikram Sarabhai Library in 2019, and it was a great pleasure to be able to see the exemplary results of this pioneering project first hand on our visit.   

Having made this excellent start, we implore you to continue in like manner to ensure the future of IIM, not just for the vast international community of passionate stakeholders, including ourselves, but because the unique and irreplaceable environment clearly enhances the experience of studying and teaching at IIM.  

 Yours sincerely,

Catherine Croft

Director, C20 Society

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