Wednesday, 13 November 2019

What....a new post!  Well, maybe...maybe not.

Does it still make sense to write enthusiastically about a bold and characterful building I have spotted somewhere in London only to see it under demolition the next week? (Keybridge House, Samson House, the Sterlingesque HMSO on 9 Elms Lane to name but a few of the largest...).  Maybe I should have realised how things would go when the first ever building chosen for a B&B visit (Mondial House) turned out to have been demolished months earlier

But so what if a building gets pulled down? As an architect shouldn't I subscribe to the school of thought that nothing lasts for ever? Cedric Price's built-in obsolescence?  Can I realistically expect a defunct telephone exchange, petrol station, data bunker etc be conserved like a medieval cathedral...?

Part of the pain comes undoubtedly from watching something you admire replaced by something inferior both architecturally and 'programmatically' remove a crisp industrial shed employing hundreds of people in central city location and replace with bland 'luxury' apartments sold to overseas investors and enjoying an anticipated max occupancy of 40% to 2040.

Another part is the double standard whereby the least distinguished piece of Victoriana is propped up and preserved (often as a frontage only for something utterly alien behind*) while better work from the 20th century is removed without a thought **

..behind you!  Not a Police Station anymore.  Just a front for a more sinister operation.
Programmatically, which would you prefer to have in central Battersea - the flats or the police??

** BEFORE: (you can read what I liked about this in the original post here)

**AFTER: you can read what i don't like about it here, now:  the trad style dormers, the double garage doors, the trad sash windows, the fact that everything that was black is now either white, duck-egg blue, wooden or lead, the herringbone brick...

As a property developer in the UK right now, one thing you can be sure of - and this despite the supposed fashionability of Brutalism - is that you WILL get planning permission to demolish if your target was built or designed between 1960 and 1976. Don't worry about listings.  Anything short of the National Theatre itself, and you'll be fine. You will also be congratulated for your efforts by (a) the general public (b) the local authority (c) the media (d) most architects.  So it's a no brainer right?

It's difficult to imagine from my perspective, at a point where we will shortly be asked whether we want an old school Labour government to take us back to pre-Thatcherite Britain, that there could be the slightest possibility that the answer will be yes.  On the contrary, all the evidence in architecture and urbanism indictates a general acceptance that these two decades be wiped from our collective consciousness, and the quicker the better.

There are of course a few exceptions, one notable, ie Social Housing.

Despite Dame Shirley Porter's ruinous precedent, there still exists in London a significant quantity of welfare state-era social housing (and council tenants to go with it) ensuring some good design and progressive politics remain part of the city's future.

Whilst politics around the 'housing crisis' may have failed to make any significant progress toward addressing it (and right to buy still exists) the feeling is that, sooner or later, something will have to be done, whether it's expansion into the green belt or re-booting of local authorities as house builders once more.  Why not imagine this?  Architects, Urban Planners and Developers all belonging to the same organisation working to address a common goal?  Sounds familiar but that doesn't mean it's a broken model.

And climate change?  Will that legitimise the destruction of our poorly insulated, cold bridging architectural heritage in a way that would make all of the above seem like just so much white noise?  Or will it mean adaptive re-use for everything currently standing, and would that actually be any better?

So no, no more posts, no more brutalism, very little booze at my age and in fact this may be the last song I will ever sing (to quote Morrissey), until, that is,  I change my mind again.. 

Good night and thank you.

Thursday, 8 October 2015


Just a reminder to all those interested that we are going to be walking the itinerary below this Saturday (10th Oct) from 12pm.  The idea is to meet at the first building – Saint Paul’s, Bow Common, where the 20C Society are holding a talk about the church.  This runs from 12-2pm so we’d be setting out shortly after that to see the rest of the buildings before taking in some booze (and maybe even food) somewhere nearby.

Details of the 20c soc talk here – (don’t be discouraged by their typo on the date – the talk IS being held this weekend!)

Look forward to seeing you all!




Saint Paul's, Bow Common
Robert McGuire & Keith Murray
St Paul's Way Trust School
Abbott's Wharf
Jestico + Whiles
St Mary & St Joseph Rc Church
Adrian Gilbert Scott
Chrisp Street Market & Clock Tower
Sir Frederick Gibberd
Idea Store Chrisp St
Adjaye Associates
All Saints Church
Charles Hollis
Blackwall Reach
Frank Reynolds Architects
Robin Hood Gardens
Alison + Peter Smithson

Sunday, 11 May 2014

West Court Church Hill, Walthamstow, London, E17

Thanks to J.for sharing this:

Anyone know anything about it???

Two beds for £240K seems most reasonable so why not arrange a viewing?

West Court Church Hill, Walthamstow, London, E17

Wednesday, 23 April 2014


Humble apologies to everyone who has tried to check the blog recently and found only spam posts about eastern european football matches. 

The issue is now resolved (as they say) thanks to Matti Nescio via Blogger Product Forum - for which many thanks again Matti!

Thursday, 10 April 2014

FW: Sergison Bates, Coate Street, Hackney

First in my pilgrimage round the three Sergison Bates projects I know of in London.
If you are familiar with the press photos of this project you’ll notice it’s now got a large neighbour to the left.
The finishes are rough and ready and I don’t really understand the how or the why of the timber-windows-behind-the-glass-window...but what the hey, I love it, it was worth the trip.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

and the devil said....

‘ me the best building in the world!’



Unless anyone cares to enlighten me in the meantime I’ll follow up later with some google-age in relation to this fabulous construction.


FW: covent garden

The New Covent Garden Market must, one assumes, be under some pressure to turn from the useful, dirty, smelly and functional place it is,  into a zipped up, blank, semi-inhabited, resi-desert.  Probably the deals are already done, you’d have to tell me, but in the meantime try to imagine integrating a bit of this into the matrix.

bare grilles

Of the many things from the 1970s that I would re-introduce to the modern world, ventilation grilles are up there at the top of the list, especially ones with locking doors and ninety degree corners.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Richard Deacon at Tate Britain until 27th April

If 'Constructivist' didn't already mean something else then I'd use it to describe the works on show here which are graceful expressions of their own construction with a high degree of refinement but no pandering to good taste.

Thursday, 27 February 2014


From: steve cox []
Sent: 26 February 2014 23:25
To: ''
Subject: SCOT-BRUT

Just got totally side-tracked for two hours by this fascinating compendium of Scottish Brutalism.  Have cherry picked some favourite images but there’s a lot more than just images to go back for.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Keybridge House

Although I couldn’t find details on their website, this Lambeth Council press release confirms that they have given permission for demolition of the existing building and the construction of 419 flats and a primary school in its place.

We objected to the demolition (see earlier post) and were backed up by the 20th Century society.  English Heritage were less forthcoming although they did think it was important that someone make a record of the building before it was destroyed...

Lambeth Planning Department’s view was that the building had no policy protection, appeared on no ‘list’ and thus could not be saved.

The information that BT uploaded for us to show that they had performed due diligence on the ‘re-use’ option certainly highlighted the limitations of the existing structure but ultimately was more convincing as a demonstration of how much less profitable this might have been for the developer rather than how impossible.

There were of course a lot of objections to the proposals which looked like they could have given the council pause, most notably that the proposed primary school, which provides the ‘planning gain’, is too close to an existing primary school and that, of the 419 new flats, only 19 are affordable.

Archinect #2

Here’s the reason I got into Archinect in the first place:

A very very very long thread in which contributors post a picture of a building and everyone has to guess who the architect is.  I never got a single one but enjoyed the commentary and the buildings.

Seems to have quite a few broken image links now but keep scrolling down and you’ll find some.


Just seen that our ‘structural integrity’ post on Archinect was chosen as one of the 13 ‘editor’s picks’ of 2013.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Bunkers, Brutalism and Bloodymindedness - Concrete Poetry with Jonathan Meades

Three rousing cheers for Jonathan Meades' bravura exploration and championing of Brutalism in particular and ballsy architecture in general .  Both episodes availalbe for six more days here - BBC4

Sensing Spaces - Royal Academy, London

There seemed to be a certain buzz of customer satisfaction at this architecture installation show although the only really successful, really architectural work, for me, was this by Pezo von Ellrichshausen

 ..having the kind allusive, fairy-tale quality (you can climb up or down spiral stairs in the legs or the enclosed ramps behind) that certain other installations aspired too but with more originality and architectural punch.

Souto De Moura and Siza's contributions were disappointingly underpowered whilst Grafton Architects did a perplexing inversion of what you might have expected... by way of massive but clearly fake slabs of 'concrete' floating a couple of metres above the gallery floor...

Above - Grafton Architects. Below - Li Xiaodon's stick-y laberynth

Below - Kengo Kuma
below - Alvaro Siza pulls out all the stops...

Sunday, 26 January 2014

i took way too many photos and...

...then didn't post them for ages.

here's the last (and most significant?) of the buildings collected on my Lambeth Walk at the end of last year...or was it the beginning of this...time eludes my comprehension once again

Architect George Finch died fairly (there it is again) recently - some info here and images below of his Lambeth Towers in all it's Tudormodern glory:


Saturday, 11 January 2014

another view of the Caja Costarricense del Seguro Social building


Caja Costarricense del Seguro Social, San Jose, Arch. Alberto Linner

Costa Rican Architect Juan Cardenas got in touch to say that the building below (which i'd been trying to track down for ages) was not as I thought by Paolo Mendes da Rocha but by Costa Rican Alberto Linner....which along with some links helped to turn up much more detailed images of this striking building...SEE HERE

Friday, 20 December 2013

This is a continuation of the previous walk-about post which, from the Ethelred Estate (below) onwards turned into something of an embarrassement of riches...

I think someone deserves credit for working with the existing building rather than just buldozing the thing as might easily have happened

Then we stumble upon the home of the Forensic Science Service, Metropolitan Laboratory, on the Lambeth Road

and after all that, the best is yet to come!