The pioneer can just as well be the conservationist
The prospect of droves of revellers getting merry in the De La Warr Pavilion is viewed with trepidation by many, but has a certain populist appeal. It is a golden opportunity to introduce the delights of Modernist architecture to a new young audience, and the signs are that the public will be receptive. The gutsy optimism of Modernist architecture is beloved by Wallpaper* readers everywhere. Buildings which have been overlooked are suddenly seen as commercially viable. After 40 years of neglect, Wynford House, designed by Tecton Architects in 1957 and executed by Skinner, Bailey and Lubetkin for the then Finsbury Council, has been updated by Avanti Architects (page 6). Now under the custodianship of the Community Housing Association, the scheme includes socialhousing as well as private rented units, creating that most fashionable of phenomena, the mixed-tenure urban space. There is little doubt that the private rented units will be snapped up straight away.
But the appeal of such Modernist buildings was never simply a matter of style. One of the many benefits of the vogue for restoring Modernist buildings is that it dispels the myth that the conservationist and the pioneer are diametrically opposed. Like the nearby Finsbury Health Centre, Wynford House was born out of a belief that the public sector had an obligation to provide society with pioneering architecture. It is a belief which goes hand in hand with one of the founding truisms of the nhs: that everybody should be entitled to the best healthcare available. Both principles are, in turn, part of a more general belief that nothing is too good for the masses.
Avanti has channelled some of this idealism into its new-build acad Centre at Middlesex Hospital (page 28). Designed with the care too often reserved for commercial or high-profile buildings, it provides both staff and patients with agreeable surroundings where they can sit on a Hitch Mylius chair and sip a Costa Coffee cappuccino. In a society obsessed with controlling the cost of public buildings, the acad Centre stands out as a building which is based on the assumption that the sick and those who care for them deserve the very best.