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Fourteen post-war offices listed

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Secretary of State for for Culture, Media and Sport has listed commercial buildings across the country following an 18-month English Heritage study

The government has announced 14 new grade II listings after assessing a raft of post-war office buildings constructed between 1964 and 1984.

The list includes four buildings by Arup Associates, two by Richard Seifert & Partners, and two by Newcastle practice Ryder and Yates.

The offices around the country, whittled down from an original shortlist of 23 drawn up by English Heritage, qualified for listing because of their special architectural or historic interest.

However, Roger Bowdler, director of designation at English Heritage, said: ‘Because these buildings are so recent, a lot of this stuff hasn’t had time to acquire historical value. Our judgments have rested on the architecture.

‘These offices show how architecture has adapted to recent, radical changes in how we work.’

The majority of the buildings were judged of significance due to their facades rather than internal features, he said, reflecting a move during the period to designing large floor plates, with service cores moved to the periphery of buildings.

In addition, the end of the period saw the rise of ‘shell and core’ concept, where contracts for the base building and interiors are designed separately.

Arup & Associates’ 1 Finsbury Avenue, part of the City of London’s Broadgate development, was listed partly because it pioneered this concept in the UK during its construction between 1982 and 1984.

Other developments in architecture highlighted by the list include the ‘decline of confidence in Modernism’, and the rise of high-tech buildings made possible by new glazing technologies.

The process is the first update of the inaugural set of thematic reviews of post-war buildings carried out during the early to mid 1990s.

Bowdler said that commercial buildings had been prioritised for a refresh due to the fact that they are the category of building most likely to face redevelopment pressures. Among them is 1 Finsbury Avenue which British Land wants to internally refit – a scheme masterminded by the building’s original architects Arup Associates.

Catherine Croft, director at the Twentieth Century Society, welcomed the listings, describing the selections as ‘uncontroversial’ and being of ‘extraordinarily high quality’.

However, she called for changes to the listing rules to provide better protection to commercial buildings.

She said: ‘Currently it is not possible to list any building under 30 years old unless it is both grade II* or Grade I in quality and threatened with demolition.

‘Given the vulnerability of office stock, we would like the former criteria to be waived in future.’

English Heritage is understood to be currently working on a similar thematic review of post-war civic centres.

All the buildings on the list have been given detailed descriptions, using new powers in the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act in 2013, which allow changes to parts of listed buildings which are not considered of interest.

Listed buildings [all grade II]

  • Brown Shipley, Moorgate, City of London, Fitzroy Robinson & Partners, 1973-5
  • 30 Cannon Street (formerly Credit Lyonnais), London, Whinney, Son & Austen Hall, 1974-7
  • 1 Finsbury Avenue, City of London, Arup Associates’ Group 2 led by Peter Foggo, 1982-4
  • Civil Aviation Authority House, (formerly Space House), Kingsway, Camden London, George Marsh of Richard Seifert & Partners, 1964-8
  • Mountbatten House (formerly Gateway House), Basingstoke, Arup Associates’ Group 2 led by Peter Foggo, 1974-76. The roof gardens at Mountbatten House have also been added to the Register of Parks and Gardens at Grade II
  • IBM Pilot Head Office, Cosham, Foster Associates, 1970-71
  • Gun Wharf (built as administrative headquarters for Lloyds of London, now civic headquarters for Medway Council), Chatham, Kent, Arup Associates, 1976-8
  • Former office of Ryder and Yates, Killingworth, Newcastle, Ryder and Yates, 1964-5
  • MEA House, Newcastle upon Tyne, Ryder and Yates, 1972-4
  • Bank House, King Street, Leeds, Building Design Partnership, 1969-71
  • Former Midland Bank, Dale Street, Liverpool, Raymond Fletcher of Bradshaw, Rowse & Harker, 1971
  • St James’s House, Frederick Street, Birmingham, John Madin, 1954-7
  • Alpha Tower, Birmingham, George Marsh of Richard Seifert & Partners, 1970-2
  • Former Central Electricity Generating Board Building (The Pavilions), Bristol, Arup Associates, 1975-8

Not recommended for listing

  • Tower 42 (Natwest Tower), London, Richard Seifert & Partners, 1973-81
  • Bush Lane House, 80 Cannon Street, London, Arup Associates, 1972-76
  • 150 Leadenhall Street & 6-8 Bishopsgate, London, GMW Partnership, 1974-78 & 1977-81
  • Gateway Two, Belvedere House, Basingstoke, Arup Associates, 1981-82
  • PA Technology and Science Centre, Melbourn, Hertfordshire, Piano & Rogers, 1974-75, 1982-84
  • Newspaper House, Oxford, Arup Associates, 1969-71
  • Neville House, Birmingham, John Madin, 1975-76
  • Natwest, Colmore Road, Birmingham, John Madin, 1969

Comment

Richard Kauntze, chief exectuive of the British Council for Offices
‘Architecture offers a unique record of culture and lifestyle but, for those of us who often spend time in an office, it can be easy to miss the significance of the design of the buildings in which we work. These listings bring a moment to reflect on and recognise the strength of commercial architecture in Britain.

‘A great workplace is one which is centred around the people who use it, While the things people want from a workspace are constantly evolving the capacity of the physical environment to lift the spirits should never be underestimated.  Listing is never a matter of exact science, and is always more contentious with more modern buildings, but having a system designed to preserve what is judged to be the very best must be right.’       

Peter Murray, chairman of New London Architecture
‘As a newspaper and magazine editor during the 1970s and 1980s when we published many of these as new buildings, I think this is a pretty good reflection of the more interesting practices of the period. Both Arup Associates and Ryder Yates were at the top of the awards lists and consistently delivered thoughtful and powerful buildings. I have to say that at the time I never thought I would see Seifert buildings listed - the practice was good at cladding but the rest of the buildings - floor plans and ground floor were generally flawed -  I guess a Grade 2 listing allows that to be rectified.

I never thought I would see Seifert buildings listed

‘I can’t quite see the attraction of the Credit Lyonnais building - architects’ use of glass fibre cladding was one of the disasters of the period, Whinneys were commercially successful but produced little of note, while the canted form seems uncomfortable rather than ‘assured’.

‘There is clearly an issue with protecting modern commercial buildings that were designed to be adaptable, but this is something that is now well understood by EH and the Grade 2 listing permits sensitive adaptation.’

Rab Bennetts of Bennetts Associates
‘It’s great to see several of Arup Associates’ seminal buildings being listed - it really was a golden period for the firm. 1 Finsbury Avenue is in fact the first building I worked on to be listed.

‘Three of the Arup buildings were for corporate headquarters and, as such, were custom made with largely concrete structures that were thoroughly integrated with the services and environmental strategy.  By contrast, 1 Finsbury Avenue was the first steel-framed developer-led scheme by Arups and its ability to accommodate change has been both a strength and a weakness  -  it was extensively altered internally in the mid-‘90s when the atrium was mostly filled in for dealer rooms.  Of the others, it’s great to see Brown Shipley on the list as I admired its poise and good craftsmanship back in the early 1980s while detailing the granite around the base of Finsbury Avenue.’

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