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Chapman Taylor Postmodern office gains listing

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The government has given a Grade II listing to Chapman Taylor’s 27-year-old Postmodernist former Pearl Assurance HQ in Cambridgeshire

The Pearl Centre on Lynch Wood Business Park near Peterborough was granted heritage protection following an application from the Twentieth Century Society.

Completed in 1992, the building held 2,200 staff across three square blocks of open plan offices, an open-sided atrium, a computer hall, a 600-seat restaurant and training centre, and two decks of underground parking.

The structure is now used by multiple companies as offices. 

Ministers also awarded Grade II* status to a war memorial on grounds east of the Pearl Centre designed by sculptor George James Frampton. The statue commemorates the lives of 659 Pearl Assurance employees who lost their lives in the First and Second World Wars.

Meanwhile 10ha of landscaped grounds surrounding the main building have been added to Historic England’s Grade II Register for Parks & Gardens.

Twentieth Century Society head of casework Clare Price said: ‘We are delighted with this trio of successes, particularly for a Postmodernist complex, a style which has been much maligned in the past but which is now gaining the recognition it deserves.’

Chapman Taylor board director Adrian Griffiths said: ’The innovative and future-proofed design of the Pearl Centre responded cleverly to the functional needs of Pearl Assurance, as well as to the beautiful landscape setting. Chapman Taylor was, and still is, proud of the finished project, which continues to stand the test of time.’

The practice drew inspiration from styles including Romanesque and Italianate architecture as well as English medieval timber-framed construction, Moorish decorative traditions and the work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh. The practice won the job in a 1987 competition to design a future-proof office building that was efficient, economical and able to adapt to organisational change and new technology. 

Landscape architecture – delivered by Arnold Weddle – was an important aspect of the development, helping to create a corporate identity and provide attractive places for office workers to have their lunch in the business park.

The building’s grounds include lakes, a memorial garden, an entrance courtyard, a physic garden, a parterre garden, a pyramid, a wildflower meadow and a ziggurat.

A recent application had been made to create a new building on the site of the existing car park, moving this to the site of the landscaped maze and creating a new access road. But this was withdrawn last year following objections.

The Pearl Assurance building was the final project of Chapman Taylor founding partner Bob Chapman, who also co-designed New Scotland Yard. Chapman died in 2016.

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