English Heritage tells the AJ why the 14 post-war office buildings just listed by the government were worthy of protection
Brown Shipley, City of London
Fitzroy Robinson & Partners, 1973-5
An excellent example of post-war commercial architecture through its extensive use of fine materials, including a dramatically dark granite frame and reflective bronze-anodized windows. This is enhanced by the ground-floor level massive bronze doors, by A. John Poole, and the retention of notable original features such as the elegant main stair and secondary stair.
30 Cannon Street, London
Whinney, Son & Austen Hall, 1974-7
The first building internationally to be fully clad in double-skinned panels of glass-fibre reinforced cement. An office building of 1974-7 by Whinney, Son & Austen Hall, 30 Cannon Street expresses sculptural quality through its expressive and assured design, its splayed plan and canted profile. The building has strong stylistic affinities with the Victorian commercial architecture of Queen Victoria Street.
Finsbury Avenue, City of London
Arup Associates’ Group 2 led by Peter Foggo, 1982-4
A speculative office development in the City built in 1982-4 by Arup Associates. It was the first phase of Finsbury Avenue Square and the precursor to Broadgate.
Arup Associates set new standards for progressive office buildings in their meticulous planning and attention to detail that is epitomised by this building. Its external stepped profile with landscaped terraces and bronze coloured envelope behind brise soleil mitigated the impact of a large building.
Civil Aviation Authority House, London
George Marsh of Richard Seifert & Partners, 1964-8
A striking office development comprising cylindrical tower and slab block linked by a bridge. This icon of the 1960s commercial property boom was designed by George Marsh of Richard Seifert & Partners and built between 1964 and 1968. Like the practice’s other listed building, Centre Point, its unusual shape defined externally by a precast concreted exoskeleton.
Gateway House, Basingstoke
Arup Associates’ Group 2 led by Peter Foggo, 1974-76
Formerly known as Mountbatten House, the one-time headquarters for the paper merchants is an unusual and distinctive example of 1970s commercial office architecture by Arup Associates. Built in 1974-6, Gateway House remains largely intact. The cascading terraces, landscaped by renowned garden designer James Russell, are known locally as ‘the hanging gardens of Basingstoke’.
IBM Pilot Head Office, Cosham
Foster Associates, 1970-71
The building, now known as Lynx House, is a seminal office building by one of Britain’s foremost architectural practices Foster & Partners. Built for an archetypally ‘high-tech’ client, the building encapsulates a flexible, highly-serviced workspace within a fully glazed envelope. Given a RIBA Award for its ‘sheer professional competence’, the building was initially intended to last only three or four years, but IBM were so pleased with it that it became their research building after the permanent headquarters was completed.
Gun Wharf, Chatham
Arup Associates, 1976-8
Built as an administrative headquarters for Lloyd’s of London, 1976-8, to a design by Arup Associates. The building uses an ingenious engineering solution to integrate structure, services and plan, maximising the building’s flexibility and long-term sustainability. The use of traditional materials and roof-forms alongside its innovative planning produce a highly successful piece of contextual modernism.
Former office of Ryder and Yates, Newcastle
Ryder and Yates, 1964-5
Constructed in 1964-5 is an elegant building with strong architectural character derived by its clean crisp lines and sharp detailing. It was designed by Ryder and Yates, one of the most important post-war regional firms in England and is little altered both externally and internally. Its modernist single-storey pavilion form, which reuses the steel frame of a building Ryder & Yates designed for the 1962 London Olympia exhibition, provides an interesting reflection of the links between modern architecture and exhibition design, as well as showing the influence of Le Corbusier and Lubetkin on Ryder and Yates’ work.
MEA House, Newcastle upon Tyne
Ryder and Yates, 1972-4
An office building constructed to house multiple voluntary organisations together in a single building, was constructed in 1972-4 to the designs of Ryder and Yates. The building’s unique and innovative design incorporates a Vierendeel truss structural arrangement that dispenses with the need for columns, instead suspending the building slabs from deep beams in the penthouse and subframes. Ryder and Yates were one of the most important post-war regional firms in England and this building represents their first major building in Newcastle city centre and one of their most prominent works. It is believed to be the first purpose-built building to house multiple community service organisations under a single roof.
Bank House, Leeds
Building Design Partnership, 1969-71
A former Bank of England regional headquarters building, 1969-71, is the most architecturally ambitious and accomplished example of the Bank of England’s 1960s programme of rebuilding regional centres. It lies at the end of a sequence that includes the listed 19th century Bank of England branches by P.C. Hardwick and C.R. Cockerell. It was built to the designs of the Building Design Partnership (BDP), one of the foremost multi-disciplinary practices operating in the 1960s. Its inverted ziggurat form and strong level of stylistic detailing exemplifies the 1960s trend towards dramatic cantilevered volumes and cleverly projects the visual character of strength that the Bank demanded.
Former Midland Bank, Liverpool
Raymond Fletcher of Bradshaw, Rowse & Harker, 1971
Constructed c. 1971 to the designs of 1967 by Raymond Fletcher of Bradshaw, Rowse and Harker is an important example of a post-war bank atypically employing a high-quality Modernist design; a form of ‘pop architecture’ bringing fun and diversity to the streetscape. The startlingly modern façade, with its over-sized canted windows, reflects one of Liverpool’s most famous buildings, Peter Ellis’ Oriel Chambers (1864, Grade I), which lies in sight of 4 Dale Street. The former bank also represents an early use of mirrored-glass and marked a new consumerism in the clearing bank and an attempt to engage younger customers.
St James’s House, Birmingham
John Madin, 1954-7
Erected in 1954-7 to designs by John Madin for the Allied Employer’s Federation. It was a significant commission in Madin’s early career, reflecting a move from largely domestic work to more commercial commissions. It shows meticulous attention to detail and careful planning, reflecting the needs of the client. The design helped forge constructive relations between employers and the workforce and represents an interesting aspect of industrial relations in the mid-20th century.
Alpha Tower, Birmingham
George Marsh of Richard Seifert & Partners, 1970-2
A 28 storey office block, was designed under George Marsh of Richard Seifert & Partners and built in 1970-2. The building is one of the most aesthetically successful office buildings in Birmingham featuring a cranked outline and razor-sharp detailing. It marks a development from George Marsh’s earlier designs, such as Centre Point, which depend for part of their effect on the strongly articulated shapes of pre-cast-concrete panels.
Former Central Electricity Generating Board Building, Bristol
Arup Associates, 1975-8
An interesting example of an environmentally friendly ‘campus style’ office building built by Arup Associates. The building has survived well and retains bespoke fixtures and fittings of high quality. Its low-energy and environmentally friendly design relied on advanced design and engineering techniques. The building also forms an unusually strong and coherent entity with its designed landscape and mature planting scheme, which formed an integral part of its design.
English Heritage: why these 14 post-war offices deserved listing