A pair of buildings within Terry Farrell’s 1980s Postmodern Comyn Ching Triangle in Covent Garden have been given Grade II listings
Earlier this year (AJ 03.05.16) architectural heavyweights including Charles Jencks, Deyan Sudjic and Jonathan Glancey wrote to Historic England, urging statutory protection for the landmark redevelopment off Seven Dials in central London.
Comyn Ching by Terry Farrell
Source: Valentino Danilo Matteis
The call was prompted by the approval of plans drawn up by Morrow + Lorraine Architects, which the campaigners argued would significantly alter the original scheme – a reworking and addition to a series of 17th, 18th and 19th century listed buildings constructed over three phases between 1978 and 1991.
Acting on the advice of Historic England, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport gave new listings to the scheme’s two ‘bold’ corner blocks (1985-7).
And two other buildings within the complex, 15-19 Shelton Street and 65-71 Monmouth Street, have had their listings updated ‘to recognise their place in Farrell’s scheme’.
Roger Bowdler, director of listing at Historic England said: ‘Comyn Ching Triangle represents Postmodernism at its purest and is an early, masterful exercise in placemaking by one of the country’s leading architects. It is widely seen as one of Terry Farrell’s most important works of the time where he delivered much-needed urban regeneration to Covent Garden by keeping, respecting and integrating historic buildings, rather than redeveloping the site.’
He added: ‘Covent Garden had been saved from destruction in the 1970s by both community action and listing. Comyn Ching marks the recovery of this special area of London. It is a striking example of the emerging philosophy of conservation and regeneration, and deserves recognition through listing.’
Historic England said the Farrell listings were part of a wider research project ‘to better understand Postmodernism and identify the country’s best examples for listing’.
A spokesman for Terry Farrell said: ’Commissioned almost 40 years ago, this scheme demonstrates that new buildings need not disrupt the historic townscape and that creative design and adaptive re-use can enhance existing buildings and truly revitalise an area. This approach to placemaking has informed all of our projects since and is becoming more widely accepted now, although it was quite a radical response at a time when Modernism and ‘starting again’ was the prevailing ideology.
’It is great news that this contribution to a much-visited and well-loved part of London is being recognised and protected for future generations of placemakers.’
It is understood work is already under way on a ’comprehensive refurbishment’ of the buildings by Morrow + Lorraine Architects. The £3million mixed-use scheme for Shaftesbury will ‘sensitively’ restore the timber shopfronts on Monmouth and Shelton Streets to provide improved retail frontage and better configured shop units in the Seven Dials shopping precinct.
The project also includes the remodelling of the upper floors to provide 650m² of office space for creative industry/media/tech occupiers as well as five apartments.
Morrow + Lorraine Architects has undertaken remedial repair work to the façade, windows and roof to ‘protect the listed buildings and extend the life of the historic fabric’.
J-J Lorraine of Morrow + Lorraine Architects:
‘Historic Englands’ listing of Terry Farrell’s Covent Garden scheme elects, rightly in my view, to laud the way the architect reused and adapted some of the notable historic buildings on the site. Their inclusion warrants credit, as does the involvement of local communities in realising the vibrant mixed-use scheme. The central square is a gorgeous urban space; those involved with the detailing particularly around the entrances to the street certainly knew how to put buildings together. Changes of level across the site are deftly dealt with.
The facile use of colour and clunky historical references capture the essence of why Postmodernism has not stood the test of time
’There are many things to admire about Comyn Court. However, the ‘new’ Postmodernist corner buildings are not among them. Their materials are neither high-quality nor beautifully made. The facile use of colour, clunky historical references and blithe relationships between the interior function and exterior appearance capture the essence of why Postmodernism for me and a lot of other people has not stood the test of time.
‘Farrell’s belief in regeneration, community engagement, adaptation, creative re-use and placemaking is universally relevant and demands recognition. Comyn Court flourishes for reasons attributable to those broader than the narrowness of Postmodernism.’