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Grimshaw’s Plymouth Ship given listing status

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Grimshaw’s Ship building in Plymouth has been granted listing status just weeks after it was saved from the wrecking ball

Officially known as The Western Morning News building, the 1993 landmark has been given grade II* listed status making it the youngest building to be given statutory protection by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). That crown had previously been held by Richard Rogers’ 1986 Lloyd’s building in central London which was just 25 when it was listed in 2011 (see AJ 19.11.11).

The Plymouth building had faced the wrecking ball earlier this year but was given a last-minute reprieve after developer Burrington Estates decided to buy the former newspaper headquarters and transform it into a business hub, renaming it The Spirit of Enterprise (see AJ 12.05.15).

The Ship’s former owner – The Daily Mail – had submitted an application to flatten the HQ and had said its re-use was ‘unviable’. The plans to bulldoze the building had prompted outrage from locals and caused the Twentieth Century Society to submit an urgent listing application.

Architect Nicholas Grimshaw welcomed the news, stating: ”I am delighted that this building has received Grade II* listed status. The former Western Morning News Headquarters is an important building to me. It still offers a beautiful enclosure and strong structural bones which invite a number of alternative uses, so I am pleased that a new owner has come forward to propose a new lease of life for the space with some exciting ideas.’

Emily Gee, Head of Designation at Historic England, said: ‘This striking building is a rare example of a large newspaper production facility built to a high specification. Its dramatic ship-like profile, with a fully-glazed curved wall, makes it a Plymouth landmark. It is right that the best of High Tech architecture, in which Britain led the way, is protected through listing.’

Historic England described the building as ‘technically innovative with a significant and influential development of fixed-point structural glazing, allowing a greater degree of sophistication with its organic curving shape and bespoke fittings’.

The organisation was asked by the Twentieth Century Society to consider whether the building should be listed after the concerns were initially raised over its demolition.

Speaking about the listing decision Henrietta Billings, senior conservation adviser at the Twentieth Century Society said: ‘We are really pleased that the outstanding architectural quality of this Plymouth landmark has been celebrated through listing, and that the government has not shied away from listing a building completed just 22 years ago.

‘We look forward to seeing more recognition of the best buildings from this period, many of which are currently very vulnerable - including No 1 Poultry in the City of London which is currently being assessed.’

The heritage report noted the technological significance of the stainless steel ‘hands’ of the building in the development of point-fixed structural glazing which was also used at Waterloo International station when it opened in the same year.

Buildings of less than 30 years old are normally only listed if they are considered to be of outstanding quality and under threat. The report stated: ‘For its pioneering use of materials, its striking design, its innovative planning of office and printing work functions, its successful integration with landscape and its degree of survival, the Western Morning News building should be listed at grade II*.

‘In recommending the extent of designation we have considered whether powers of exclusion under s.1 (5A) of the 1990 Act are appropriate and consider that they are in this case, which is clear in the proposed List entries.’



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