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Grimshaw’s Plymouth ‘Ship’ threatened with demolition

  • 4 Comments

Grimshaw’s award-winning Western Morning News headquarters and printworks in Plymouth is threatened with demolition

The Daily Mail, which now owns the landmark, has submitted an application to Plymouth City Council to flatten the newspaper production and printing facility.

The iconic building, which was completed in 1993, has stood empty since local title Western News moved out in July 2013.

Nicknamed The Ship, the hillside structure houses 5,671m² of offices and a further 6,459m² of production space and won Grimshaw a RIBA Award in 1994.

The steel and glass building was planned to enable all production and editorial areas to be located on one level. The office space wraps around a full-height central atrium.

According to the planning documents, the building’s re-use is ‘unviable’ and it is currently in ‘a generally poor state of repair and is highly unsustainable’.

Since the £33.5 million building became vacant, the newspaper group claims it has not been possible to find a new tenant for the headquarters.

The report stated: ‘The building’s design is so bespoke that, in reality, any occupier other than a mixed office and newspaper printing and production operator is unlikely to want to take the space’.

But the demolition plans have come under fire from local opposition.

Commenting on the planning application, Mathew Pontin, director of community interest company Fotonow, said: ‘In an era where resources and embodied energy in terms of sustainability should be paramount, it seems appalling to consider to demolish such a relatively new building.

‘I strongly object to the demolition and think [the authority] needs to think about repurposing, sustainability, community and preservation of contemporary histories in terms of the city’s architects.’

Local resident Tim Llewellin, who also commented on the planning documents, added: ‘I am not usually a fan of modern architecture, its usually ambiguous, of poor design and without sympathy to the local environment, history or social context. However the building in question is both striking and in sympathetic balance with the city of Plymouth, and from appearance seems well constructed.

‘The current owner could probably maximise financial gain by demolition, but there are viable alternatives, that could retain the structure and empathy of the current building while also realising financial benefit to the owner.’

Speaking in the local press, councillor Maddi Bridgeman has vowed to stop the demolition plans of what she called a ‘beautiful building’.

Grimshaw has been contacted for comment.

  • 4 Comments

Readers' comments (4)

  • For once the public appear to appreciate and even love a modern building enough to fight for its retention!
    The reasons given for demolition are pseudo politically correct, but clearly motivated by economic gain. The suggestion put forward by the present owners that it is incapable of being used for anything but its original purpose shows a lack of imagination and will. Hopefully the City Council will see through this smoke screen and refuse permission for its demolition.
    If the Civic Centre was considered to be worthy of Listing in 2007 and described as an "iconic building" in 2013, then surely Grimshaw's "Ship" is all the more so. All power to the campaigners who wish to have it preserved!

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  • This is just the latest example of a high quality modern building becoming 'surplus to requirements' and being viewed as a prime candidate for enthusiastic neglect leading to demolition, to realise the maximum site 'potential' (usually 'on behalf of the shareholders', and fired by the high value of bog standard houses crammed in as tight as possible).
    A sad reflection of today's society, and the logical answer for any company is never to commission good architecture that will be valued for what it is - and will become an insidious threat to maximising the return on investment.

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  • This story is a classic case of unadaptability for other uses - see Stewart Brand's 'How Buildings Learn'.

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  • Unadaptable? really? I wonder - and Stewart Brand's ideas might be fine in theory, but surely lead to a proliferation of rather anonymous flexible metal 'sheds' - and even Team 4's pioneering shed for Reliance Controls in Swindon only lasted from 1967 to 1991, with a retail park now occupying the site of the industrial estate.

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