Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown’s 1991 Postmodern extension to the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square has been handed a Grade I listing
Historic England described the 11,148m² addition to Williams Wilkins’ 1938 gallery as a ‘highly individual … skilful extension’ and ‘one of the career highlights of the founders of Postmodernism’.
The heritage organisation has been carrying out a thematic study into the ‘scarce survivors’ of the design style, which it says began in the ‘1970s as a critical reaction to Modernism [and which] was closely associated with the economic boom of the 1980s’.
In the last two years, Historic England has succeeded in winning listing for half a dozen Postmodern exemplars, most famously No 1 Poultry by James Stirling and Michael Wilford & Partners.
Among the latest buildings given statutory protection are four by CZWG and a pair by John Outram, including his ‘remarkable’ Judge Business School in Cambridge, which bagged a Grade II* listing (pictured below).
Judge Business School, Trumpington Street, Cambridge (Grade II*) by John Outram
There was also a Grade I listing for Charles Jencks’s ‘inventive and ingenious’ Thematic House (1985) which was designed with Terry Farrell and includes contributions from US Postmodernist architect Michael Graves, sculptor Celia Scott, and sculptor and artist Eduardo Paolozzi.
Historic England chief executive Duncan Wilson commented: ‘Postmodern architecture brought fun and colour to our streets. Housing schemes were enlivened with bold façades, a school technology building was decorated with columns designed as screws, a business park injected with glamour.
‘These are scarce survivals of a really influential period of British architecture and these buildings deserve the protection that listing gives them.’
Historic England’s citations for the 17 recently listed Postmodern buildings
Sainsbury Wing at the National Gallery by Venturi, Rauch and Scott Brown (Grade I)
When the National Gallery acquired a site for extending its gallery space, the government at the time was unwilling to provide public funding. It was proposed instead that a developer build new galleries with funding generated by an office block. Ahrends, Burton and Koralek won the competition but the scheme was refused planning permission in 1984. The Sainsbury family stepped in to sponsor a new scheme without the need for commercial offices. A second competition was won by Venturi, Rauch and Scott Brown who had considerable experience of building art galleries. Built in 1988-1991, it is the architects’ only building in Britain and it captures the philosophy of the people regarded as founders of Postmodernism. The design is highly individual, achieving a balance of old and new and it has achieved a skilful extension to the Grade I listed gallery of 1832. The Grade I listing for the Sainsbury Wing is in recognition of the exceptional design and the fact that the building is regarded as one of the career highlights of the founders of Postmodernism.
Cascades, Westferry Road, Isle of Dogs, London, by CZWG (Grade II)
Cascades was built in 1987-1988 to the designs of Rex Wilkinson, also a partner in the celebrated CZWG practice. Wilkinson came to the project with fresh ideas based on his study of waterside developments in Hong Kong, Sydney and San Francisco. He designed a singular building with an unmistakable silhouette, featuring a distinctive sloping profile. His design fuses references to heavy industry and nautical elements: the coal-conveyor at Deptford provides the form for the building, and the exterior features porthole windows, crows’ nests and funnels in allusion to the Dockland setting.
To make the scheme financially viable the lower floors were ready for occupation before the upper floors were even complete
The scheme was designed to maximise views of the river, and the developer wanted the building to have the feel of an international hotel, achieved in the Art Deco-detailed lobby, rich interior materials, and swimming pool with ocean-liner windows. Developer Kentish Homes took a risk on Cascades, a striking development in what was a bleak location. To make the scheme financially viable, Kentish Homes used a pioneering construction method which made the lower floors ready for occupation before the upper floors were even complete and sold all 164 flats off plan.
Thematic House, Kensington and Chelsea, London, by Charles Jencks and Terry Farrell (Grade I)
Charles Jencks’s Thematic House of 1979-1985 is inventive and ingenious. It’s an early example of Postmodernism conceived by the person credited with defining and fostering the movement internationally. Jencks is a renowned historian and architecture critic and designer of buildings. The Thematic House is his most ambitious built work and is full of symbolism.
The design was collaborative, principally with the architect Terry Farrell but including contributions from the American Postmodernist architect Michael Graves, the sculptor Celia Scott and Eduardo Paolozzi.
Thematic House, Kensington and Chelsea, London (Grade I) by Charles Jencks and Terry Farrell: solar staircase
The house’s themes relate to the seasons and the passage of the sun and moon, such as a ‘solar’ spiral stair to symbolise the sun’s rays, a winter room with fireplace painted to resemble red marble and a spring room in a pale yellow colour with three busts to symbolise April, May and June. The kitchen is named ‘Indian Summer’ after its location between summer and autumn rooms, taking its themes from Hindu and Mogul architecture.
China Wharf, 29 Mill Street, Southwark, London, by CZWG (Grade II)
China Wharf was designed in 1982-1983 by Piers Gough of CZWG, a practice recognised as one of the key proponents of British Postmodern architecture. China Wharf was an early part of the Docklands regeneration and an example of how Postmodern design typically incorporates clever metaphor and historical references, alongside colour and a sense of playfulness. The river-facing elevation combines a giant pagoda-like centrepiece and striking red colouring with arched steel windows. The tall vertical opening in the eastern elevation references the architectural heritage of nearby Victorian warehouses and, to the rear, the undulating design references the shape of the tall cylindrical grain silos, once a feature of the Docklands skyline, or the fluting on classical columns.
The design incorporates clever metaphors and historical references, alongside colour and a sense of playfulness
Gough designed a sophisticated scissor-section plan for the interior, in which interlocking dwellings step over a central corridor, giving most apartments both privacy and a river view. He created a ‘jazz moderne’ style lobby with a spiral balustrade in electric blue, black granite floors and panelled coral red front doors.
China wharf, 29 mill street, tower bridge, london view of north elevation by czwg
Source: Historic England
Newlands Quay, Maynards Quay and Peartree Lane, Shadwell Basin, London, by MacCormac Jamieson Prichard and Wright (Grade II)
An early example of a high-profile scheme commissioned by the LDDC is the waterfront houses and flats in the Shadwell Basin development on the northern bank of the River Thames, close to the Wapping Wall Conservation Area in Tower Hamlets. It was built between 1986 and 1988 to the design of MacCormac Jamieson Prichard and Wright (MJPW).
Richard MacCormac was one of Britain’s foremost post-war architects, and although the final design of the development deviated from his original vision of a symmetrical plan of five-storey blocks on three sides of the basin, incorporating instead lower-rise buildings on Peartree Lane, the finished scheme reflects subtle Postmodern influences. They are apparent in the historical references, the use of high-quality brick as the principal building material and the scheme’s bold colours of red steel panels and doors, and dark blue balconies and windows. MacCormac’s design draws on the architecture of Victorian docks with arches inspired by the Albert Dock in Liverpool, which in turn was modelled on the Basilica Palladiana in Vicenza, and detailing that references ports and marine forms including porthole windows, crane cabins and gantries.
Swedish Quays, 1-95 Rope Street, Southwark, London, by Price and Cullen (Grade II)
Swedish Quays was designed by Price and Cullen and built between 1986 and 1990, another of the Postmodernist schemes approved by the LDDC as part of the Docklands regeneration. Price and Cullen planned 95 houses and flats around two courtyards and a central landscaped avenue in the former industrial landscape of Surrey Quays, an area used by Arctic whalers in the mid-18th century and timber and grain importers in the mid-19th century. The architects drew on many architectural styles, as well as the dockland setting for motifs in their design.
The architects drew on many architectural styles, as well as the dockland setting for motifs in their design
For example, there are the Classical ‘giant order’ columns spanning multiple storeys on the north elevation, the sail-like roofscape across the scheme, and the delicate ironwork on balconies and square-grid glazing bars that bring to mind the work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh. The building’s monumental scale and stone ground floor elevations echo the dock walls over which it looms, and the stepped profiles of the blocks are richly textured, a use of material inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement.
23, 23a, 24 and 25 Church Crescent, Hackney, London, by Colquhoun and Miller (Grade II)
Hackney was one of several inner-London boroughs to revert to a policy of low-rise housing in the 1970s after widespread disillusionment with large-scale developments. The borough architects reconditioned 19th-century housing but also commissioned several imaginative infill schemes. 23, 23a, 24 and 25 Church Crescent is a distinctive pair of semi-detached houses, designed as public housing by the firm Colquhoun and Miller and built between 1981 and 1984. The houses are designed to frame views of the Grade II* listed Church of St John the Jerusalem and were cleverly laid out to avoid overlooking. The houses are among the best examples of domestic work by this notable architecture practice.
Belvoir Estate, Islington, London, by Gerry Jury at Islington Architects Department (Grade II)
The Belvoir Estate was designed between 1983 and 1984 by Islington Architects’ Department and completed by 1987. The estate is one of the last in a century-long tradition of public housing in the borough. Units on the estate, 48 in total, range from single-bedroom bungalows to three-storey four-bedroom family homes, and include sheltered housing designed for mobility-impaired occupants. Architect Gerry Jury designed the estate using a narrow palette of materials and devices with variety so that all the terraces feature common elements and themes, but with an individual treatment for each.
Geometric shapes recur throughout: the squared grid pattern occurs in the glazing of doors and conservatories and in the screens to the first-floor lobbies; the semicircle, in the plan form of lobbies and balconies and as cut-out profiles in parapets and walls. There are also playful Classical references, for example in the giant triangular lintels. Jury employed a combination of traditional and modern materials: brick is the main building material, with steel frameworks and bright yellow window frames. He showed particular thought for those who would live on the estate. Every unit has access to outdoor space and his flats for wheelchair users had scaled doorways and space for turning in lobby areas long before access requirements were enforced.
105-123 St Mark’s Road and 1-3 Cowper Terrace, Kensington, London, by Jeremy and Fenella Dixon (Grade II)
These two terraces and a block of flats were designed by Jeremy and Fenella Dixon for the Kensington Housing Trust and built between 1977 and 1979. The development marked a turning point in the career of Jeremy Dixon, formerly a committed Modernist. From the outset, the scheme was recognised as an innovative reinterpretation of terraced housing. With its multi-coloured brick elevations and lower ground floors set behind front areas and boundary walls, the houses echo the designs of their 19th-century neighbours.
The terrace exteriors feature brown and red brick, white painted-cast stone coping and projecting party walls which house blue front doors and gridded walls of blue painted timber framing windows and small squares of opaque blue and white glass. The ingenious planning of the scheme allows for maximum access to private open space and light. It is a successful example of the way Posmodernist architecture engages with urban and historical context and draws in modern as well as historical motifs. It influenced Jeremy Dixon’s own later work and that of other contemporary architects working on London housing schemes. Dixon is today one of Britain’s foremost architects.
105-123 St Mark’s Road and 1-3 Cowper Terrace, Kensington, London, by Jeremy and Fenella Dixon (Grade II)
Judge Business School, Cambridge, by John Outram (Grade II*)
In the 1990s, a competition was held to convert the former Addenbrooke Hospital on Trumpington Street into a business school that would be ambitious and eye-catching. The mid-18th-century hospital was listed Grade II in 1986. John Outram won the competition in 1991 and design work started in the same year. He kept the 19th-century arcaded façade of the hospital and rebuilt the early 20th-century attic storey. The two three-storey war blocks were converted to the library, seminar rooms and offices. The different elements of the building are linked by a large glazed atrium. Outram’s alterations and extensions are highly creative and inventive in the handling of colour, pattern, scale and detail. The building has been listed at Grade II*, the second highest grade because of this being a remarkable piece of Postmodern architecture and a new work that complements an existing listed building.
Katharine Stephen Rare Books Library, Newnham College, Cambridge, by van Heyningen & Haward (Grade II)
Newnham College, Cambridge, commissioned Joanna van Heyningen and Birkin Haward to design a library to store their rare books, manuscripts and artefacts. The Katharine Stephen Rare Books Library was built in 1981-1982 and was named after the person who was for many years responsible for the library at the college before becoming principal between 1911 and 1920. It is an intriguing building, using red brick to allude to its Victorian surroundings, and is perfectly proportioned and visually arresting. Its form is like a jewel casket, which is appropriate given its contents. The barrel-vaulted roof was inspired by the college’s first library.
Gough Building, Bryanston School, Dorset, by CZWG (Grade II)
The Gough Building, originally the Craft, Design and Technology Building, at Bryanston School is a striking piece of Postmodern architecture by the celebrated practice CZWG, completed in 1988. The school is set in the grounds of a Grade I-listed country house. Responding to a competition to design the new building in the mid-1980s, Piers Gough suggested a different site to one the school had earmarked. His suggestion aligned the new building with the east wing of Shaw’s house and formed a new eastern courtyard. The design is witty and inventive.
The bays are separated by columns modelled to look like giant screws
Exterior bays are separated by columns which stand beyond the height of the first floor of the building, modelled to look like giant screws and made of cast white stone. It is a decorative feature that plays a functional role, to unify the design, signify the purpose of the building, and through the ‘capital’ at the top to deflect sunlight. The red brick and white cast stone dressing echo the prominent quoins, or corner blocks, of the Shaw building, and the profiles of the first-floor windows echo the rooflines, illustrating the attention the architect paid to the setting of the listed building.
Gough Building, Bryanston School, Dorset (Grade II) by CZWG
Truro Crown Courts, Cornwall by Evans and Shalev (Grade II*)
The architects of Truro Crown Courts and Courts of Justice, Eldred Evans and David Shalev, have achieved a landmark civic complex that is an elegant and sophisticated addition to Truro. The Courts Act of 1971 was issued with an accompanying memorandum on court design. Truro Courts of Justice is an exemplary response to this brief, providing courts on as few floor levels as possible and separate facilities for judges and juries.
The practice, which also designed the Tate Gallery, St Ives, stated: ‘We tried to create a building of unique character and appropriate dignity which was at the same time unassuming, not overbearing … to create an inviting and relaxing environment for members of the public using the building.’
They have succeeded in creating a place that is at the same time human but reflects its sober purpose. Externally the building seemingly emerges from its prominent site. Using light-grey render, slate and warm reddish-brown brick and tile, it echoes local traditions. There is a consistently high standard of finishes and craftsmanship and the interior is well planned.
Founders’ Hall, Number One, Cloth Fair, City of London, by Sam Lloyd of Green, Lloyd and Adams (Grade II)
Founders’ Hall was built to the designs of Sam Lloyd of Green, Lloyd and Adams between 1984 and 1990. The Hall is the fifth home of the Worshipful Company of Founders, a City Livery company with roots as a medieval guild for craftsmen working in brass. It is a sophisticated late-20th-century re-interpretation of the City livery hall, with thoughtful Postmodern design and a high quality of craftsmanship and construction. It features bespoke fittings referencing the Founders’ history, for example the company’s coat of arms above the entrance and the gilded screen in the main hall. Lloyd’s design incorporates fixtures from the company’s former home including ornate stained-glass windows and panelled oak doors.
Founders’ Hall, Number One, Cloth Fair, City of London (Grade II) by Sam Lloyd of Green, Lloyd and Adams
The slender plot, between the Grade I-listed Church of St Bartholomew the Great and a Grade II-listed public house, as well as the nature of the commission itself called for a sensitive design. Lloyd drew on multiple styles as well as the context of the site and the history of the Founders. Lloyd’s design fused a ‘Neo-vernacular’ style with its focus on traditional materials such as brick, with Arts and Craft influences in the layering of materials, as well as references to the design of guildhalls of the 15th and 16th centuries. The gabled roofline echoes historic buildings in this part of the City.
Hillingdon Civic Centre, High Street, Uxbridge, London, by RMJM (Grade II)
Hillingdon Civic Centre was built between 1973 and 1979 by one of the foremost post-war architectural practices, Robert Matthew Johnson-Marshall (RMJM). The partner in charge was Andrew Derbyshire, at that time recognised as a committed Modernist. As an early example of English Postmodernism which creatively reinterprets the Arts and Crafts tradition, it was seen by some as a betrayal of Modernism, and sparked controversy.
The proposal was seen by some as a betrayal of Modernism, and sparked controversy
The exterior is complex and varied, defined by steep pitched roofs, and the warm tones of handmade brown brick, and tile. The design was finalised after RMJM’s original modern scheme was rejected by councillors. They required something more like the buildings they recognised from the places where they lived. Derbyshire responded with a scheme modelled on buildings nearby, Arts and Crafts churches, and the mass housing in Hillingdon borough that also drew on the Arts and Crafts Movement. He suggested familiar materials and a formal look. His plan broke down the mass of the building, and its complex footprint and cloistered walkways give the sense of a townscape. The building was completed with great craftsmanship.
In his design, Derbyshire took a modern office building with a concrete frame and open planning, and gave it an exterior that controversially revived Arts and Crafts forms with finely executed traditional brickwork detail, and in doing so marked the emergence of a new architectural mood.
Hillingdon Civic Centre, High Street, Uxbridge, London (Grade II) by RMJM
Source: Historic England
210, 220, 240, 250, 260 and 290 Park Avenue, Aztec West, South Gloucestershire, by CZWG (Grade II)
Aztec West was a pioneering business park with a planned, landscaped campus in a semi-rural location close to the M4 motorway and Bristol. The earliest buildings on the park were designed in the High-Tech style, reflecting the ultra-modern nature of the park. The brief required flexible office space, in brick with a pitched roof. Architect CZWG’s response was a sophisticated Postmodern design, based on two intersecting squares with internal courtyards at the centre. The circular forecourts followed the turning circle of a car, celebrating the mode of transport through which out-of-town developments could thrive.
The buildings have a Hollywood glamour, accentuated by elements of Art Deco design
They lend the buildings a Hollywood glamour, accentuated by elements of Art Deco design such as the over-scaled building numbers used as canopies over the main doors (now removed). The buildings have high, continuous parapets that hide the monopitch roofs into the internal courtyards. Beneath the parapets, double-height windows give a sense of scale and grandeur, and act as Classical columns around the building. The two-storey buildings have banded cladding of red and buff brick. Completed in 1987-1988, the commission represents a key project by CZWG that combines bold geometries, colours and traditional materials to dynamic effect.
McKay Trading Estate, Blackthorne Road, Poyle, Slough, by John Outram (Grade II)
This was the first independent commission for architect John Outram and illustrates some of the features that were to be repeated in his later works. He is now considered to be an important voice in late-20th-century British architecture, although just seven examples of his work exist in the country today.
This design for a group of warehouses and offices is an early example of Postmodernism and was completed over 1976-1978, showing an intriguing level of thought for the composition of what was essentially an industrial building. The building is characterised by the arches on its façades: the façade facing the street has an arcade of five full-height arches, and the long elevation of the warehouses has pairs of arches in the style of Le Corbusier and Louis Kahn. The arches are divided by brick piers with cast concrete capitals.
The façades are almost completely flat, so the interplay between windows and frames and brick and concrete reference ‘trompe l’oeil’ – the visual illusion in which painted detail tricks the eye into seeing three-dimensional objects. The effect is to emphasise the nature of the building as designed façades with functional space behind. The three separate parts of the site: the building, forecourt and car parking, define the space and represent an urban piazza, and along with the arcading of the façades, underline Outram’s evocation of traditional European squares.
Previously listed Postmodern buildings
- The Circle (CZWG), Southwark, London. Listed Grade II in February, 2018
- 44 Britton Street (CZWG), Islington, London. Listed Grade II in February, 2018
- Isle of Dogs Pumping Station (John Outram), Tower Hamlets, London. Listed Grade II* in June 2017
- Epping Civic Offices (Richard Reid), Essex. Listed Grade II in December 2017
- Former Legal and General House (Arup Associates), Surrey. Listed Grade II* in December 2017
- Comyn Ching (Terry Farrell Partnership), Seven Dials, London. Listed Grade II in November 2016
- No 1 Poultry (James Stirling and Michael Wilford & Partners), London. Listed Grade II* in November 2016