An architecture and sculpture of purely abstract form through which to walk, in which to linger and on which to play, a free and anonymous monument which, because of it’s independence, can lift the activity and psychology of an urban housing community on to a universal plane.
The idea for the Apollo Pavilion was the culmination of Victor Pasmore’s involvement with the planning and design of the new town of Peterlee in County Durham which began in 1954 with his appointment by A.V. Williams, the General Manager, as a consultant architectural designer to the Corporation. The brief was to inject a new initiative into the new town’s design, which had been limited by practical and financial constraints. The early departure of Berthold Lubetkin from the original design team, and the limitations imposed by building on land subject to underground mining, had led to a deterioration in the quality of the architecture being produced at Peterlee.
At Peterlee Pasmore worked initially alongside architects Peter Daniel and Franc Dixon to develop the Sunny Blunts estate in the south-west area of the town, though by the time the Pavilion was built Dixon had left and the team included the more experienced Harry Durell, Colin Gardham and landscape architect David Thirkettle. Pasmore continued to be involved with Peterlee until 1978 and designed the Pavilion as a gift to the town.
It was restored in 2009 with the help of a Heritage Lottery Grant of £336,000. The restoration restored the south side stairway – the other had not been part of the original design, reset the cobbles in the surrounding area and reinstated the two murals on the north and south walls.
A metal gate restricting access at night time to the upper level has been introduced, and the original lighting scheme, out of action since the mid 1970s, has been reinstated.
I jumped the X9 bus and headed for Peterlee – walked the wide open streets in search of signs.
There were no signs.
I found it instead by chance and instinct.
Here it is.
Peterlee was to be the miners’ capital of the world and was named after the well-known miner and councillor Peter Lee.
Architect Berthold Lubetkin’s plans included everything from football pitches and tennis courts, to a rock-climbing centre and a zoo. However, to Berthold Lubetkin’s frustration, the National Coal Board opposed his plan and, after numerous failed attempts to agree on the siting of housing, Lubetkin quit the project in 1950. He later gave up architecture altogether and took up pig farming.
It remains a grand place to live it seems, tidy housing set in rolling greenery.
Manors Car Park’s distinctive form derives from the constraints of the train line to east which collided with the new Central East Motorway A167 M which dips beneath, shaping the car park between these constraints. The curvature of the concrete decks sweeps uniformally across the site, interrupted only by the circulation ramp. The car park was the first multi-story car park in Newcastle and marked the beginnings of Wilfred Burns car-centric plans for the modernisation of the city through the Central East Motorway Plan – 1963.
Burns plan aimed to increase the economic growth of the city through greater convenience for an emerging car owning populace and even went as far as to incentivised cars travel by offering limited free parking in the city centre.
Manors car park connected and accompanied by an equally dramatic and elongated pedestrian footbridge from Manors Train Station – today Manors Metro, touching the car park for access before swooping under Swan House on Pilgrim Street Roundabout. The bridge takes what feels like the longest imaginable route over the motorway, allowing pedestrians to bypass Northumberland high street and take in the theatrics of the swooping concrete forms and motorway traffic.
In the early 1960s, under the leadership of T Dan Smith and his chief planning officer Wilf Burns, Newcastle city council undertook a comprehensive re-planning of the city centre that, had it been carried out to its full extent, would have led to the construction of underground motorways and a series of raised pedestrian decks running along Northumberland Street in the main shopping zone. The plan was that the new city would encircle the historical core, which would be preserved; meanwhile vast swathes of Georgian housing to the east would be razed. There were also plans for high-rise towers in the centre, only one of which was built.
This tendency in town planning was due in part to the publication of H. Alker Tripp’s book of 1942.
Along with Traffic in Towns an influential report and popular book on urban and transport planning policy published 25 November 1963 for the UK Ministry of Transport by a team headed by the architect, civil engineer and planner Colin Buchanan. The report warned of the potential damage caused by the motor car, while offering ways to mitigate it. It gave planners a set of policy blueprints to deal with its effects on the urban environment, including traffic containment and segregation, which could be balanced against urban redevelopment, new corridor and distribution roads and precincts.
These policies shaped the development of the urban landscape in the UK and some other countries for two or three decades. Unusually for a technical policy report, it was so much in demand that Penguin abridged it and republished it as a book in 1964.
In a one man war against the segregation of traffic and pedestrian I often walk car parks, ramps and all.
Land was acquired for this site in 1929 for the then General Post Office.
The first buildings are constructed in 1932 as General Stores, a Workshop and Garages.
These were demolished in 1966 to make way for the present development.
The current building was phase one of eleven, which was to include a further twenty two storey building with a planned capacity of twenty four thousand people by 1980.
Building construction started in 1969 and was completed in 1972.
Final cost was £1,218,401.
My thanks to Sonna Lawrence BT employee, for his time and information.
There is little by way of background information online, save for this thread.
It’s officially The Hadrian Trunk Switching Centre and it is indeed owned by BT. It’s just a telephone exchange with a handful of staff. I only know this as I used to work for BT 150 customer service when ISDN was being rolled out 20 years ago and when there was a fault in the Newcastle area it was usually something going wrong in this building.
I’ve heard that it goes down as far as it goes up.
Someone has mentioned the basement which is legendary amongst the people who work there. Some say it’s a nuclear bunker, some say there’s a tunnel that goes to the other BT building in Carliol Square, others say there’s nothing down there.
The rumour always was that the central core was nuclear bomb proof so people in power could still make phonecalls and there is also a service tunnel going across to the CTE on the other side of the central motorway.
I was taking a band of merry Modernist Moochers around town, so I stopped to snap this BDP behemoth once again.
On a sunny September morn.
David Lees informs me:
Halifax Building Society HQ, designed by BDP in an a multi-consultant appointment. Bill Pearson, partner and lead designer, John Ellis, M & E partner, David Cowler, Industrial Designer for the conservatrieve document storage and recovery terminals.
Rod Morris, Graphic Designer designed the sculptural Corten air vents. Richard Saxon, Americanophile introduced the theory of the open plan office. The building has twin fourteen foot deep steel beams clear-spanning between the four corner stair towers, within the chamfered soffit, a floor that also houses all the plant rooms. Lower floor of curtain walled cladding is a one acre open plan beaurolandchaft office, based upon analysis of workflow, the first in the UK and the biggest order for Herman Miller action office furniture at the time.
The office ceiling is a development of BDP’s coffered ceiling creating diffuse, glare free light and massive sound deadening, needed in open plan. Yellow cylindrical air inlet terminals by David Cowler. There ended up being so many duct penetrations in the fourteen foot beams that Harry Halsall, the structural engineer, had to prop them centre span. To create strong columns that could be lost in the window walls he used solid square section forged steel. No holds barred on this building’s cost. Executives suits of offices on the top floor with lavish bespoke joinery have recessed landscaped courtyards.
The building sits on a vast chasm that is storage for physical title documents the society had to keep. Its roof is a crash slab that can take the full weight of the building above collapsing. Large vertical robot arms travel the racks to retrieve the documents that get delivered to the office floor by a conveyor system. Office terminals designed by David Cowler who went on to design the iconic Samsonite Suitcase.
Nobody thought about the groundwater effect when the concrete basement was built. Without the weight of the building on it, it floated eleven inches. Luckily when the water was pumped out it settled back down precisely.
BDP Manchester’s golden years.
I arrived fresh from Uni just as it was finished.
Thanks to David for the inside information, here’s what it looks like on the outside.
The remodelling of the building include reparations and repainting brickwork, render and cladding as part of wider plans to rejuvenate Hilton House to rebrand as a more attractive and contemporary office location in Stockport town centre.
Studio KMA have proposed conversion to apartments.
Conversion of existing 1970s office building to apartments.
A combination of one-bed, two-bed and three-bed units ensure a new sustainable use in Stockport town centre.
The proposal incorporates the use of coloured glass panels to create a modern, fresh aesthetic.
The original master plan would have swept away the Victorian Technical Institute and Salford Art Gallery.
Across the road are the Maxwell Buildings.
They were built between 1959 and 1960 to a design by the architect C H Simmons of the Lancashire County Architects Department.
The interior decorative order of Sixties’ institutions was integral to the architectural design, sadly this is no longer so.
Which may be the subject of ambitious redevelopment.
Take a turn around the corner to the Cockcroft Building.
These incised stone panels obscured by plants.
To the left is the Clifford Whitworth Library – this is the original architectural impression – signed Peter Sainsbury.
The original fascia was tile clad.
Subsequently replaced by uPVC boards.
Yet again the original interior was integral too the architectural scheme and period.
It was designed by WF Johnson and Partners of Leamington Spa, as a lecture theatre block and gallery. It sits with its long axis running parallel to the railway behind. The series of grey volumes, occasionally punctuated by colourful floods of red and green trailing ivy, hang together in a less than convincing composition. The orientation and access to the building seem confused and detached from any cohesive relationship to the rest of the campus, but there is something perversely attractive about the right essay in the wrong language. The reinforced concrete building contained five lecture theatres, communal spaces, an art gallery, AV support areas and basement plant rooms. Following a major refurbishment in 2012, several additions were made to the exterior and its total concrete presence somewhat diminished. It still houses lecture theatres and a number of other learning and social spaces.
A ways down the road the former Salford Technical College.
Now the part of the University of Salford, this grouping is probably the most significant work by Halliday Meecham during this period. The blocks wrap to almost enclose a courtyard and they step up in height towards the rear of the site. To the front is a lecture theatre block in dark brick. The multi-storey elements are straightforward in their construction and appearance and have had their glazing replaced. Perhaps the richest elements here are the three totemic structures by artist William Mitchell, which were listed at Grade II in 2011. Mitchell was actively engaged with the experiments of the Cement and Concrete Associations during the 1960s and produced a wide variety of works for public and private clients; other works regionally include the majority of the external art and friezes at Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral and the Humanities Building at Manchester University. These textured concrete monoliths appear to have an abstract representation of Mayan patterns and carry applied mosaic. They were made on site using polyurethane moulds. There is another Mitchell work hidden behind plasterboard in the inside of the building.
April 1965 saw the Salford City Reporter proudly boast in an article that
The Ellor Street dream begins to come true – complete with interviews with residents of the newly constructed Walter Greenwood, Eddie Colman and John Lester Courts all which towered some 120 feet above the Hanky Park skyline.
These particular blocks of flats were of special significance because their completion was the end of the first stage of the Ellor Street redevelopment scheme which was to provide 3,000 new homes, the £10 million pound Salford Shopping Precinct and a new civic centre – which never got built – making this A Salford of the Space Age.
The architectural core of the site has been retained, including the 23 storey Briar Court residential tower.
Tucked in behind is Mother of God and St James RC Church.
Clearances took place from the middle of the twentieth century and new high-rise housing blocks were built, as well as a shopping centre.
There was a Catholic presence in the area from 1854, when schools were built. What was described in The Tablet as a beautiful church, an Early English Gothic design by M. Tijou – presumably Herbert Tijou, architect of the chapel to Loreto College, Manchester, was opened by Cardinal Manning, Archbishop of Westminster in 1875.
One hundred years later this church was demolished and replaced by the present building.
The architects were Desmond Williams & Associates, the design bearing some similarity to their St Sebastian, Salford. In 2010 the church of All Souls, Weaste, was closed, and the marble sanctuary furnishings brought to the church.
All orientations given are liturgical. The church is steel framed with brick walls and a monopitch roof (originally covered with copper, now with felt). Bold brick forms create a presence, and the design is somewhat defensive, with few windows. The building is entered from a lower porch which forms a narthex. The slope of the roof and the stepped clerestory lighting create a striking impression inside, and full-height windows towards the east end incorporate stained glass figures said to have originated in the previous church. Marble sanctuary furnishings are presumably those from the church in Weaste and appear to be of later twentieth century date, while the font is of traditional type with a clustered stem and may have come from the earlier church.
Come out of the station turn a little right and have a quick look at the library.
The Calderdale Central Library & Archives is a bespoke design to rehouse the existing public library service and provide it with state of the art facilities to meet the needs of a modern public library: automatic book sorting, RFID stock tracking, dedicated ‘Media Store’, Children’s Library and flexible community spaces. Additionally the building houses a world-class document archive designed to meet the rigorous PD:5454 standards for environmental close-control, fire protection, security and storage.
Clad in locally-hand-made, long-format clay bricks, the design took careful consideration of the historic context of the site and its surrounding buildings. The site was previously occupied by a Grade II* Listed 19th century Neo-Gothic style church, which was largely destroyed by fire in the 1970s. The new library was designed to wrap around the ruins – the impressive Spire and the remaining Transept with its intricately carved stone rose window. This allowed the building to give new life to the ruins through expert repair work, specialist reglazing of the original windows and integration of the Transept into the library’s main public spaces.
The building was designed to achieve a BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating and, in addition to a highly insulated building envelope, the building includes a BMS controlled natural ventilation system, low-energy LED lighting, a ground source heat pump and a rooftop photovoltaic array.
Back downhill and through the overgrown walkway we find ourselves neath the flyovers.
Burdock Way, the modern flyover system, was opened in 1973 to take the A58 and A629 traffic over the River Hebble.
Faced with the problem of very high volumes of through traffic in its town centre, and with the impending construction of the M62 too far to the south to provide relief for the town, Halifax needed a bypass. The steep sided valley that the town centre inhabits prevented a conventional road from being built around the town, and so in the early 1970’s construction began on Burdock Way – one of the most adventurous relief road schemes built in Britain, certainly by a town the size of Halifax.
Only one phase of the futuristic road was ever built, but what exists is a partially grade-separated dual carriageway that runs through deep trenches and over tall viaducts close to the heart of the town. At its eastern end is a truly byzantine piece of traffic engineering that stretches the definition of a roundabout to its limit.
North Bridge Leisure Centre had been considered by the planners since the late 1950’s, with many sites named as ideal locations including Shroggs Park and Spring Hall. The clearing of the former North Bridge Goods Railway Station created the favoured site and it, building started in 1979.
The Halifax Odeon opened on 27th June 1938 with Errol Flynn in The Perfect Specimen.
The architect was George Coles and it cost £59,727 to build.
It had 1,344 stalls seats and 714 in the balcony giving a total of 2,058. A most unusual façade remains intact with three concave bays covered with buff faience tiles, above the entrance each containing a convex window. A tall Art Deco style tower formerly had the Odeon lettering illuminated by neon. It was however not originally intended for the Odeon circuit, but was a take over during construction, which explains its differences from the typical Odeon style.
The cinema had a wide proscenium and a stylish interior with decoration dominated by two large bas-relief female figures on the splay walls either side of the screen.
The Odeon Cinema closed on 18th October 1975 with Robin Askwith in Confessions of a Pop Performer.
It stood unused for a while. It was later converted into a Top Rank Bingo Club which is still operating as a Mecca Bingo Club today.
Further on down this commercial development of the 60’s.
Sitting in back of the Regal/ABC Cinema.
The Regal Cinema opened on 19 September 1938, just three months after the large Odeon opened. There was an entertainment venue on each corner of the intersection, the Victoria Theatre, the Picture House and an independent cinema occupied the other three corners. The Alexandra, Electric, and Theatre Royal were also nearby.
Designed by William R. Glen – ABC’s in-house architect, the Regal Cinema was a particularly fine 1,938-seat cinema, with 1,250 seats in the stalls and 688 in the balcony. A shallow stage was provided and four dressing rooms. The proscenium was wide and surrounded by an elaborate plaster fretwork concealing ventilation ducts. On either side were niches containing tall slender figurines which were not dis-similar to the Oscar statues.
The cinema was tripled in 1976 – having been renamed ABC in 1961 and reopened on 12 September with 670 in screen 1, the original circle using the original unaltered screen, and 200 and 173 seats in screens 2 & 3 situated under the balcony.
Renamed Cannon and then back to ABC the cinema closed suddenly in 2002 having been bought for use as a nightclub.
Fortunately it was designated a Grade II Listed building in 2000.
This has ensured that all elements of the original (it had survived basically intact) are to be preserved. English Heritage described it as ‘Long curved stone exterior. A handsome surviving classical auditorium. One of the best of the few surviving original ABC auditoria’. However the construction of the nightclub, using the stalls area only, will effectively conceal all trace of the original design. The circle will not be used at all.
Work on the insertion of the nightclub began in the Summer of 2002.
The Halifax Building was designed by the architecture firm BDP and constructed in 1968-74, as the headquarters for the Halifax Building Society and built with an unusually high budget. The rapid growth of the society over the twentieth century prompted the requirement for a new headquarters building, and in 1968 the aim of the architects was to design not only a practical building but a bold building for a confident client.
The building was Grade II listed in February 2013.
Designed by F H Hoyles, the Deputy Borough Architect, under the supervision of the Borough Architect J L Berbiers, and constructed in the 1960s, Halifax Swimming Pool is an admirable effort by the local authority to translate local distinctiveness into modern design.
Calderdale Council say that due to severe structural deterioration, Halifax Swimming Pool has been permanently closed to protect the safety of its staff and users.
Campaigners are urging the local authority to save the tile murals.
The interior of the swimming pool features two ceramic murals by artist Kenneth Barden 1924-1988, depicting British pond life. The mural is a collage of different plants and insects, layered in a geometric motif with vibrant blues, reds, purples and greens. The aquatic theme ties in with the building’s function and creates a lively backdrop to the diving pool.
Barden designed a number of ceramic murals in the post-war period, with notable examples being the massive Carter tile facade panels for the Harbour and Seaward residential towers in Gosport 1961-68, and an interior mural depicting historic pump mechanisms at a Pump House in Sawbridgeworth for the Hertfordshire and Essex Water Board (1955).
The Twentieth Century Society is calling for a review of listing policy for post war buildings following the decision to turn down a listing application for Halifax Swimming Pool and its two distinctive internal murals.
The Church of Our Lady Star of the Sea was built using reinforced concrete around 1937 and its dedication carries tribute to sailors lost at sea. The roof is designed to resemble the hull of a boat, and the windows in the crypt port holes. These aspects reflecting the maritime heritage of Amlwch.
Designed by Giuseppe Rinvolucri, an Italian architect who was originally brought to Wales as a prisoner of war. He subsequently married a local woman, and lived and worked in north Wales, specialising in Roman Catholic churches. He also designed a number of other churches in Wales, including those at Abergele, and Porthmadog.
Around 600,000 Italian soldiers were taken prisoner during the First World War, about half in the aftermath of Caporetto. Roughly one Italian soldier in seven was captured, a significantly higher number than in other armies on the Western Front.
About 100,000 Italian prisoners of war never returned home, having succumbed to hardship, hunger, cold and disease – mainly tuberculosis.
Uniquely among the Allied powers, Italy refused to assist its prisoners, and even hindered efforts by soldiers’ families to send them food.
From the 1930s he was living at St Francis Grange, Glan Conwy, an art deco style dwelling overlooking the Conwy estuary.
The main entrance leads into a small vestibule with raking sides; further doorways lead into the end of the main body of the church. The ribbing that is such a prominent feature of the exterior of the church also dominates the design of the interior; the body of the church illuminated by bands of geometrically patterned lights between the ribs. The lateral walls have marble panels which also follow the pattern of the ribs; to the top are paired panels, each with a moulded quatrefoil plaques depicting biblical scenes, plain paired panels below. The marbled panels continue at the far end of the church, raised up over round-headed doorways flanking a recess painted with a depiction of the crucifixion; star shaped lights follow the line of the domed arch.
I think it is worthy of mention how the whole mass of imitation stone frontage was done by one plasterer long gone called Llew – Inja Rock, whose pretty unique style of work is still to be seen elsewhere around town today. He once showed me how it was done, all with a little teaspoon. What patience and what a proven good job to stand the trial of time of 40-plus years without a great deal, if any, remedial work. A sound memorial to a good working man.
For many years I have cycled y on my tours around Anglesey- often stopping to marvel at this concrete anachronism.
This time I stopped to walk around and take some snaps – here they are.
The Pevsner Buildings of Wales guide calls it:
A piece of Italian architectural daring of the 1930s – a soaring reinforced concrete and brick vault formed on six arches, expressed as ribs externally and internally, with a conical apse. Three transverse bands of glazing in geometric trefoils of white and blue.
Five glass stars – made in France, perforate the East wall round the apse.
Rinvolucri’s team of builders constructed the innovative parabolic vault in six months in 1935.
The same guide calls it Futurist, closer to Freyssinet’s 1920s airship hangars at Orly, Paris, than to Catholic Church design, and unlike the conservatism of Anglesey building.
He died in 1962 and is buried in St Agnes Road Cemetery, Conwy with Mina, who died in 1991.
Now I want to look in detail at the exterior ceramic art.
The façade of the market hall on Queensgate incorporates five roof sections with patent glazing and is decorated with square ceramic panels by Fritz Steller, entitled Articulation in Movement, set over natural stone cladding.
These continue across the façade of the adjoining shops, to make nine panels in all, with a tenth larger panel added in 1972, pierced by stairs and an entrance to the market hall from Queensgate.
They have representations of the mushroom shells of the market hall, turned through 90 degrees, with abstract representations of the goods available within.
The enormous abstract art panels weigh almost 50 tons.