Stopford House – Again and Again

Third time around – on a late lockdown April evening.

I’ve been here before and before, yet I come back again and again.

It’s different every time, deserted at the best of times, during the worst of times it seems even more so – not a soul in sight. The low warm sun affords the bare concrete a pale pink and orange glow.

The mix contained coarse aggregate from the Scottish Granite Company of Creetown, a fine Leemoor sand from the Fordamin Company, together with white cement.

So here we are again, again:

Civic Centre – Plymouth

Council House former Civic CentreArmada Way Plymouth PL1 2AA

Former Civic Centre 1958-62 by Jellicoe, Ballantyne and Coleridge with city architect HJW Stirling. In-situ concrete structure with pre-cast aggregate panels. It comprises a fourteen storey slab block on a raised raft foundation which straddles a two storey block to the north and a bridge link to the two storey Council House to the south. The bridge link is elevated on pilotis to create an open courtyard with a reflecting pond, part of the designed landscape of the civic square. 

Current listing June 10th 2007 Historic England

I rode into town on my bicycle en route from Weston super Mare to Hastings one sunny afternoon in 2015. The pictures I took that day were largely left untouched, until today. I was prompted by an online postcard search to finally put them to some good use.

On the day of my visit the building was well and truly closed, and its future uncertain.

I took my time and explored the site, here is what I saw:

I subsequently found archival image of the interior – including examples of applied decorative arts.

The building has suffered of late, from poor maintenance and general neglect.

Love it or hate it, it’s one of Plymouth’s most iconic post-war buildings – and it towers over the city centre. But the Civic Centre has been empty since 2015, with sad images revealing parts of the outside literally crumbling.

Today is the day Plymouth will finally discover what developer Urban Splash plans to do with the landmark 14-storey tower block it bought for £1.

Plymouth Herald

Urban Splash are in the house – plans are to go ahead.

The proposal, by Gillespie Yunnie Architects, will see the 14-storey former council headquarters converted into 144 one and two-bedroom flats with the ground floors of the lower blocks providing about 4,600m² of office, retail and leisure space.

Unanimously approved last week, the scheme will open up the ground floor, making it ‘an active public space filled with outside seating for cafés, bars and restaurants’ and reuse the existing landscaped pools, while creating new pedestrian connections through the scheme from the Theatre Royal and Civic Square.

Architects Journal

Civic Centre Postcards – Newcastle and Plymouth

I’m more than partial to a picture postcard – I have penchant for the picaresque.

And in these troubled times there’s no safer way to travel.

I have some previous experience, exploring the precincts of our fair land – here and there.

Prompted by a post from Natalie Bradbury – I became intrigued by Newcastle Civic Centre cards, I have visited the site, but in this instance, we are taken there thus:

Let’s have a look inside:

The Council Chamber

Grand Entrance Hall

Its extensive rooms.

Which then led me to Plymouth – which I had visited some time ago, on my coastal cycle tour, another fine example of post-war Municipal Modernism.

Empty for some time it now seems that a change is going to come:

A long-awaited scheme to convert the empty Civic Centre tower block in Plymouth into flats is set to be given the go-ahead.

Planning applications to create 144 homes in the 14-floor landmark building in Armada Way are being recommended for approval. 

The scheme also proposes a mix of uses for the ground and first floors including shops, offices, cafes and restaurants, bars, hot food takeaway, art gallery, gym, creche and day nursery.

Plymouth Herald

Many of our fine Modernist civic buildings are under threat – as councils seek new premises for a new age.

Only the strong survive.

Cardiff Central Police Station

The current five storey Cardiff Central police station was designed by Cardiff’s city architect John Dryburgh and built on the southern corner of Cathays Park between 1966 and 1968. It is described as: The most successful post-war building in Cathays Park and the only post-war building in the area: To be both modern and majestic

The detention facilities at the station were inadequate with only four cells. These were replaced by sixty cells at the new Cardiff Bay police station, which opened in 2009.

This year’s Mayday protests in Cardiff took place outside Cardiff Central Police Station to show the opposition to the increasing criminalisation of public protest.

No Borders South Wales activists were in attendance to show solidarity with fellow protesters and register our opposition to repressive police tactics at all forms of public demonstrations.

The protest was good natured and lively, with lots of music and singing. 

The building is celebrated by photographer Joe Fox via Fine Art America

Who are happy to reproduce the image in the form of this delightful phone case, for the princely sum of twenty two pounds.

I myself was taken by its unapologetic system built panelling, all-round convivial confidence and cantilevered porch.

Plus an exciting array of concrete planters – exhibiting an exciting array of seasonal planting schemes.

Well with a wander around should you find y’self down that end of town.

Merseyway – Alan Boyson Screen Wall

Deep in the heart of Stockport at the centre of our very own shopping centre – Merseyway.

A pierced concrete relief screen wall surrounds the former Co-op, currently Primark, car park.

The work of Alan Boyson – today the 16th of March 2020 would have been his ninetieth birthday.

I’ve even gone so far as to analyse its structure:

So I went for a walk this morning, as I have on several previous occasions, to take a look around the site – inside and out.

Merseyway – Adlington Walk

Once widely admired, Ian Nairn esteemed architectural writer, thought it an exemplary exposition of modern integrated shopping and parking, sitting perfectly in its particular topography – way back in 1972.

This German magazine dedicated several pages to coverage of Merseyway back in 1971.

Note the long lost decorative panels of Adlington Walk.

Many thanks to Sean Madner for these archive images.

Mainstream Modern has recorded its conception and inception, as part of a wider appreciation of Greater Manchester’s architecture.

The architects were Bernard Engle and Partners in conjunction with officers of Stockport Corporation and the centre opened in 1965. The separation of pedestrians and cars, the service areas, the multi level street, the city block that negotiates difficult topography to its advantage, are all planning moves that are of the new, ordered and systemised, second wave modernism in the UK. The aggregate of the highways engineering, the urban planning and the shifting demands of retailers frequently arrived at a form and order such as this. In this way Merseyway is unremarkable, it’s like many other centres in many other towns – consider the rooftop landscape of Blackburn. It is, however, typical and has been typically added to and adjusted during its life and presents perhaps the face of the last retail metamorphosis before the out-of-town really made the grade.

Each successive remaking and remodelling has seriously compromised the integrity of the development. We are left with dog’s dinner of poorly realised Post Modern and Hi-Tech additions, along with a failure to maintain the best of the original scheme.

Plans are now afoot to revamp the precinct – starting with Adlington Walk.

Proposed facilities include a soft play space, new seating, buggy stores, high grade toilets, parent and child facilities and a multi faith prayer room.

George Street Car Park – Hull

My previous Hull walk was was linear, along the Humber Estuary open and expansive.

This was a very different kettle of fish – spiralling out of control, rising and falling, walking the ramp, a journey into one’s inner self.

Possibly the worst multi storey I have been in for years.

Spooky, filthy, bays too small, machines remote, access tortuous.

Avoid.

So says Nick Shields

Dark, Gloomy and Rotting .

Looks a good candidate for a location for a crime watch reconstruction.

Quoth Peter Campbell

It’s a multi story multi Storey and no mistake

I couldn’t possibly pass comment, I walk can’t drive, won’t drive – though simply can’t resist exploring car parks.

Though the local paper has identified an issue of fitness to fit.

Heard the one about a city centre car park where you can’t easily park your car? It might sound like a joke but it’s no laughing matter for drivers trying to squeeze into vacant spaces at Hull City Council’s multi-storey car park in George Street. For motorists are finding it increasingly difficult to manoeuvre into its tight parking bays.

I myself navigated the bays with ease, though not without that unique sense of foreboding and unease, generated by an empty concrete carapace where car space, decay and ingress are issues.

It was designed and developed by Maurice Weston in the 1960s. He had two companies, Multidek and Dekotel, and built circular continuous ramp car parks in Hull, Nottingham, Leicester, Bristol and Bournemouth, some of them also involving circular hotels on the upper floors. In its day, the bays were easily wide enough for most cars. When I used George Street myself, it felt great to use, because you could easily reverse into the pitches and there were no tight corners to negotiate. But car widths have probably got the better of it, these days, and you can’t widen the pitches because of the position of the pillars.

The plans were very complicated to get approved because the George pub was a listed building and the car park had to be built around it. Incidentally, Maurice Weston also had an option to develop the wasteland on Ferensway in the 60s, but his hotel and entertainment centre project didn’t get past the council.

Thanks to David Sugarman

Let’s take a look.