Lillington Gardens Estate – Pimlico

Formerly an area of high density terraced housing.

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Lillington Gardens is an estate in the Pimlico area of the City of Westminster, London, constructed in phases between 1961 and 1980 to a plan by Darbourne & Darke. The estate is now owned and managed by City West Homes.

The estate was among the last of the high-density public housing schemes built in London during the postwar period, and is referred to as one of the most distinguished. Notably, seven years before the Ronan Point disaster ended the dominance of the tower block, Lillington Gardens looked ahead to a new standard that achieved high housing density within a medium rather than high-rise structure. It emphasised individuality in the grouping of dwellings, and provided for private gardens at ground and roof levels.

The estate’s high build quality, and particularly the planted gardens of its wide roof street, blend sympathetically with the surrounding Victorian terraces.

The estate’s high quality design was acknowledged by a Housing Design Award 1961, Ministry of Housing and Local Government Award for Good Design 1970, RIBA Award 1970 and RIBA Commendation 1973. Nikolaus Pevsner described it in 1973 as “the most interesting recent housing scheme in London”.

The site surrounds the Grade I listed Church of St James the Less, built in 1859–61. The entire estate, including the church, was designated a conservation area in 1990.

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Lillington and Longmoore Gardens Conservation Area Audit

On the day of my visit, London in the grip of a July heatwave, the open areas, narrow alleys, byways, steps, stairs and roof gardens and play area were largely empty, citizens preferring the cooler interior environment of their homes.

The materials, warm brown brick and sheet-metal cladding, form complex interlocking shapes and volumes, creating a variety of heights and spaces. This makes exploration and navigation of the estate quite an adventure, disorienting at first, until one grasps an overall sense of the development’s structure.

Lillington Gardens provides homes, community, green space and an exciting range of vistas, a prime example of social housing on a human scale. Leafy glades, light and shade, grassy knolls abound.

Municipal Dreams for further reading.

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Trinity United Reform Church – Sheffield

737a Ecclesall Road  Sheffield S11 8TG.

The church building, designed by John Mark Mansell Jenkinson, the second generation of a Sheffield firm of architects, was opened in 1971. A steel cross, fixed to the facade in 1989, is a memorial to their work here and in the city. 

The church, which stands at the side of a main road, has a grey concrete exterior, once white, which rises like a cliff, echoing the natural cliff face of the rocks behind. Three carved roundels in the lowest quarter of the facade soften the exterior as does a brown brick tower which guards the entrance steps and houses a lift which was added in 2004.

The steps lead into a narthex where two plaques outline the history of the three Congregational Churches which came together to instigate the building of this church. The doors to the left, which lead into the worship area, suggest the influence of Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Frank Lloyd Wright upon John Jenkinson.

The hexagonal church interior, which is well lit from the sides and the roof, is clad in golden brown stone. There is an air of Puritan simplicity. The tiered seating looks towards the raised sanctuary area which has a stone pulpit, lectern, communion table, and chairs; the font was carved by James Stone. There are stained glass windows, a banner, and a gold cross, designed by David Mellor, above the pulpit. At noon on sunny days the light strikes the top of the cross and brings the building to life. The organ console which is at the side of the churchcame from Zion Congregational Church at Attercliffe. It was originally built for Weetwood, the home of Sir William Ellis, a Sheffield Industrialist.

The banner is one of four fabric collages depicting the seasons, designed by Elaine Beckingham and made by the children of Junior Church. The other three are also displayed in the church

The church area leads into what survives of Endcliffe Park Congregational Church, notably a large hall with an organ to match which, along with the benches which served as pews, are reminders of its former days. It has a gallery divided by moveable partitions to facilitate use as classrooms.

National Churches Trust

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William Temple Church – Wythenshawe

The Anglican Church of William Temple was opened in 1965 on the corner of Robinswood Road and Simonsway as the church of the Civic Centre. The mission was already well-established, having begun many years previously in Shadow Moss School Room, latterly operating in a dual-purpose building on Simonsway. The architect, George Pace, agreed with the proviso that he should not design a ‘pseudo’ building, but that it should be modern in concept. This he did and particular attention was paid to the acoustics with a view to music and drama being performed there. One of Pace’s stipulations was that, as with all the churches he designed, there must be no plaques attached to the walls commemorating the dedication of the church or in memory of anyone, for he said he built his churches to the Glory of God. The only lettered stone is on the back wall of the church and it has on it the date of the consecration and a symbol, which is Pace’s original sign for William Temple Church.

The internal supports of the church are black-painted steel girders, not romantically symbolising the industry of the area, as it is sometimes said, but because when it was discovered that the church had been built on swampy ground an extra £2,000 was needed for foundations; the wooden beams of the original design had to be changed for cheaper steel ones. There is symbolism, however, in the placing of the font between and beneath the three main weight-bearing supports of the church.

The pews have an interesting history, having been brought from derelict churches in and around Manchester. The present lady churchwarden said:

“whenever we heard of a church being demolished we borrowed Mr. Owen’s coal cart and went off to see if we could buy any of the pews. Many times I’ve sat on the back of the wagon, in the pouring rain, with the pews, bringing them back to Wythenshawe to be stored until our church building was completed!”

Some time after the building was opened a fire damaged some of the pews. With the insurance money all the pews were stripped and bleached, giving an element of uniformity and a bright welcoming atmosphere in the church generally. An interesting thought was voiced that as many people living in Wythenshawe now had their origins near to the centre of Manchester they may be sitting in the same pews in which their ancestors once sat.

historicengland.org.uk

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John Lewis Mosaics – Milton Keynes

I was lured here, siren like, by an un-purchased eBay postcard – which precipitated a virtual four colour process printed journey around the shopping precincts of the UK.

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It only seemed appropriate to finally arrive at MK Central in real life, by train from Stockport – walking at last wide-eyed and expectant, along the whole length and width of Midsummer Boulevard to centre:mk

The Milton Keynes Development Corporation began work on the Shopping Building in 1973. It was to be the largest building of Central Milton Keynes. It had a total length of over one kilometre and a maximum width of one hundred and sixteen metres . It was built at the highest point in the New City. The architects were Derek Walker, Stuart Mosscrop, and Christopher Woodward, who had been significant architects at the MK Development Corporation; and the engineers were Felix Samuely and Partners. The shopping area was opened on 25th September 1979 by Margaret Thatcher. The building’s sleek envelope accommodated one hundred and thirty shops and six department stores, arranged along two parallel day-lit arcades, each eight hundred meters long and planted with sub-tropical and temperate trees.

A big bad Miesian box of glass and steel that goes on forever and forever.

At the very far end of forever is the John Lewis store, to the right of the entrance there are a series of tiled panels – these are possibly the work of Lucienne and Robin Day

Way back when, when brown was the new brown, brown still is the new brown.

Fresh and crisp and even.

Bobbing up and down precipitously on low marble walls, from amongst the sub-tropical and temperate trees, I bring you these thirteen tiled panels.

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Working so close up and personal at altitude, photographing such large pieces in confined spaces, it’s not until you arrive home that you discover that together they spell:

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What a delightful surprise!

Taylor Street Gorton – The Pineapple

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To begin at the beginning or thereabouts, Taylor Street was at the heart of Gorton to the east of Manchester city centre.

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A typical street of tightly packed brick terraces, dotted with shops, pubs, people and industry. I worked there as van lad for Mother’s Pride bread back in the 70s and saw those shops, pubs, people and industry slowly disappear.

Beyer Peacock whose immense shed dominated the northern end of the street, simply ceased to be, as steam gave way to diesel.

As full employment gave way to a date with the dole.

Adsega opening on nearby Cross Street heralded the arrival of the super fast, self-service supermarket, and sounded the death knell of the cosy corner cupboard.

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The local pub was The Bessemer – its name forging an unbreakable link with the surrounding steel industry, that eventually broke.

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To the left of the pub is the Bishop Greer High School construction site  – the first of the new build that would later dominate the area, along with wide open spaces where shops, pubs, people and industry once were.

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When the school eventually shut its doors, it became an annex of Openshaw Technical College, and I found myself working there in the 80s at the East Manchester Centre, until its eventual closure.

It’s now sheltered accommodation for the lost and lonely:

Located in a quiet suburb of Manchester with excellent links to the city centre, Gorton Parks has an exceptional range of facilities spread out across five separate houses, each offering a different care option. Melland House offers dementia residential care, Abbey Hey provides nursing dementia care, Debdale is the house for intermediate nursing care and Sunny Brow offers general nursing care.

We sought solace in The Pineapple.

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The streets were trimmed and slimmed, much of the past a mere ghostly presence, almost imprinted on the present.

A brave new world of brand new modern housing, with an Estate Pub to match.

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A busy bustling boozer – lots of live and local action for the lively locals, latterly seeing out time as a house of House – a real bangin’ Bashment, bass-man bargain basement.

Until time is finally called – no more four to the floor, last one out shut the door.

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Nothing lasts forever and a sign of the times is an upended pub sign, lying dormant in the dust.

The Chunky no longer a great big hunk o’funk.

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The big screen TV forever failing to deliver all the action, live or otherwise.

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Latterly transformed into Dribble Drabble.

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And so the beat goes on as successive waves of success and recession, boom and bust free-market economics, wash over the nation and its long suffering folk.

Its enough to drive you to drink.

Brambell Building – Bangor University

Sited on Deiniol Road Bangor, the 1970’s laboratory building of the University is often cited as the ugliest building in Britain.

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Erchyllbeth y flwyddyn posits Mr Madge.

It was never going to win that many friends in a city of Victorian brick and stone.

The University along with the GPO have dragged Bangor kicking and screaming into the Twentieth Century, dotting the landscape with post war architecture – though try as a I might no record can be found of the Brambell Building’s history or authorship.

Suffice to say that it has survived the slings and arrows of cultural and local vocal criticism and continues to function as a scientific research centre of some standing.

Still standing.

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And as an addendum the adjacent and equally surviving Chemistry Tower seems to have weathered the winters of discontent.

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Shopping Precincts – UK

I was brought up with Sixties’ shopping precincts and centres, they are so very dear to my heart, I spent my teenage years here in AshtonStalybridge, and latterly in Stockport’s Merseyway.

I’ve visited Hanley, Preston, Salford, and Coventry in search of a certain something – that exciting sweeping swoop of concrete, brick, glass and steel. Underpasses with overarching designs and luxurious layouts of leisurely interlocking levels. Each one different in a different way yet essentially similar – embodying a sense of civic pride, a sense of the future realised.

1571 – The Royal Exchange, a trading market in the City of London, is officially opened by Elizabeth I. Above the open-air piazza where dealers buy and sell commodities, there is a two-storey shopping mall, with 100 different kiosks – making it Britain’s first shopping centre.

1964 – It was a monument to provincial pride in reinforced concrete and glass. When the Duke of Edinburgh opened the Birmingham Bull Ring in May 1964, it was the largest indoor shopping centre in Europe, with a total floor area of 23 acres. Inspired by American suburban malls, the Bull Ring promised coatless shopping in an air-conditioned, temperature-controlled hall maintained at late-spring level.

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2017 – Many are now no more, or redeveloped beyond recognition. The integrity of the architecture, street furniture, public art, space and usage a thing of folk memory.

So come with me now on a whirlwind picture postcard tour of this Nation’s saving grace – it’s modernist shopping spaces.

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Aberdeen

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Barlaston

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Bedford

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Bracknell

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Brentwood

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Brighton

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Burton on Trent

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Butts – Reading

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Chelmsford

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Corby

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Coventry

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Cowplain

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Crawley

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Crewe

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Croydon

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Cwmbran

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Dudley

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Elephant and Castle

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Great Yarmouth

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Hanley

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Harlow

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Hartlepool

Hebburn

Hebburn

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Immingham

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Irvine

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Leamore

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Letchworth

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Leyland

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Liverpool

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Mexborough

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Milton Keynes

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Nantwich

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Norris Green

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Plymouth

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Runcorn

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Sleaford

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Southampton

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Stockport

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Swanley

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Telford

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Wakefield

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Walton on Thames

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Westway – Frome

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Wolverhampton

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