Joyce Pallot and Henry Collins – Gwent House Cwmbran

Gwent House is the home of the District Council Offices for Torfaen and the Public Library. Used by HM Courts Service and HCMS – South East Wales, the building is a seven story structure with retail space on the ground floor and open plan office space above. Built during the 1970s as a local government building, it is constructed with a steel and concrete frame with wall to wall double glazed windows and a flat roof.

Gwent House sits on the east side of Gwent Square at the heart of Cwmbran New Town’s centre. The ‘Central Building’ as it was known during development was conceived by the Cwmbran Development Corporation, as a mixed development of leisure (including a club, dance hall and hotel) and office accommodation with retail to the ground floor. this was to expand the function of the town centre beyond purely a shopping centre, and to address the perceived lack of ‘professional’ office jobs. In the event, the offices proved difficult to let and were occupied by the CDC and Cwmbran Urban District Council. 

The building was designed by Sheppard, Robson & Partners and opened on the 18th January 1973. The eight-storey, concrete framed block included a job centre, the library, a conference and exhibition hall, and three restaurants catering for different tastes and age ranges, including the ‘Sign of the Steer’. 

On the west side of the building are a series of three moulded concrete relief panels designed by Joyce Pallot and Henry Collins for the MEPC, the Cwmbran Development Corporation and the Cwmbran Arts Trust in 1974. The panels depict scenes representing different phases of the history of Gwent: Iron Age and Roman, Medieval and Industrial.

Coflein

The work of Joyce and Henry is well known here at the modern mooch having visited Newcastle, Bexhill and of course Stockport. There are also examples in their hometown Colchester, Gloucester and Southampton.

Joyce Pallot 1912-2004 and Henry Collins 1910-1994 – two artist/designers, who along with John Nash, established the Colchester Art Society, during the 1930s.

The square it seems is due to be revamped as part of the broader regeneration plans.

Literature displayed at the public consultation said improvements in Monmouth Square aim to -introduce colour into what is a lacklustre space.

South Wales Argus 2017

One hopes that these important public arts work survive the transformation.

September 2022 the bandstand was demolished.

Photo: Rhiannon Jones

Lia Jones said:

The bandstand was a well-known centre point for the area. I really wish it had been kept in the design for the area, they should have relocated it instead of getting rid of it all together.

South Wales Argus 2022

Housing – Cwmbran

Here we are again in Cwmbran having previously visited Monmouth Square and Taliesin.

The Masterplan, produced for the Cwmbran Development Corporation by Minoprio & Spencely & Macfarlane in 1950 – image from the Gwent Archives

Royal Commission

Cwmbran was founded in 1949 as a new town, to provide new employment opportunities in the south eastern portion of the South Wales Coalfield, but the area has a long history.

We shall now explore the housing framed by the railway and shopping centre.

From Cleeve Barr’s Public Authority Housing – published in 1958.

A mix of pedestrianised terraces and low rise blocks, set in a loose grid of roads and rolling, tree-lined, grassed areas.

Over time there has been the addition of uPVC and the revisionist intrusion of the ahistorical carriage lamp.

Incidentally an area with more al fresco shopping trolleys than I had ever seen, I assume that the big Asda, located within walking distance of the homes, to be the progenitor of such a notable proliferation.

It remains, generally speaking a well kept lived in area – let’s take a look.

William Mitchell – Cwmbran

Monmouth House Cwmbran 1967 by Gordon Redfern

Cladding to lift tower by William Mitchell

Situated in the Fairwater Shopping Centre:

Built between 1963 and 1967, the centre comprised 18 shops, a childrens playground, public toilets, a health and dental centre, and a combined public house and community centre. The unit centre was designed by Chief Architect of the CDC, Gordon Redfern, and was architecturally the most innovative and ambitious unit centre within Cwmbran New Town. To combat the exposed nature of the site together with the ‘high rainfall, mists and variable winds’ prevalent in the area, Gordon Redfern designed an enclosed, high-sided space that would physically and mentally shield shoppers during their visits. This protective environment extended to creating a central play area that could be viewed from the shops, allowing a more enjoyable experience for children. Four different shops types were provided on increasing floor footage for facilities ranging from barbers to grocery shop, all with storage to the first floor and eight, on the south-west side, with a two-bedroom maisonette above. To enhance the architectural impact of the scheme, Redfern created each unit on an hexagonal plan despite the inefficiences in floor space usage and additional costs in creating the fixtures and fittings. The CDC also fitted out each of the uits to a customised requirement – for example the Post Office unit was pre-fitted with a telephone booth, posting box, stamp machine and half-glazed panel for advertising services.

The structural engineers were Ove Arup & Partners, the builders were Gee, Walker & Slater. Construction costs for the scheme were estimated at £214,106. The unit centre was opened 12 September 1967, shared with the opening of Monmouth House, both undertaken by Rt. Hon. James Callaghan, M.P. A scathing article written the following month by architectural critic Ian Nairn dismissed the design as a ‘kind of in-turned medieval village … an oasis of picturesqueness in a desert of statistical units’ designed for, rather than with, the inhabitants and therefore destined for commercial failure.

Coflein

In 1949, the then Minister for Town and Country Planning, John Silken, designated an area of 31,000 acres surrounding the village of Cwmbran to be the first new town in Wales. Unlike the first generation new towns, the aim of Cwmbran was to provide housing and a range of facilities for those employed in existing industry but who lived in poor housing in the neighbouring valleys.

A master plan was implemented to achieve the objective for the town. However, as the town developed, the projected size of the town had to increase and many of the plans ideals were diluted as the Southwest expansion area was approved in 1977.

In fact, due to the planned nature of Cwmbran, there now exists few opportunities for new development within the town. This has meant intense development pressure on the outskirts of Cwmbran from house builders and developers.

Torfaen

On the day of my visit the centre was busy with happy shoppers happily shopping – there were major works underway in line with the town’s new plans.

Cwmbran has also prospered from having a vibrant retail core. The Shopping Centre has a fully pedestrianised, multi purpose centre with covered shopping malls. There are over 170 retail outlets covering a total area of 700.000 sq. ft, including a number of popular high street retailers, restaurants, a theatre and cinema. Accordingly, the town is now considered to be a sub regional centre, and the intention is that this retail focus will be increased by regeneration of the eastern side of the town.

Now 50 years on parts of the town are in need of renovation. Through various public and private partnerships the aim of the Cwmbran Project Team is to set out a 15 year strategy for the regeneration and development of the new town, and begin its implementation.

My primary interest concerned the public art in Monmouth SquareWilliam Mitchell’s concrete clad lift shaft.

There is a water feature currently off limits and without the water that would elevate the feature to a fully functioning feature.

Plans proposed in 2018 could may herald the demise of this important public work of art.

Plans to level the water gardens in Monmouth Square at the Cwmbran Centre will be reviewed by Torfaen council’s planning committee.

The proposal also includes a modern café with a glazed front, the development of an events space to house farmers markets and street theatre and a green area.

Rebecca McAndrew, Torfaen council’s principal planning officer, said in the report that the water feature would be filled in and flattened as part of “an ongoing renovation programme”.

The application states that the area has a ‘weary and dated appearance’ and do not meet disability access requirements.

According to the report, the water gardens last flowed 13 years ago and its demolition would lead to further improvements at Wales’ second largest shopping centre.

Free Press

The Water Gardens were designed by the CDC Chief Architect Gordon Redfern as a key visual and recreational element of the Town Centre. His focus was on combining different textures in the form of hard landscaping and planting, with the sense of movement and sound created by running water. At the upper end a pool, containing an artwork created from Pilkington Glass, was fed by a horizontal water jet which was in turn led by a small ‘canal’ to the lower, sunken garden. With water cascading down the southern retaining wall, consisted of moulded concrete sporting abstract geometric form, and variety of trees and shrubs, this formed an area for busy shoppers and families to relax and socialise.

RCAHMW

Close by, by way of light relief is a concrete screen wall with an almost watery wavy relief!

Here’s hoping that this cavalcade of concrete delights survives the planners’ and developers’ dreams.

Royal Liverpool Hospital

Prescot St Liverpool L7 8XP

Holford Associates designed in 1963-5 and completed in 1978

The old Royal building opened in 1978 and has served the city ever since – despite ongoing infrastructure problems. Looking at the crumbling, unsightly building, it is clear why Liverpool is desperate for its sparkling new facility to finally open.

When the new build plans were first announced, the Trust stated: “Once the new hospital is constructed, our existing hospital will be demolished. In its place, there are plans to develop a world-class health campus, as well as landscaping green space, roughly the size of Chavasse Park.”

In January 2020, two years after Carillion’s collapse, a report from the National Audit Office, projected the overall costs of the new Royal could tip over the £1.1 billion mark. It also commented on the plans for the old building, stating: “Further work to demolish the old hospital and create a new underground car park and public plaza, was not included in the PFI project and is currently unfunded. The cost of this was not included in the PFI project and is currently estimated at £38 million.”

Liverpool Echo

The Royal Liverpool – it’s amazing that people are supposed to get better there. Then again, what motivation it must be to get yourself back home! No wonder it’s being replaced.

J Carter, Aigburth

In 2011 the Echo’s readers voted it the ugliest building in town.

Unloved and due for demolition just as soon as the money can be found – though it may be around for some time to come – go and have a look.

Liverpool – Cathedral to Cathedral

Beginning at Frederick Gibberd’sMetropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King.

Walking toward Giles Gilbert Scott’sAnglican Cathedral via the University Campus.

We are greeted by William Mitchell’s sliding door panels.

Let’s take a look inside.

Above is the tower with large areas of stained glass designed by John Piper and Patrick Reyntiens in three colours – yellow, blue and red, representing the Trinity. 

On the altar, the candlesticks are by RY Goodden and the bronze crucifix is by Elisabeth Frink. Above the altar is a baldachino designed by Gibberd as a crown-like structure composed of aluminium rods, which incorporates loudspeakers and lights. Around the interior are metal Stations of the Cross, designed by Sean Rice. Rice also designed the lectern, which includes two entwined eagles. In the Chapel of Reconciliation, the stained glass was designed by Margaret Traherne. Stephen Foster designed, carved and painted the panelling in the Chapel of St. Joseph. The Lady Chapel contains a statue of the Virgin and Child by Robert Brumby and stained glass by Margaret Traherne. In the Blessed Sacrament Chapel is a reredos and stained glass by Ceri Richards and a small statue of the Risen Christ by Arthur Dooley. In the Chapel of Unity is a bronze stoup by Virginio Ciminaghi, and a mosaic of the Pentecost by Hungarian artist Georg Mayer-Marton which was moved from the Church of the Holy Ghost, Netherton, when it was demolished in 1989. The gates of the Baptistry were designed by David Atkins.

On now to the University.

Vine & Chestnut Houses by Gerald Beech 1967-70

Computing Services Electrical Engineering & Electronics by Yorke, Rosenberg & Mardall 1962-74

Harold Cohen Library 1938 – Harold A Dod of Willink & Dod

Learning by Eric Kennington 1938

Sherrington Buildings 1951-57 – Weightman & Bullen.

These days of peace foster learning

Let There be light!

Dental Hospital 1965-69 Anthony Clark Partnership

Royal Liverpool Hospital 1978 Holford Associates.

Designed by NBBJ and HKS – The Royal Hospital is one of the national infrastructure schemes being delivered under a Government PFI contract, with work having started in 2014 led by now-collapsed contractor Carillion.

After Carillion went into administration, further issues were uncovered during a structural review by Arup in 2018, including that the cladding on the building was unsafe and the project had to be reviewed and re-costed as a result. The targeted completion date is now five years later than planned.

Place Northwest

William Henry Duncan Building 2017 by AHR Architects

Life Sciences Building

Mathematics and Oceanography Building 1961 by Bryan & Norman Westwood & Partners

Metal screen 1961 by John McCarthy also responsible for the Concrete Wall at the New Century Hall Manchester.

The History and Essence of Mathematics 1961 terrossa ferrata panes by John McCarthy.

Central Teaching Hub by Robert Gardner-Medwin in association with Saunders Boston and Brock 1965-67

Abstract Reliefs by David Le Marchant Brock in collaboration with Frederick Bushe.

Big Bird 1964 by Sir Frank Rowling

Square with Two Circles by Barbara Hepworth 1964

Re-sited from its original setting.

Just around the corner a Relief by Hubert Dalwood aka Nibs

Senate House by Tom Mellor & Partners 1966-68

Chadwick Building by Sir Basil Spence 1963-68

Abstract mosaic Geoffrey Clarke.

Three Uprights by Hubert Dalwood 1960

Materials Innovation Factory by Fairhursts Design Group 2016

Muspratt Lecture Theatre

Bubble Chamber Tracks by Geoffrey Clarke 1968

Donnan and Robert Robinson Building

Oliver Lodge Building by Tom Mellor & Partners 1966-68

Sports Centre by Denys Lasdun 1963-66

Bedford House by Gerald Beech 1965-66

Gordon Stephenson Building by Gordon Stephenson 1950-51

Door handles by Mitzi Solomon-Cunliffe.

Rendall Building by Bryan & Norman Westwood, Piet & Partners 1964-6

Between the concrete is glass by Gillian Rees-Thomas – she was also responsible for the side chapel windows at St Mark’s Broomhill Sheffield.

Within the courtyard site Mitzi Solomon Cunliffe’sQuickening 1951

Roxby Building by Bryan & Norman Westwood, Piet & Partners 1961-66

South Teaching Hub by Bryan & Norman Westwood, Piet & Partners 1961-66

Sydney Jones Library by Sir Basil Spence

Further Reading: Liverpool Campus Built Heritage

Onward now taking in some sites along the way.

Philharmonic Hall by Herbert J Rowse 1936-69

Federation House by Gilling Dod and Partners 1965-66

Relief Decoration by William Mitchell

Arup In Wonderland – Durham

The last structure that Ove Arup designed himself was the award-winning reinforced concrete Kingsgate Footbridge in Durham, England.

Completed in 1963, Arup considered this bridge his finest work. He planned every detail, including the unusual way it was constructed. The need for scaffolding on the river was eliminated by casting the bridge in two halves, one for each bank. The halves were then swivelled out from the banks to meet. 

The two halves pivoted on revolving cones, their meeting point marked by an understated bronze expansion joint. Bearings were designed at the base of each part to allow rotation, robust but cheap enough to be used only once. 

This elegant example of simple mechanical engineering provided tense moments for the team while the spans were turned and connected. 

John Martin, project manager for the bridge, said:

“Ove never seemed to worry that anything might go wrong. That was fine, it just meant that one felt fully responsible for seeing that it didn’t. But he got quite cross when the contractor took a few, to Ove’s view unnecessary, steps to make doubly sure that construction went smoothly. I think that to him it was a question of spoiling the elegance of the idea”.

arup.com

I’m ever so fond of concrete footbridges, in fact I have written about our local exemplar.

And have taken great pleasure in teaching and preaching whilst atop such.

So it was with some degree of excited anticipation, that I strode eagerly toward Ove’s bridge – a bridge guaranteed to raise a smile, enchanted by its elegance and audacity.

Over we go headlong and fancy free into this black and white concrete world.

Crossing over into colourful off-white world of university life.

Dunelm House was designed by Richard Raines and Michael Powers of the Architects Co-Partnership, and completed in 1966 under the supervision of architect Sir Ove Arup, whose adjacent Kingsgate Bridge opened two years earlier. Built into the steeply sloping bank of the River Wear, Dunelm House is notable internally for the fact that the main staircase linking all five levels of the building runs in an entirely straight line. This was intended by the building’s architects to create the feeling of an interior street.

Wikipedia

In 1968 Dunelm House won a Civic Trust award. Sir Nikolaus Pevsner considered the building:

Brutalist by tradition but not brutal to the landscape, the elements, though bold, are sensitively composed. 

Durham City Council’s Local Plan notes that the powerful building, together with Kingsgate Bridge.

Provides an exhilarating pedestrian route out into open space over the river gorge.

Public views were divided from the start, with a local newspaper in 1966 reporting views ranging from:

The third best looking building in the city to a – monstrosity. 

The Observer in 2017 reported that students called it:

That ugly concrete building.

I was delighted to hear that the Student Union building’s first musical performance was given by Thelonius Monk.

Let’s have a look at that ugly building.

With the city’s least ugliest building in view.

Of special interest to all lovers of substations and shelters is the neat little substation and shelter mash-up over the road.

County Hall Durham

Work on the new building began in 1960: it was designed by Sir Basil Spence and was built by John Laing & Son at a cost of £2.75 million and was officially opened by the Duke of Edinburgh on 14 October 1963. 

The design for the seven-storey building involved continuous bands of glazing with exposed concrete beams above and below.

A large mosaic mural depicting local scenes was designed by Clayton and Gelson and installed on the face of the building.

In March 2019, the County Council approved a proposal to move to a smaller new-build facility on the Sands car park at Freeman’s Place in the centre of Durham. Of around 1,850 staff currently based in County Hall, 1,000 will be based at the new HQ and approximately 850 will relocate to four council office sites being developed across the county in Crook, Meadowfield, Seaham and Spennymoor. The building works, which are being carried out by Kier Group at a cost of £50 million, are scheduled to be completed in late 2021. Richard Holden, Conservative member of parliament for North-West Durham, has described the new council headquarters as a ‘vanity project’, questioning the suitability of the location as well as tax increases and cuts to services used to pay for the development.

Wikipedia

In April 2022 the council sold their new HQ to Durham University – yet demolition will still go ahead. This unlisted gem in the grand Festival of Britain style deserves much, much better.

Nearby Neighbours Newcastle have had the good sense to list and retain their Civic Centre.

The administration now plans a three-pronged approach to:

  • Construct another new modest-sized civic building and conference centre for businesses at Aykley Heads.
  • Occupy other council-owned offices already being built at Aykley Heads.
  • Refurbish and reuse the former customer access point on Front Street, Stanley, a large, run-down Grade II listed building which the council has been unable to sell.

The Northern Echo

Online, there is no evidence of any will or pressure to save this glorious building – the site will eventually become that most modern mix of business park, retail, and leisure facilities.

The proposal, led by Durham County Council, forms part of an overall masterplan to knock down the municipal building in Aykley Heads and redevelop the wider site to provide retail, financial and professional space, food and drink units, space for leisure use and a multi-storey car park.

Insider Media 2020

Go see it whilst you are still able.

A mural by a beloved pitman painter, commissioned by Durham County Council to mark the opening of County Hall in 1963, has been successfully moved to its new home in Bishop Auckland.

The painting by Norman Cornish, one of the most respected and much-loved artists to emerge from the North-East, depicts the arrival of the banners at Durham Miners’ Gala.

After being commissioned by the council, Cornish was granted 12 months unpaid leave from Mainsforth Colliery in Ferryhill to complete the painting, with most of the work being completed during the coldest winter in 40 years.

Although it arrived at County Hall in 1963 rolled up in the back of a carpet van, the mural’s removal was an incredibly intricate process, involving several experts.  

Northern Echo

Norman Cornish

Oriel Mostyn – Llandudno

I have posted here previously regarding the Naples of the North.

With particular reference to its seaside shelters.

This is a town with a visual culture defined by carefully created picture postcards – conjuring images from land, sea, sand and sky.

New technology arrives, dragging Llandudno from the sepia soaked past into the CMYK age!

So it’s only right and proper that the town should have an art gallery.

Oriel Mostyn Gallery was commissioned by Lady Augusta Mostyn after the Gwynedd Ladies’ Art Society asked her for better premises than their existing home, in a former cockpit in Conwy. The ladies’ gender prevented them from joining the Royal Cambrian Academy, also based in Conwy.

Designed by architect GA Humphreys, the new gallery opened in 1901. From 1901 to 1903, the gallery housed works by members of the GLAS. As a patron of the arts and president of the society, Lady Augusta was aware that the ladies needed more space to display their work and gave them the opportunity to rent a room in the new building.

Lady Augusta was keen for the gallery to be used by local people, so the society was asked to leave and a School of Art, Science and Technical Classes was set up. Alongside the many classes, there were art exhibitions, lectures. social events, and even a gallery choir and shooting range!

The current shop area was the location for a ‘Donut Dugout’ – a rest and recreation area for the many American servicemen in the town. Coffee and doughnuts were served and the men could read magazines from home.

After the war, Wagstaff’s Piano and Music Galleries occupied the building. In 1976 the artist Kyffin Williams, and others, suggested the building should become the proposed new public art gallery for North Wales. Architects Colwyn Foulkes supervised its restoration and it reopened, as Oriel Mostyn, in 11 August 1979.

History Points

Once the Post Office had vacated the adjacent building, expansion and development took place – Ellis Williams Architects were responsible for the design.

RL Davies undertook the construction work.

Acknowledged to be ‘one of the most beautiful galleries in Britain’, Mostyn in North Wales was an existing listed Victorian museum with two lantern galleries tucked behind a listed facade. We were appointed by Mostyn after winning the Architectural competition with a design combining a gallery space refurbishment with a gallery expansion and a new dramatic infill section linking new and old. The project has won a number of awards and increased footfall by over 60%.

Why not let your feet fall there soon – Oriel Mostyn is open.

The very first time I visited the town as a child back in the early 1960s, it rained almost every day.

Subsequent visits have almost always been bathed in warm sunshine.

Postwar Modern – The Barbican 2022

Is it a book is it a show?

It’s both – well it was a show and it’s still a book.

I went along and looked at the art and looked at the people looking at the art.

The University of Nottingham

The Main Campus based on Jesse Boot’s Highfield parkland incorporating Lenton House and Lenton Hall. Boot along with his architect Percy Morley Holder developed a building scheme in 1921, achieving university status in 1948.

DH Lawrence Pavilion architect Marsh & Grochowski 1998-2001

Portland BuildingT Cecil Howitt 1949 -56

Trent Building architect: P Morley Horder 1922-28

Portland Building extended in 2001-3 architects: Michael Hopkins & Partners

Further additions to the rear 2013

The New Theatre was established in 1969, and was originally housed in the Archaeology and Classics building of the University of Nottingham. In 2001 an extended foyer was added to the building, following a donation from an alumnus of the university.

The summer of 2012 saw an extensive redevelopment of the building housing the New Theatre. The former Archaeology and Classics building was demolished from the site; leaving the New Theatre as a freestanding building. Parts of the old building were retained and repurposed as new rehearsal rooms, and a studio space; as well as a significant remodelling of the dressing room, and extending the foyer.

Architects: Maber

University Library architects: Faulkner Brown, Henry, Watkinson & Stonor 1971-73

The collection of buildings in University Park Campus, colloquially known as Science City, was first masterplanned by Basil Spence in 1959. His vision was largely realised by Renton Howard Wood Associates during the 1960s. Since then, numerous additions and alterations have been made to suit the ever increasing student numbers and the changing needs of the University.

Sir Clive Granger Building

A view over the Science Buildings by Basil Spence 1955 and partner Andrew Renton 1961 onward.

Mathematical Sciences 2012 William Saunders

George Green Library by Hopkins Architects 2017

The University of Nottingham needed to double the size of its existing academic library to cater for an expansion in serious scientific study. Hopkins Architects faced the difficult task of doubling the size of a rather unremarkable 1960’s building – designed by Basil Spence, on a tight sloping site.

Architecture.com

Pope Building leading to the Engineering Science Learning Centre by Hopkins Architects 2011

Chemistry Department

Coates Building by Basil Spence

Tower Building by Andrew Renton 1963-65

Refurbishment work is taking place to develop flexible workspaces, including offices, conference and meeting rooms, while the building will also accommodate hospitality and events rooms. The university also plans to include a restaurant, coffee bar, a deli-shop and a top-floor sky lounge.

West Bridgford Wire

Jubilee Campus

Jubilee Campus is a modern purpose-built campus which now extends to 65 acres and is located only one mile from University Park. The initial phase was opened by Her Majesty the Queen in 1999. The state-of-the-art facilities now include:

  • The Schools of Education – including CELE and Computer Science
  • The Nottingham University Business School
  • The National College for Leadership of Schools and Children’s Services 
  • Sports Centre
  • University of Nottingham Innovation Park
  • 4000 third party purpose-built student residences within half a mile radius of the campus

Central to the development of the site has been the setting of high BREEAM Standards – an holistic approach to achieve ESG, health, and net zero goals. ​It is owned by BRE – a profit-for-purpose organisation with over 100 years of building science and research background.

Built on the former site of the immense Number 3 Raleigh Bicycle Factory – which was opened by Field Marshal Lord Montgomery in 1957.

At its peak in the 1950s, Raleigh employed 7000 people on a 40 acre site that covered most of Lenton Boulevard, Triumph Road and Orston Drive.

In May 1999, Raleigh announced that it was to cease volume production of frames in the UK. The frame welding robots, installed in 1996, were auctioned off in December 1999.

Bikebiz

Alan Oakley – who designed the Raleigh Chopper

Famously home to Alan Sillitoe/Arthur Seaton/Albert Finney in Saturday Night and Sunday Morning.

Advanced Manufacturing Building by Bond Bryan Architects 2018

University of Nottingham RAD Building 2017 Lewis & Hickey Ltd

Enjoying a prime location on the University of Nottingham’s Jubilee Campus, the building provides a number of multidisciplinary and specifically designed laboratory spaces, as well as high quality single and multiple occupancy offices, technical support bases and breakout spaces.

RIBA

Jubilee Conference Centre 2008 Hopkins Architects

Set within 65 acres of lakeside grounds, close to Nottingham city centre, The Jubilee hotel & conferences offers an innovative setting for events, along with all the comforts of a modern hotel.

If you are looking for sustainable venue hire, look no further. With a range of meetings spaces, breakout areas and bedrooms; The Jubilee is perfect for event and conferences organisers looking for a light, airy and relaxing setting.

GSK Carbon Neutral Laboratory 2014 by Fairhursts Design Group

Designed to minimise the impact on the environment of its construction and operation. The design of the building is made up of modules manufactured off-site. The building support pillars and trusses are made from a combination of German spruce, Austrian Spruce, and American red cedar.

The designers used computational fluid dynamics to design the curved roof. This enables ventilation of the building by taking advantage of the prevailing wind. One of the laboratories is also ventilated in this way, to determine the viability of doing so elsewhere. The building also features a green roof, and solar panels that cover 45 per cent of the roof area and provide up to 230.9 kW. The four towers on the roof hide the building’s plant equipment. Additionally, a 125-kilowatt biofuel combined heat and power system was built on-site, providing the majority of heat needed for the buildings.

Wikipedia

Ingenuity Centre by Bond Bryan 2017

Alucraft designed fabricated and delivered the façade,

At first glance the centre appears to be a hi-tech structure that would not look out of place in a sci-fi movie, with a complex array of metal fins forming a metallic bronze-coloured circular envelope that seems to float around a central core.

Keep looking though and some of the design cues are clearly industrial – the metallic external envelope echoing the form of some finely machined, mechanical component or even the patterned tread of a tyre.

Building Construction Design

Romax Technology Centre by Tomlinson 2015

Aerospace Technology Building by William Saunders 2012

Sir Colin Campbell Building by Bond Bryan 2011 – with Arup acting as structural and services engineer.

Si Yuan Centre of Contemporary Chinese Studies

Xu Yafen Building and Yang Fujia Building by MAKE 2008

Aspire is a 60-metre tall, red and orange steel sculpture by Ken Shuttleworth of MAKE, and was, until overtaken by Anish Kapoor’s Orbit, the tallest free standing public work of art in the United Kingdom. It is taller than  Nelson’s Column, the Angel of the North, and the Statue of Liberty  

The name Aspire was chosen after a competition to name the sculpture, which was open to staff and students at the university.

The Nottingham Geospatial Building by Maber Architects 2010

Energy Technologies Building by Maber Architects 2018

A showcase £6.5m research centre, which brings together world-class experts in energy research, has chosen ALUCOBOND® A2 from 3A Composites GmbH, finished in Sakura 917 from its spectra colour series for its cladding.

Institute of Mental Health by BENOY 2012

The House for a Gordian Knot by Ekkehard Altenburger

Business School South

Dearing Building

Computer Science Building

The Exchange Building

The Sir Harry and Lady Djanogly LRC architect Sir Michael Hopkins 1999

A single floor spirals up through the building in the manner of FL Wright’s Guggenheim Museum

The library was named after the philanthropists Sir Harry and Lady Djanogly who gave a significant contribution towards the cost of its construction. Sir Harry Djanogly is the father of Jonathan Djanogly, who became MP for Huntingdon in 2001.

Wikipedia

Business School North 2003

The Atrium

John Player & Sons Bonded Warehouse by William Cowlin and Son 1938-39

Mouchel System concrete construction.

Mouchel’s involvement with the iron industry, and his ties with France, brought him into close proximity with the French engineer François Hennebique (1842-1921), who had been a contractor in Brussels. A self-educated builder, Hennebique had patented an idea of strengthening concrete using iron and steel bars – a forerunner to the widespread modern reinforced-concrete method used in construction today.

Engineering timelines

Sadly – returning in September the last building had been recently demolished.

Many thanks to Elain Harwood from whose Pevsner Guide much of the information was garnered

City Hall – Leicester

Architects: Barnish and Silcock 1938

The medieval Leicester Guildhall was used as the Town Hall for around 300 years. By the mid-19th Century much larger premises were needed to support a rapidly growing industrial centre.  The Victorian Town Hall was opened in 1876 on the site of the old cattle market.

In 1919, Leicester was recognised as a city. It continued to expand, along with its Council. Conditions in the Town Hall soon became cramped and some departments began to move out. By 1930 it was agreed new municipal offices were needed to centralize the Housing, Electricity, Rates, Motor Licence and Valuation departments. They would form part of a major redevelopment of Charles Street, the so-called quarter of a million pound building on a million pound road.

The modest opening ceremony took place on 7th November 1938. In his speech the Lord Mayor, Councillor Frank Acton, said it was a privilege to open “this long sought-after and wonderful place.”  A stone tablet to mark the event can be seen opposite the reception desk in the entrance foyer. The building was designed to command attention and respect, and conform to a modern desire for simplicity. Clad in Portland Stone, its interior included many elegant Art Deco features, many of which have been restored.

Story of Leicester

The refurbishment was undertaken by Franklin Ellis Architects.

The office floors accommodate workstations for 480 staff, together with breakout areas and meeting rooms. The project included re-purposing original municipal spaces for new assembly functions; restoring period features; and providing a dignified civic interior appropriate to the functions of the Council. An environmentally conscious servicing solution minimises the building’s energy usage.

Attenborough Hall

By the 1930s, demand for electricity was growing rapidly. The Municipal Offices housed the Leicester Corporation Electricity Department (later the East Midland Electricity Board) and were specially furnished with a model kitchen for:

Housewives who are interested in the modern uses of electricity in the home.

A special theatre also presented weekly cookery demonstrations and a Service Centre displayed, sold and hired out electrical appliances.

The theatre is still extant, though sadly no longer available for cookery demonstrations.

On the back wall this mural remains as a reminder of the theatre’s the former use.

Many thanks to Grant Butterworth – Head of Planning, for negotiating access to the hall and accompanying us on our Modernist Mooch.

In the 1960s a nuclear bunker was constructed. This was one of many across the country built by local authorities to protect key personnel from radiation in the event of an attack, enabling some form of government to continue. Today, the bunker has long gone, and the basement of City Hall is now used as a storage area.

By 1963 the De Montfort Hall Box Office was located in the building.  This caused chaotic scenes in Charles Street when, in October of that year, around 3,000 youngsters queued all night for tickets to see The Beatles. When the Box Office opened at 9:30am, the queue stretched back to Humberstone Gate and was held in check by a pitifully thin line of police. The Leicester Mercury described the scene as:

A heaving, shouting, screaming, unruly, undignified, disorderly mob – a disgraceful night.

Pressure from the crowd caused a 10 foot square window in Halford´s shop to break.  With all the tickets sold, the crowd dispersed and the Leicester Mercury said Charles Street resembled

A filthy, unswept ghost street, badly in need of the cleaners to remove the mountains of waste paper and return its respectability. 

With thanks again to the Story of Leicester.

BISF Prefabs Wadsworth Lane – Hebden Bridge

Wadsworth Lane Hebden Bridge HX7 8DL

Calderdale is awash with non-traditional housing as can be seen on this site:

Non-traditional housing in Calderdale

The Second World War brought an even greater demand for the rapid construction of new dwellings. In addition to the need to rebuild homes damaged as a result of the war, the Government had other objectives that were set out in a white paper in 1945, to provide a separate dwelling for any family who wanted one and to complete the slum clearance programme started before the war. After the Second World War there was a surplus of steel and aluminium production, and an industry in need of diversification. These factors drove the move towards the use of prefabrication, as a result many new varieties of concrete, timber framed and steel framed systems emerged. Whilst most systems were intended to provide permanent or long-term housing a few were intended only as emergency or temporary solutions.

The homes on Wadsworth Lane are BISF Type A1 – designed by architect Frederick Gibberd and engineer Donovan Lee.

Manufactured by British Iron & Steel Federation and British Steel Homes Ltd.

Over 34,000 three-bedroom semi-detached houses and 1048 terraced houses were erected across England, Scotland and Wales.

Northolt

Non Standard House

We have encountered the very same houses in Tin Town Wythenshawe

I walked up Wadsworth Lane in 2021.

I walked past again in 2022 – the home appear to be in good health, many improved or extended, yet retaining at least a little of their heritage.

They are lived in and loved.

St Helens Stroll

By wandering aimlessly, all places became equal, and it no longer mattered where he was.

Paul Auster  City of Glass.

The station as built in 1961 to a design by the architect William Robert Headle, which included and advertised a significant amount of the local Pilkington Vitrolite Glass. The fully glazed ticket hall was illuminated by a tower with a valley roof on two Y-shaped supports. The platform canopies were free standing folded plate roofs on tubular columns.

The new station building and facilities were assembled just a few yards from the 1960s station building and is the third build on the same site. The project came in at a total estimated cost of £6 million, with the European Union contributing £1.7 million towards the total funding. The new footbridge was lifted into place in the early hours of 22 January 2007.

The striking Pilkington’s glass-fronted building was designed by architect SBS of Manchester. Construction work was completed in the summer, with the new waiting rooms and footbridge opened to passengers on 19 September. The new station building was officially opened on 3 December 2007.

Wikipedia

Emerging from the space age bubble of St Helens Central Station.

Turn right towards The Hippodrome

In the early Edwardian era a fine theatre was opened on 1st June 1903. It had been designed by local architect J A Baron and was on the site of an earlier theatre known as the Peoples Palace. It was operated as the New Hippodrome Cinema from 8th August 1938 when it reopened with Anna Neagle in Victoria the Great. On 1st September 1963 it was converted to a Surewin Bingo Club by Hutchinson Cinemas which continued to operate in 2008. By May 2019 it was independently operated as the Hippodrome Bingo Club.

Cinema Treasures

Onwards down Corporation Street to Century House, currently awaiting some care and attention and tenants.

Century House is a prominent landmark in St Helens town centre, being the tallest office building in place. The accommodation ranges over 9 floors, providing offices from a single person, to whole floors. In addition, all tenants benefit from the use of a modern break out space and meeting rooms, in addition to manned reception desk.

On The Market

Next to the Courthouse low lying, lean and landscaped.

Refurbished in 2012

Further on down the road the former Unitarian Chapel – now the Lucem House Community Cinema.

On the corner the YMCA offers a cornucopia of architectural styles and fun.

Including this geometric brick panel.

Around the corner to the Police Station by Lancashire County Architect Roger Booth.

Down the way the derelict Job Centre.

There are plans afoot for conversion to apartments.

Former Capitol Cinema.

Architects: Frederick Evans and Edwin Sheridan Gray

The Capitol Cinema opened on 3rd October 1929 by an independent operator. It stood on a prominent corner site at North Road and Duke Street – known as Capitol Corner.

The Capitol Cinema was taken over by Liverpool-based Regent Enterprises Ltd. in 1929, and by the Associated British Cinemas – ABC chain in 1935. It underwent a renovation in the 1960’s, and was closed by ABC on 9th December 1978.

The building was converted into a sports centre, by 2009 it was a Central Fitness gymnasium.

Cinema Treasures

Along the way to St Mary Lowe House RC – the style is a combination of Gothic and Byzantine elements. One of the most unusual fittings is the carillon, one of the largest in the British Isles with 47 bells, which was installed in 1930 and is still played regularly.

Architect: CB Powell 1924-30 Grade II Listed

Taking Stock

Next to the Ormskirk Street United Reformed Church

Ken Fisher’s first APEC project 1976

The main approach is identified by a beak-like porch which projects from the main cladding.  In this space hangs a recast eighteenth century bell, from the original chapel.

Let’s take it to the Midland, Nat West and Barclays Banks.

With an intermediate former Gas Showroom.

Next to the Church of St Helen.

Architect: WD Caroe 1920-26 Grade II Listed

A chapel has been on the site since at least the 16th century. The chapel was doubled in size in 1816, but burnt down in 1916. It is the parish church of the town, and stands in a prominent position.

St Mary’s Car Park a multi-storey masterpiece straight outa Dessau.

Next crossing a complex web of inner ring roads designed with the beleaguered pedestrian at the forefront of the planners’ minds.

To the inter-war Pilkington’s Offices – Reflection Court

Architects: Herbert J Rowse and Kenneth Cheeseman 1937-41 Grade II Listed.

Historic England

Onwards to the Post office – sorted.

Eccles Congregational Church

Wellington Road Eccles M30 9AL

Architect: TD Howcroft 1969

Once upon a time there was a Gothic church.

The Cornerstone of the building was laid in front of a crowd of 2,000 on Good Friday 1859 and the church was opened for public worship on Good Friday 6th April 1860. In the press of the day, the church was described as – a Cathedral looking church.

Photo: Flickr cabinet photograph by Enos Eastham of Eccles.

In 1965 it was announced that a new Eccles motorway would be built through the church land.

Work began to demolish the Church and replace it with a new smaller church, but the old church did not go down without a fight as workers could not pull down the steeple. After eleven days of battering and buffeting by eighteen pounds of gelignite and two eight ton bulldozers, the steeple finally surrendered.

Then there wasn’t – then there was this:

On Friday 11th July 1969, the new church officially opened with a splendid ceremony. A minor hitch occurred when the organ blew a fuse during the second verse but the Congregation sang through it while organist Mr Kenyon frantically fumbled about and rectified the matter.

Eccles Congregational Church

TD Howcroft was also responsible for St Wilfrid’s in Pevensey Bay – I happened to cycle by in 2015.

My thanks to Mr Tony Flynn – the acting Lord Mayor of Eccles, for arranging our visit through church member Mr George Cross.

To the rear the exterior is, as Mr Pevsner would say – unprepossessing.

The elevation facing the main road more than somewhat less unprepossessing.

A curved apse along with a raised and canted roof – a window up above illuminating the altar.

The main body of the church is bold and voluminous – strong verticals to the rear and right.

The pews, organ pipes and other furnishings appear to be of a piece.

There is a dynamic timber roof with supporting beams.

Previous Pastors.

Relocated War Memorials.

Leo Fitzgerald House – Dublin

Leo Fitzgerald House Hogan Place Erne Street Upper Dublin 2

The second post featuring the work of Herbert Simms following on from O’Carroll Villas.

These homes were named for Civil War hero Leo Fitzgerald.

London born Herbert George Simms was responsible for the building of some 17,000 new working class dwellings in his time in office as Dublin’s pioneering Housing Architect, ranging from beautiful Art Deco flat schemes in the inner-city to new suburban landscapes.

Freestanding L-plan multiple-bay four-storey social housing block, built c. 1940, having attached stairs tower to east elevation. Flat roof concealed behind rendered parapet with concrete coping, and having rendered chimneystacks with concrete copings and clay pots. Flemish bond brown brick and rendered walls. Square-headed window openings with rendered surrounds and sills, and replacement uPVC windows. Square-headed door openings with rendered surrounds and timber doors to galleries. Square-headed door opening in attached stairs tower with mild-steel double-leaf gate, concrete platform and steps.

Statue of Sacred Heart to south elevation.

Buildings Of Ireland

Irish Life Centre – Dublin

1 Talbot St North City Dublin D01 XW65 Ireland

Architect: RKD Architects lead Andrew Devane 

The brickwork, use of white aggregate for the arches, and tinted glazing are similar to Devane’s Stephen Court building on St Stephen’s Green.

The nine-building Irish Life Centre complex was originally built between 1974 and 1977 comprising office space, as well as two blocks of apartments. The complex was built on the former site of the Brook Thomas warehouse and timber yards along with other adjoining sites costing £900,000.

1970s

Irish Life, now part of the Canadian multinational Great-West Lifeco, were the original developers.

The 14-foot copper-bronze sculpture Chariots of Life by Oisín Kelly 1915 – 1981, greets staff and visitors at the entrance plaza. Although completed in 1978, the sculpture was not unveiled formally until 1982.

Inside the Abbey Court Garden there was once a large colourful mosaic, Sweeney Astray – 1987 by Desmond Kinney. The glass mosaic was comprised of twelve panels narrating Sweeney’s wanderings through forests and hills, from prose and poems dating back to the 1600s and updated by Seamus Heaney in the early 1980s.

It was removed in 2013.

Emma Gilleece

This is Dallas meets De Chirico – bronzed glass and dark colonnades surrounding open un-peopled piazzas.

Wandering under low underpasses into open space and finally into a green oasis.