Renold House

Manchester International Office Centre
11 Styal Rd Wythenshawe Manchester M22 5WB

Renold Chains were once a huge firm employing thousands in south Manchester, their main factory at Burnage, now demolished to make way for a supermarket. This grouping was designed as the administrative headquarters for the company and was in receipt of an RIBA Architecture Bronze Medal in 1955. The scheme, of two parallel wings connected by a central hub running perpendicular, now seems fairly pedestrian, though still exudes some presence by virtue of the evident control in the design and construction of relief within the main façade. This building, though, actually points toward the moment where Cruickshank & Seward were turning, with the rest of the profession, toward new engineered, curtain walling solutions. The three storey glazed stair towers are made of a relatively fine steel section glazing bar and are clearly expressed at the ends of the blocks; these perhaps pre-empt the altogether more refined towers at the Renold Building and Roscoe Building of the Universities. The third floor boardroom was also positively expressed as a curved solid, cantilevered above the entrance canopy. That the building was developed in such close proximity to the airport has ensured its continued viability as office and conferencing space. The firm also delivered the adjacent building for the same client in the 1970s.

Mainstream Modern

Four weeks into a pandemic – cycling somewhere else. I turned off and into the grounds of the former Renold House, currently trading as Manchester International Office Ccentre.

Manchester International Office Centre (MIOC) is a prominent landmark office building extending to some 100,000 sq ft which provides occupiers with high quality space ranging from suites of 450 to 8,000 sq ft.

The building has undergone a complete internal transformation with a total refurbishment of the reception and common areas. The office suites provide a superb working environment in line with the demands of todays occupier.

On arriving home I hungrily rustled up a few RIBA Archive images from 1954.

Much remains intact – though gone is the concrete grid and glass brick insertions of the 1954 central section – replaced with a slick glass and steel skin.

And there are unpleasant intrusions made by the fitting of contemporary security and lighting – using intrusive exterior conduit.

It’s a sunny day with a southwest light – there’s nobody about, let’s take a look around.

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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