High and Over, Amersham

High and Over is a Grade I listed building in Amersham, Bucks. Designed by Amyas Connell and built in the late 1920s, the Y-shaped country house and the smaller Sun Houses nearby were controversial at the time, but are now admired as fine examples of the Modernist style. Originally a single dwelling, High and Over was divided into two units in the 1960s. Local legend has it that the building had to be camouflaged during World War II because enemy bombers were using it as a landmark to help them find their targets.

© Christopher Seddon 2009

Empress State Building, Earls Court

Named for the Empress Theatre which formerly stood on the site in Lillie Road, the Empress State Building was constructed in 1961. Originally intended as a hotel, it has thoughout its existence been used as an office building. People of a certain age (including myself!) will recall exterior shots of the building featuring in the ‘Sixties SF series Space Patrol. After it became vacant in 1997, plans were put forward for its use as a hotel, and thought was given to its demolition. Fortunately refurbishment turned out to be a cheaper option and this was carried out between 2001-03, with extra floors being added at the top. However it continued to be used as office space and currently the building is occupied by Metropolitan Police and Transport for London.

© Christopher Seddon 2009

de la Warr Pavilion, Bexhill

Constructed in 1935, the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill, East Sussex was one of Britain’s first Modernist public buildings.

The seafront building was the brainchild of Herbrand Sackville, 9th Earl de la Warr, Mayor of Bexhill. The Earl, who was a socialist, persuaded Bexhill council to develop the site as a public building. A competition was announced in the Architects Journal in February 1934 and run by the RIBA. The requirement was for an entertainment hall to seat at least 1500 people; a 200-seat restaurant; a reading room; and a lounge. Erich Mendelsohn and Serge Chermayeff were selected from over 230 entrants. Construction work began in January 1935 and the building was opened on 12 December of the same year.

The building was damaged when a nearby hotel was bombed during the war and it was neglected during the postwar era. However in 1986 it was awarded Grade I listed building status and three years later a Trust was formed dedicated to restoring the building to its former glory. These efforts were eventually successful and with the aid of a £6 million Lottery grant the building was restored and converted into a contemporary arts centre. This opened in 2005, as the building marked its seventieth anniversary.

© Christopher Seddon 2009

London Metropolitan University Graduate Centre

Holloway in North London is not normally noted for its cutting-edge architecture. However the Graduate Centre on London Metropolitan University’s London North Campus was designed by the internationally-famous architect Daniel Libeskind, whose portfolio includes the Jewish Museum in Berlin and the Imperial War Museum North in Manchester. Opened in 2004, it is only Libeskind’s second building in the United Kingdom.

© Christopher Seddon 2009

Thames Barrier

Constructed between 1974 and 1982, the Thames Flood Barrier at Woolwich came into use the following year. The barrier is built across a 572 yard wide stretch of the river and divides it into four 200ft and two 100ft navigable spans, and four smaller non-navigable channels between nine concrete piers and two abutments. The structure was designed by Rendel, Palmer and Tritton and built by a consortium comprising Costain, Hollandsche Beton Maatschappij and Tarmac Construction at a cost of £534m. An additional £100m was spent on strengthening river defences for eleven miles down river.

Initially it was only raised on average twice a year, but since 1990 this has increased to an average of four times a year. The structure was never intended to cater for the effects of global warming, and by 2005 it was looking possible that a larger barrier might be required to protect London from flooding.

© Christopher Seddon 2009

Ponte Vecchio, Florence

Inhabited bridges with houses and shops were once commonplace throughout Europe but now very few remain of which the best-known is the Ponte Vecchio (“The Old Bridge”) across the Arno River in Florence. There has been a bridge here since Roman times but it was twice destroyed by floods and the present structure dates to 1345. The original occupants were butchers, but these have long since been replaced by jewellers and art dealers.

© Christopher Seddon 2009