William Booth Memorial Training College, Camberwell

Towering over the local landscape, the Salvation Army’s William Booth Memorial Training College in Camberwell, London SE5 can be seen for miles around. Completed in 1932, it was designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott in his trademark monumental style, although it suffered from budget cuts during its construction and is considerably pared back from its original proposed Gothic grandieur.

© Christopher Seddon 2008

Demolition of the Guinness Brewery, Acton

The demolition of the Guinness Brewery at Acton in 2006 left me with mixed feelings. The loss of any building designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott was certainly a matter for regret; on the other hand the brewery’s product was distinctly inferior to that brewed in Dublin. Hitherto, “Irish” Guinness was rarity in pubs, but it is now the only type available.

As they say, every cloud has a silver lining.

© Christopher Seddon 2008

Hoover Building, Perivale

Constructed between 1932 and 1938, the Hoover Building and its accompanying canteen block are among the finest examples of Art Deco architecture in Britain or indeed anywhere in the world. The site remained in use until the 1980s, whenn Hoover began to gradually relocate their operations to Cambuslang, near Glasgow. The building fell gradually into disrepair but happily avoided the fate of the nearby Firestone Building and was granted Grade II* Listed status. In 1989 the site was aquired by Tesco and was converted to a supermarket, which opened in 1992. The often-maligned high street giant worked closely with English Heritage during the project, to very good effect.

© Christopher Seddon 2008

Mersey Tunnel Ventilation Stations, Birkenhead

Standing 150 foot tall, this imposing structure is the Woodside Ventilation Station in Birkenhead, one of six such installations serving the Queensway Mersey Tunnel. These buildings are the work of Herbert James Rowse. This building and the similar structures in nearby Taylor Street and Sidney Street do show some similarities to the work of Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, most notably Bankside Power Station, London (now the Tate Modern). However, Sir Giles Gilbert Scott was not involved with the Mersey Tunnel project.

Another view, from the end of Morpeth Street.

Recalling sunrise over the Heel Stone at Stonhenge, or the Monolith from Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, a view of the tower and the sun.

The view across the Mersey. Note the Anglican Cathedral – which was designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott.

The fine brickwork lends the tower a monumental presence that transcends its utilitarian purpose.

The towers at Sidney Street and Taylor Street, though similar, are not identical. Sidney Street has two squat towers rather than a single large one, though they are connected to a single ventilation shaft.

Taylor Street more closely resembles Woodside, but it is somewhat smaller.

Presumably these differences arose from site constraints.

I am most grateful to architect Reg Towner RIBA of Towner Associates for his recent input. Mr Towner has posted some very fine pictures of the Mersey Tunnel and its attendant infrastructure on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/townerassociates/sets/

© Christopher Seddon 2008

66 Frognal

Although not one of London’s better-known Modernist buildings, 66 Frognal in Hampstead is nevertheless an outstanding example of the style.

It was built in 1938 and designed by British architect Colin Lucas (1906-1988), who was a partner in the practice of Connell, Ward and Lucas. New Zealanders Connell and Ward had earlier collaborated on the acclaimed High and Over complex in Amersham before Lucas joined them in 1933.

The practice went out of existence when the war broke out the following year. After the war Colin Lucas joined the London County Council, working in the architecture division until 1977, when he retired.

© Christopher Seddon 2008

Finsbury Health Centre

Located in what was once one of London’s most deprived areas, Finsbury Health Centre is the embodiment of the Russian architect Berthold Lubetkin’s famous maxim that “nothing is too good for ordinary people”. Lubetkin left Russia soon after the Revolution but remained a committed socialist throughout his life. In the 1930s he moved to London and founded the architectural practice Tecton. A regular client was the Labour-controlled Metropolitan Borough of Finsbury (now part of the London Borough of Islington) and the Health Centre was one of a number of ambitious projects put in hand by the Council. Unfortunately not all their schemes came to fruition: one that did – rather controversially – was the erection of a statue of Lenin, which Lubetkin also designed.

Sadly this magnificent building is now very delapidated, although it remains in use.

© Christopher Seddon 2008

Ziggurat at Saffron Hill, Clerkenwell

The fortunes of Clerkenwell have risen and fallen over the years and its revival as a desirable location is comparatively recent, dating to the late 1990s when many light industrial works were converted to residential use. One such conversion is this splendid Modernist building located at Saffron Hill. Known as the Ziggurat, it was formally a print works. When converted in 1997 prices started at £125,000 for a one-bed apartment. A space in the secure underground car park located in the basement of the building cost an extra £10,000. Despite the current property slump, these prices now seem ridiculously cheap!

© Christopher Seddon 2008


Located on top of Highgate Hill at one of the highest places in London (hence the name), Highpoint comprises two apartment blocks designed by the Russian imigre Berthold Lubetkin and constructed in two phases – Highpoint 1 in 1935 and the adjascent Highpoint 2 in 1938. It is a classic example of Modernist architecture, though local estate agents regularly display their ignorance by referring to apartments on their books as Art Deco.

View from the south, taken from adjacent carpark.

Another view from the south of the complex.

One of the two caryatids supporting the porch of Highpoint 2. Although completely out of keeping with the Modernist design of the building, they are an attractive feature.

A view of the front aspect of the complex.

View from the north, the only picture actually taken on the site.

© Christopher Seddon 2008

Architecture at London Zoo

Opened in 1828, London Zoo is the world’s oldest scientific zoological garden. From the beginning, renowned architects have always been hired to work on new buildings, and in addition to its extensive animal collection, the zoo site hosts many structures of outstanding architectural merit. Currently there are two Grade One and eight Grade II listed buildings on the Regents Park site.

The Lubetkin-designed Penguin Pool was built in 1934 and is now a Grade One Listed Building, but is no longer considered to suitable for penguins and has been empty for some years. It is to be hoped that one day a way will be found to return this Modernist classic to use, without affecting its architectural integrity in any way.

Also listed is the former Elephant and Rhino Pavillion, a fine example of Brutalist architecture, designed by Sir Hugh Casson. It opened in 1964. The pavillion now houses smaller animals, including pigs, camels and a number of birds.

The Snowdon Aviary, designed by Antony Armstrong-Jones, Cedric Price and Frank Newby, and constructed in 1964 is still in its original use and it continues to house birds.

Also of note are the Mappin Terraces, a man-made mountain landscape, completed in 1914 which housed bears for many years. They are currently closed for renovation (this picture was taken in 2003). Below the terraces is the aquarium, opened in 1924 by King George V. In my childhood, this was the highlight of any visit to the zoo, but sadly it is now very dilapidated. A wonderful original 1920s exploded diagram of the aquarium can still be seen within.

© Christopher Seddon 2008