Colechurch House, London Bridge SE1

Aficionados of 20th Century brutalist architecture need to hasten to appreciate Colechurch House. It is due for demolition and redevelopment. This month’s post in the marvellous “London Inheritance” site informed me about the planning application, so I rushed over there to draw a picture before the building became swathed in plastic.

Colechurch House SE1, 18th May 2021, 12:30pm. 7″ x 10″ in Sketchbook 10

I drew this picture looking over the railings from London Bridge. This position commanded an excellent view of Colechurch House, but it meant I had my back to the passers-by on the pavement, which made me nervous. I strapped my rucksack to the railing and worked quickly. My drawing makes the building look a little precarious, perhaps that reflects my own nervousness standing in the wind on London Bridge, or perhaps it reflects the nervousness of the building as it awaits imminent demolition.

Here is work in progress. I completed the pen-and-ink on location and the colour at my desk.

Colechurch House was completed in the late 1960s* to the designs of E G Chandler. Pre-pandemic, the area under the building at podium level contained a tidal flow of commuters walking between London Bridge Station and the City of London. The City of London Corporation entity known as “Bridge House Estates” owns the freehold. The site is in the London Borough of Southwark (called “LBS” in the press release below). The planning application is GLA reference 2020/6867/S1 and has been approved. Here’s the plan, according to the summary in the planning application:

“Redevelopment of the site to include demolition of Colechurch House, pedestrian footbridge and walkway and erection of an elevated 22-storey building (+ 4-storey basement) above a public park and providing office floorspace, retail floorspace, restaurant/café floorspace, leisure floorspace (all Use Class E), theatre and a bar (Sui Generis), delivered alongside public realm improvements, roof gardens, cycle parking, servicing, refuse, plant areas and other associated works incidental to the development.”

Here’s a press release from the City of London last year, announcing the development.

*Completion date “late 1960s” according to https://colechurchhouse.com/site, the website of the new development. It also says “It is named after Peter of Colechurch who designed the first stone bridge across the Thames here.”

City Place House

An email from an ever-vigilant neighbour alerted me to the Planning Application for City Place House and the adjacent tower, City Tower. This application is currently under consideration. I hastened to go and have a look at the buildings, before they get swathed in white plastic.

City Tower has been there since 1967. It is going to have its lower floors redeveloped but will remain standing. However the more recent City Place House, completed in 1992, is going to be demolished and replaced.

City Place House is a post-modern block of 10 storeys, 8 above ground. It currently houses 1750 workers in 176 600 sq ft. It is going to be replaced by a higher and wider building, which will more than double the capacity, housing 4000 workers in 320 000 sq ft, by more efficient servicing. This is according to the planning application: 21/00116/FULMAJ, “Statement of Community Involvement”. My neighbour comments, “The City’s unerring confidence that numbers of office workers will rebound back to and then exceed previous levels continues to amaze and baffle me given the growing pile of evidence to the contrary. However, that may just be me…”. I have to agree.

Here is what it looks like now:

City Place House from the podium level near the former “Jamies” restaurant. The building to the right, wrapped in plastic, is Brewers Hall.

Here’s a map, also from the planning application. London Wall Place is the building on the left hand side of my drawing.

The line of sight of my drawing is shown by the blue arrow.

City Tower is in the background of my drawing, It is interesting because it is one of the last two towers in a grand design. The other tower still standing is Bastion House. The post war development plan had six towers along London Wall:

“In 1954, frustrated at the contemporary efforts of largely piecemeal reconstruction, a group calling itself ‘The New Barbican Committee,’ headed by architect Sergei Kadleigh, unveiled a plan of comprehensive redevelopment on the long derelict site north of St Paul’s. The scheme proposed a vast network of interlocking hexagonal structures of towers and decks over the 40-acre site owned by the City Corporation. This utopian mega structure proved hugely influential and by 1955 a collaborative scheme of comprehensive redevelopment was unveiled by the City’s head of planning H.A. Mealand and the LCC’s Leslie Martin.”

“Six towers of identical proportion, sit at equal distance from one another at 45 degrees to the street on a raised pedestrian deck with lower slab blocks at right angles. It was a monumental scheme and owed much to Le Corbusier’s 1933 ‘La Ville Radieuse’ in its geometric vision. It was characterised by generous public spaces and the complete segregation of traffic and pedestrian flows of circulation. It was anticipated that these ‘ped-ways,’ would eventually be expanded to provide a City-wide network.” (SOURCE: ©2007 www.postwarbuildings.com)

The six towers, their original names, and their fates1:

LONDON WALL (NORTH-SIDE, WEST TO EAST)  

Bastion House, 140 London Wall, EC2 1976: Completed. Still standing: Now known as 140 London Wall.  

Lee House, 125 London Wall, EC2: 1962: Completed. 1988-92: Replaced by Alban Gate. Now known as 125 London Wall.  

St Alphage House, 2 Fore Street, EC2: 1962: Redeveloped as 1 and 2 London Wall Place

Moor House, 120 London Wall, EC2: 1961: Completed. 2002-05: Demolished in 2001 and replaced by a new Moor House.  

LONDON WALL (SOUTH-SIDE, WEST TO EAST)  

Royex House, 5 Aldermanbury Square, EC2: 1962: Completed. Replaced in 2008 by 5 Aldermanbury Square, EC2.  

Britannic House, 40 Basinghall Street, EC2: 1964: Completed. Still standing: Refurbished as City Tower in 1990.

The building which will replace City Place House will look like this. These are drawings from the planning application. City Tower is in the background, its shape is unchanged from now. There will be a new bridge across Basinghall Street. Demolition is due to start soon: 2022. The highwalk route will be out of service until 2025.

1Additional information from https://www.skyscrapercity.com/threads/various-london-wall.239763/page-17#post-12963051

Willoughby House, Barbican EC2

A client asked for two pictures. The first was of CityPoint. Here is the second, Willoughby House.

Willoughby House from the highwalk by Andrewes. 9″ x 12″ [original SOLD]

This is a view from the public highwalk under Andrewes House. You see the waterfall into the Barbican Lake, and Speed Garden in the background. That marvellous tree is a feature of Speed Garden. It has white bark.

Willoughby House is a terrace block in the Barbican. The multi-storey flats inside have interesting intersecting shapes, and long views across the water. It was completed in 1971.

Here is work in progress on the drawing.

On the skyline the two towers are the Heron residential tower on the left and CityPoint on the right. City Point predates Willoughby House – it was completed in 1967, although it looked different then. The curved top is a 2000 addition. In the middle is Ropemaker Place. The Heron residential tower replaced the original Chamberlain, Powell and Bon utility building on the same site. This was a brutalist concrete building, matching the Barbican, which housed a Fire Station, registry office, coroners court and mortuary. Milton Court was integral to the Barbican, linked aesthetically and by highwalks. It was destroyed in 2008.

The Heron residential tower which replaced Milton Court was finished in 2013. It is 36 stories and 122 metres high. Its lower floors house the Guildhall School of Music and drama. The upper stories are luxury flats.

CityPoint (1967, refurbished 2000) is office space, with bars and coffee shops at ground level. It is 35 stories and 127 metres high. Ropemaker Place (2009) is 23 stores of office space. It looks smaller because it is further away. It has no bars, no coffee shops, just a straight cliff down to the street.

FloorsHeightContentsDate
Willoughby7 + podiumResidential1971
Citypoint35127mOffice space,
bars at ground level
1967,
and 2000
Ropemaker23127mOffice space2009
Heron36122mGuildhall School
and residential
2013
Fashion shoot

While I was drawing, a fashion shoot arrived. It was a jangling cavalcade of clothes rails, photographic equipment, and a music system on wheels. They set up camp a little way away and starting photographing the scenery, which included me. They turned their attention to the model who placed herself carefully against the concrete wall. Then they upped and went on towards Gilbert Bridge, their music and conversation fading into the perspective lines.

Here is the ink stage. You can compare with the colour by moving the slider.

The colours here are mostly Mars Yellow, Phthalo Blue Turquoise, and Perylene Maroon. The red dots are Transparent Pyrrol Orange. There’s a bit of Green Gold in there too. I started this on location and finished it at home.

Citypoint from London Wall Place

Here is CityPoint, seen from the highwalk next to 2 London Wall Place.

Citypoint from London Wall Place. 12″ x 9″ [original SOLD]

On the left is the south side of Willoughby House, Barbican. Down in the street you see the gate which closes Moor Lane at certain times, and also various lamp posts, bollards and a pole holding three CCTV cameras. Beyond that, on the right, is a construction site on top of the Moorgate Crossrail station.

Here is a map and an annotated sketch to identify the buildings.

To draw this, I was standing above street level, on a public walkway next to a new office development, 1 and 2 London Wall Place. This walkway has walls with plants. The plants are doing really well.

As you see from those photos, the walkway was also empty and calm. The security guard came past, once in one direction, and once back. He smiled and greeted me politely. I was also watched by less friendly security: a CCTV camera, right over my head. I wonder what they made of my sketch?

CityPoint, 1 Ropemaker St, London EC2Y 9HT, was originally called “Britannic House”. The original architect was F. Milton Cashmore & Partners. It has 36 floors above ground. The website “www.emporis.com” tells me:

The building was built in 1967 as Brittanic House, a 122m (399ft) headquarters for British Petroleum. An extensive refurbishment, designed by Sheppard Robson International and completed in 2000, increased the floorplates and added height to the top floor. Britannic House was then renamed CityPoint.

Here are some photos of this drawing in progress. I did a preliminary sketch. The perspectives were fiendish. That “WeWork” building on the right has a weird sloping balcony and a strange sort of tilt in its orientation.

This drawing was a commission. It is the first of two. The next one will show Willoughby House.

From Stanley Cohen House

Here is the view from a top floor flat in Stanley Cohen House, Golden Lane Estate.

View from Stanley Cohen House, 7″ x 10″ in Sketchbook 9

You can see right across the estate to buildings on the far side of the Goswell Road. That’s Basterfield House on the right, and Crescent House in the middle, with the scalloped roof.

Here are some maps:

“Outdoors Room” arrowed.

In the centre of this drawing is one of the features I particularly admire in the Golden Lane Estate. There is an “outdoors room” at Podium Level integrated into the Leisure Centre. The space feels like a room: it is roughly square and has a roof. On one side are glass windows which overlook the swimming pool, and on the other side the windows look down into the indoors exercise space. I feel sure that the architects in the 1970s anticipated that this outdoors space would be used for Yoga, or Martial Arts, or perhaps storytelling. They might have envisaged yoga mats, bean bags. It seems to me to be so clearly part of the Leisure Centre, that it must have been intended for a group exercise of some sort. It is now well maintained, but not used (as far as I can tell), except as a transit route. I drew a picture from there.

There was also an “outdoor room” on the way to the top floor flat in Stanley Cohen House, as well as splendid outdoor walkways with long views out to the west.

“Outdoor Room” on the top floor of Stanley Cohen House, Golden Lane Estate.

This generosity with public, communal and informal spaces seems to me to characterise a certain view of society, in which people would want to meet, improvise, and interact with strangers and neighbours. There is a certain value placed on “empty” and unallocated space: it represents “possibility” offered to residents, who may have better ideas than the architects about how to use their space. This shows humility and humanity in the design. A vacant outdoor room represents an invitation to residents and passers-by: “come in, make of this what you will, do something here”. There is a space in which to pause and breathe. It is very different from the modern developments, such as the Atlas Building or Eagle Point, whose stark vertical walls cut off the Outside from the Inside. Every square inch has an allocated use. The architects have decided in advance which space is to be a “lounge” or a “cinema” or a “gym”. There is no “empty” communal space. The designers have decided in advance what you will do here.

I applaud the empty spaces and white-walled “outdoor rooms” in the Golden Lane estate, just as I value the huge areas of unadorned public space in the Barbican: they are places in which your mind is free. Long may they remain.

I perhaps had these thoughts because I was drawing my picture from an empty unfurnished flat. I was kindly given access by the owner, while the flat was being redecorated between tenants. Here is work in progress on my drawing.

The main colours in this picture are: Phthalo Blue Turquoise (W&N), Prussian Blue (Jacksons), Perylene Maroon (DS), Mars Yellow (DS), plus Transparent Pyrrol Orange (DS) for the balconies on Basterfield House, and a small bit of Green Gold (DS) on the lighter parts of the tree.

Here are tools:

Here is a list of the drawings I have done in the Golden Lane Estate:

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Cromwell Tower from the Podium

Here is Cromwell Tower, in the Barbican, with Frobisher Crescent to the right, sketched pre-lockdown, from the Podium.

Cromwell Tower from the Barbican podium, 1st January 2021, 10″x 12″

This was a very cold day, and it started to sleet. That pitted effect you see on the left? That’s not a clever artistic technique, that’s ice crystals dropping on the painting from the sky!

I finished off the tower indoors. I used Daniel Smith Iridescent Moonstone watercolour paint. See how it catches the light!

For the podium tiling I used an experimental effect: scratching. I was in a bit of a hurry (it was really cold) and it was hard to get the angle right as I was holding the painting and standing up. It created an interesting effect, not quite what I intended, but I liked it.

This is one of a series of drawings on Jackson’s watercolour sheets: 10″ x 12″ cold-pressed, 300gsm. The bone implement I used for scratching is from the Vintage Paper Company and is a “bone folder”, intended for folding paper. It is good because it is not entirely sharp, and it’s nice to hold.

The colours are Daniel Smith watercolours: Prussian Blue, Perylene Maroon, and Mars Yellow, with a bit of Green Apatite Genuine for the plants, and Iridescent Moonstone mixed in, especially for the tower.

I’ve drawn in and around the Barbican before. Here’s a collection: (click “load more posts” to see more posts of the Barbican.)

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Barbican at dusk

It was getting dark but I’d been indoors all day. I set off into the gloom with my drawing things.

Looking towards the Barbican from Golden Lane, 5th January 2021, 4:15pm (detail)

It also started raining. Or maybe it was sleet.

I continued my peregrination through the dim streets. I like this time of day. In this weather, it’s not the “violet hour” of Mediterranean sunsets, but more like an Indigo hour, as the colours fade and go into dark smudges. I enjoyed the squares of light, each a little theatre of activity.

Here’s the picture I drew. It was sketched quickly on my walk, with the colour completed at home.

Looking towards the Barbican from Golden Lane, 5th January 2021, 4:15pm

Here are the buildings:

In Wyvern sketchbook, on Arches paper, using Hansa Yellow mid (DS), and Transparent Pyrrol Orange (DS), with Perylene Maroon (DS) and Phthalo Blue Turquoise (W&N) for the sky and the darker greys. Fired Gold Ochre (DS) is in the mix for the Peabody Building.

I have drawn in and around the Barbican before. Here is a collection:

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Bayer House, Golden Lane Estate

I drew Bayer House from a quiet spot above the Leisure Centre. Bayer House is the brick building on the right. The white building in the centre is Peabody Tower, on the Peabody Estate, the other side of Golden Lane.

In the background, you see the “HYLO” tower on Bunhill Row, under construction.

Bayer House (right), Golden Lane Estate.

Bayer House is three rows of 2 storey maisonettes: like three terraced streets, stacked. The brick walls are pink brinks with pink mortar: very pink. The architects are Chamberlain, Powell and Bon.

I drew this picture from the podium level, one storey up. In the sunken playground area, children played. I could hear their voices below me, and caught an occasional glimpse as they dashed into my field of view. Then I heard another noise, a rhythmic beat or clunk. I thought the children must have some kind of percussive instrument that they were playing with, like two large rocks. May be they were slapping two boxing gloves together. Then their voices opened into greetings. Just at that moment, two enormous police horses came into view, walking at my level. The police officers had paused their mounts, and were waving to the children below. I called out a hello, and then the police officers saw me too. “Hey look, there’s someone drawing!” They moved their horses on, hoofs clip-clopping on the concrete, very loud, and now, of course, utterly distinctive.

Many of the blocks on the Golden Lane Estate are named for councillors or other officials of the City of London who were in post at the time the Estate was under construction. But I could not find a “Bayer”. “Hatfield”, of “Hatfield House” which I drew previously, was also not to be found in the lists. After a long search, the marvellous London Metropolitan Archives turned up the answer. Hatfield St, and parts of Basterfield St, were subject of a compulsory purchase order in 1954. Bayer St, Great and Little Arthur Street, and the intriguing “Hot Water Court” were compulsorily purchased in 1951. So these houses are named after streets. More searching revealed the maps, see below. You see the former Bayer St in approximately the position of Bayer House, and Great Arthur St where Great Arthur House is now. Hatfield House and Basterfield House are also in the position of their corresponding streets. There is still a vestige of Basterfield St north of Basterfield House. Click to enlarge the maps below.

The colours in this picture are Fired Gold Ochre (DS), Phthalo Turquoise (W&N), Mars Yellow(DS), Buff Titanium (DS), and Perylene Maroon (DS). There a bit of Transparent Pyrrol Orange (DS) in the tree and the balconies of Bayer House. It was very cold and the colours did not dry which is why they are a bit blurry.

The collection of my Golden Lane Estate drawings is here:

Great Arthur House and Cullum Welch House

I found a good viewpoint at Podium level, underneath Crescent House. At ground level a woman ran circuits of the tennis courts. After a while she started doing interval training: running up and down the stairs near where I was standing. Then she came and asked if she could see the picture.

Great Arthur House and Cullum Welch House, Golden Lane Estate, from Crescent House.

Cullum Welch House is named for Sir George James Cullum Welch O.B.E., M.C. He was Sheriff of London, then knighted, then Lord Mayor of London in 1956, which was when the Golden Lane Estate was being built. He was knighted in the 1952 New Year Honours. He served in the army in 1914-18 and 1939-45 conflicts, and gained the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel.

Cullum Welch House and Great Arthur House, together with other buildings in the Golden Lane Estate are listed Grade II. The listing was in December 1997. Here is an extract from the listing on the Historic England site.

REASONS FOR DESIGNATION: Cullum Welch House, part of the Golden Lane Estate, is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Architectural interest: as a self-sufficient ‘urban village’, in which every element of space is accounted for and every detail carefully considered, the Golden Lane Estate has claim to be the most successful of England’s housing developments from the early 1950s.

* Planning interest: the estate reflects the formality, mixed with picturesque attention to landscape, which was emerging in British architecture in the early 1950s, this saw the spaces between the buildings being almost as important as the buildings themselves.

The strong formality of the estate became a key characteristic of the work of Chamberlin, Powell and Bon, as did the provision of a wide range of facilities on the site other than just housing. These are features that can also be seen at their Barbican development.

Here’s the description of Great Arthur House from the Historic England website:

Great Arthur House was built in 1953-7 from reinforced concrete. The 17 floor building was the first to break the London County Council’s 100 ft height restriction and was briefly the tallest inhabited building in England. The flats were designed for single people and couples such as nurses and policemen who had to live near their work. The architects for the estate were Chamberlin, Powell and Bon.

It was cold when I drew the picture, 10 degrees C. I wore a hat and gloves. Here are photos of work in progress, and a map.

This picture took about two hours overall, plus 15 minutes for the preliminary sketch.

The colours are Perylene Maroon and Prussian Blue, which make the grey tones, plus Hansa Yellow Mid which is the exact colour of the yellow cladding on Great Arthur House.

Here is a collection of my recent drawings of the Golden Lane Estate. Click on the picture to read more about the picture.

Alexandra Road Estate, Camden

I cycled to the North West of Regent’s Park, in search of the Alexandra Road Estate. This estate is a truly astonishing work, testament to the vision and social ideals of the Camden councillors and architects who made it happen.

I cycled past the large and stately houses of Queens Grove, Marlborough Road, Loudoun Road, going north, uphill. I went left on Boundary Road, which is the north edge of Westminster and the south Edge of Camden. There on the right I glimpsed brutalist concrete. This is it. But the side road I followed, Rowley Way, led downwards into a disappointing loading bay, with barriers, delivery drivers and much disorganised parking. It was hot, and I’d cycled what felt like a long way. Then I remembered that this was a 1960s development. There must be a podium level, above the cars. There was. I looked for, and found, the slope upwards.

Rowley Way, Alexandra Road Estate

At the top of the slope was another world. A long village street led into the distance, with tranquillity, with greenery, and with concrete benches. People walked about immersed in conversation, leading children. Two lads sat on a bench, chatting and looking at their feet. Everywhere, there were trees, bushes and flowers. The street was tiled with red terracotta tiles. Each side the flats sloped up, looking irregular, like houses I have seen built into the hill in Crete.

I walked all along the tiled street, pushing my bike. There were concrete benches, but from those the view would give directly onto someone’s home, so I didn’t feel that would be good manners to sit down and draw there. Many features I recognised as typically 1960s: wood-marked concrete, thick iron railings, slabs of exposed concrete, round stairwells. The flats were all interlocked, so it was not clear where one flat started and the next stopped. It was most intriguing architecture. There were ledges, and low doors, gardens on ledges, and stairways climbing high up right to the roof.

At the end of the street, there was a small tiled public area, with a tree, and a viewpoint, and more concrete benches. Here I had a view of the end of the terrace of flats.

“..monoliths of tower blocks..” behind the Alexandra Road Estate.

I particularly enjoyed the way that the architect had made that walkway protrude at the end of the block, to provide a viewpoint, a special place. I didn’t go up there. To the north, there were the tall monoliths of tower blocks. Trains rumbled. The railway line is immediately behind the terrace I was drawing.

The architect of the Alexandra Road Estate was Neave Brown, of the Camden Architecture Department. It was designed in 1968 and built 1972-78. The construction was controversial. Inflation was 20% at times in the seventies, and so costs went up. Neave Brown fought hard to complete the scheme, and he prevailed.

There is a wonderful description of the estate and its history on the Municipal Dreams website on this link:

https://municipaldreams.wordpress.com/2013/06/18/the-alexandra-road-estate-camden-a-magical-moment-for-english-housing/

Here are maps showing where it is, click to enlarge.

Here is work in progress on the drawing:

Here is the map on the entrance to the estate. Click to enlarge it.