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2 Bessborough Street and 33 Vauxhall Bridge Road, including selected hard landscaping and boundary walls

A Grade II Listed Building in Mitcham, London

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.4896 / 51°29'22"N

Longitude: -0.1331 / 0°7'59"W

OS Eastings: 529713

OS Northings: 178388

OS Grid: TQ297783

Mapcode National: GBR GN.96

Mapcode Global: VHGQZ.NT0G

Plus Code: 9C3XFVQ8+RQ

Entry Name: 2 Bessborough Street and 33 Vauxhall Bridge Road, including selected hard landscaping and boundary walls

Listing Date: 24 May 2018

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1453026

Location: Westminster, London, SW1V

County: London

District: City of Westminster

Electoral Ward/Division: Tachbrook

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: City of Westminster

Traditional County: Middlesex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Greater London

Summary


Speculative office building, designed from 1976, built in 1980-1983 by William Whitfield of Whitfield and Partners for the Crown Commissioners.

Included in the listing are the building (including the basement); the walls which form part of, or are within, the site's boundary; stepped access into or out of the building or site; metalwork by Jim Horrobin; and some paving which sits over part of the basement area of the building (e.g. that facing Rampayne Street and the courtyard garden) and/or where it is in the immediate vicinity of the building (e.g. the stone paving around 2 Bessborough Street, running into the arcade). The above-ground areas included in the listing are shown indicatively on the map, which is not to scale. Not shown on the map is the full footprint of the building's basement, which extends under some publicly accessible paved areas.

Pimlico Tube Station, below 2 Bessborough Street, does not form part of the listed building.

Description

Speculative office building, designed from 1976, built in 1980-1983 by William Whitfield of Whitfield and Partners for the Crown Commissioners, partner in charge David Lyle; project architect John Hyett; assistants AD Mason, T Wiliams, M Wright, M Stott, V Hind, P Estop, R Nicholson and R Young, structural engineers Lew and Rodin.

MATERIALS: the building has a concrete frame with a load-bearing brick skin; the window arches are of cut red brick, contrasting with purple-brown brick, and stone imposts. The windows are dark brown aluminium and the roofs are covered in lead.

PLAN: the plan comprises an eight-storey octagonal tower (including a storey in the high mansard roof), accessed from Bessborough Street and set over Pimlico Underground Station; and a narrow three-storey block running down Rampayne Street to Vauxhall Bridge Road, where the main entrance for this block is. A bridge between the two elements spans the ramp leading down to the underground car park. A glazed walkway over the bridge has been removed and replaced with plant.

The ground floor of the tower has an entrance to Pimlico tube and several small commercial units, as well as the main entrance to the office building above. The office space is arranged around a central service and circulation core with stairs, lifts and WCs.

The three-storey block has two service and circulation ‘wings’, one at each end of the plan; these are pitched-roof pavilions connected to the main building by walkways enclosed in brick and glass. The wings frame a shallow courtyard with octagonal planters and two-tone paving. This steps down to another courtyard belonging to the neighbouring office building; a fountain between the two courtyards is part of the Whitfield scheme.

In both elements of the complex the office space was built as open plan to allow configuration to be determined by tenants.

The building has a basement level shared across the site and extending beyond the footprint of the above-ground elements; this contains a car park and plant.

EXTERIOR: the aesthetic of the building is very much defined by the strong contrast of colour in the materials, the regimented rows of arched openings (which become narrower towards the top of the tower) and the bold, clean modelling of the elevations. The ground and first floors are enclosed by double-height arches, the ground floor windows of the long range projecting out as canted bays. Above, the windows are all set back behind the deep brickwork skin. Ribbed metal spandrel panels beneath the first floor windows of the tower curve round to form the soffit of the partially recessed ground floor.

The circulation wings of the long range have blind gable-ends with stone dressings and full-height glazed strips running down the side wall to light the stairwells. The north wing forms part of the asymmetric composition around the Vauxhall Bridge Road entrance. The slight fall in land levels between the front and back of the site mean that the entrance is reached by a flight of steps which cascades down to street level over a brick archway leading down to the lower ground floor. The steps have bespoke iron-work handrails by Jim Horrobin.

The basement car park extends beneath the courtyard to the rear of the Vauxhall Bridge Road block, below a strip of herringbone paving to the front (facing Rampayne Street) and beneath the public terrace to the east of the tower, where Paolozzi’s ventilation shaft (listed Grade II) is situated. While the basement forms part of the building, some areas of paving above are excluded from the listing, as indicated on the map. Ironwork gates by Horrobin, now slightly modified for greater security, limit access between the front public-facing areas of the building and the courtyard to the rear.

INTERIOR: the interior walls of the long range are lined with oak panelling, partitions now subdividing the spaces are later. An original door which leads down to the car park is wide, of oak, and has two glazed panels with radiused corners. Doors into the service wings are black aluminium, but in the wings themselves are generally of flush-panel oak; the stairs have steel rod balusters, brass handrails and oak strings. The glazed links between the main building and the wings have exposed brickwork, arches of both gauged brick and stone, stone-paved floors, and connecting bridges with glazed balustrades and brass handrails.

The interior of the tower is particularly notable for its main entrance foyer. This is a double-height space, lined in oak panelling with its vertical edges curved outwards to create subtle texture. The floor is paved in two colours of stone, arranged in a pattern of large squares. A bank of three lifts with oak surrounds lines one wall, and the stair lines the remaining three sides, rising to a shallow gallery which gives access to the first floor offices. The baluster is brass with glass panels. The ceiling is coffered, with a large hanging light fitting in the centre, this is a replacement. To either side of the foyer are secondary stairs which run the full height of the building. The offices on each floor were built as open-plan, forming a ring around the central core but there is now varying levels of subdivision within these spaces. The offices are thought to have originally been lined in oak panelling to match the long range. The walls have now been lined with plasterboard with a service void behind, but it is possible that the panelling survives behind. The coffered ceilings are now covered by a later suspended ceiling.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: the Rampayne Street side of the development has some low brick walls enclosing the access ramp to the car park, as well as a brick guard room and service rooms built into retaining walls. There are areas of paving in stone and concrete slab and herringbone brick around the building, over the footprint of the basement area, and steps connecting the change in levels on the site. These elements form part of the Whitfield development and are generally included in the listing, except where it is indicated on the map that they are not.

History

2 Bessborough Street and 33 Vauxhall Bridge Road, also known as Drummond Gate, phase one, was a speculative office development designed from 1976 and built in 1980-1983 by William Whitfield of Whitfield and Partners for the Crown Commissioners. The partner in charge was David Lyle, the project architect John Hyett, and the structural engineers Lew and Rodin.

Whitfield had a love of military architecture, something which is clearly reflected in the Bessborough Street/Vauxhall Bridge Road scheme, for which he gave one of his sources as Langley Castle in Northumberland which he visited as a child. The design grew out of an unrealised project for a nearby site in Tothill Street, where Whitfield devised a polygonal end to face Charles Holden’s 55 Broadway. However, the realised scheme had more prominent, massive arches, and was made a storey taller and given a higher roof after initial designs were approved in 1976. The higher scale suited its urban setting of five- and six-storey buildings, giving a focus to its corner site seen in a long vista down Lupus Street, and with the lower range forming a group with the red-brick Lillington Gardens completed in 1972 (listed Grade II) on the north side of Rampayne Street. The scheme, along with Whitfield’s chapter house at St Albans Cathedral (1980-1982), is unusual in that the brick skin is load-bearing, particularly so given its eight storeys. While the critic, Gavin Stamp, suggested its red brick and rows of segmental arches recalled C19 industrial buildings, this was an influence Whitfield denied. The building reflects well Whitfield’s skilful handling of materials, massing and detail, his unique interpretation of architectural tradition, and his interest in the concept of servant and served spaces. To the immediate east was originally to have been a C-shaped building by Gollins, Melvin, Ward, framing a courtyard between the two developments, however this was never realised and the site houses instead an office block with a conventional rectangular footprint designed by Chapman Taylor.

(Sir) William Whitfield (1920- ), born William Smith, studied architecture at King’s College, Newcastle (then part of Durham University) in about 1939-1947. He designed buildings for various universities and a striking addition to Beresford Pite and John Belcher’s Institute of Chartered Accountants Building, City of London (listed Grade II*) of 1966-1970, which included elevations in the Belcher style as well as a heavy brutalist aesthetic. A more personal style clad in brick and stone, indebted to Louis Kahn and incorporating his ideas of served and servant spaces appeared in the 1980s, with his rebuilding and remodelling of Richmond Terrace, Westminster (listed Grade II*), the Chapter House at St Alban’s Cathedral (1980-1982) and Bessborough Street/Vauxhall Bridge Road. He is best known for his replanning of Paternoster Square in 1996, finally realised in 2000-2003. The practice was renamed Whitfield Lockwood Architects in 2003 following Sir William’s retirement that year.

The architecture of Bessborough Street/Vauxhall Bridge Road falls within the stylistic idiom of Post-Modernism. Post-Modernism can be found across philosophy, literature, art and architecture, and the term is an old one, used in painting in the 1880s and literature in the 1940s. The term began to be used in architecture in the mid-1970s to signify a transformation of the orthodoxy of the Modern Movement that incorporated references to older architectural traditions, that was more aware of setting and context, and sought enjoyment through colour and collage techniques. A clear distinction can be made between post-modernist architects, who all grew out of the Modern Movement, and traditionalists such as Quinlan Terry who had no such relation to Modernism.

The origins of the style are found in the United States, notably in the work of Robert Venturi (a former assistant to Louis Kahn) and Charles Moore from the mid-1960s, paying homage to all aspects of their country’s traditions. A more rigorous, classically-minded version evolved in Italy in the work of Paolo Portoghesi, Aldo Rossi and Vittorio Gregotti; in Italian-speaking Switzerland Mario Botta offered a more over-scaled version, and monumentalism was also seen in Spain. In England, the American and European idioms converged in the late 1970s, where it produced major architects of international significance, including James Stirling, and distinctive voices unique to Britain such as John Outram. The movement in architecture coincided with the revival of the British economy in the 1980s that encouraged new commercial and housing developments in areas such as Docklands.

Reasons for Listing

2 Bessborough Street and 33 Vauxhall Bridge Road, 1980-1983 by William Whitfield of Whitfield & Partners is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:

* for its skilful handling of materials, massing and detail, producing a striking and finely construed example of English Post-Modernism;
* for the quality of craftsmanship internally and externally and extending into the surrounding hard landscape, and the integration of work by other craftspeople;
* the building stands little altered externally and with certain key elements of its interior scheme surviving.

Historic interest:

* as a strong example of the work of an important architect of the late C20.

Group value

* for its relationship with the Grade II listed sculptural work by Eduardo Paolozzi, which serves as a ventilation shaft over the building’s basement.

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