Just a week before English Heritage, RIBA and the Twentieth Century Society publish a new book by Elain Harwood on the architects of Golden Lane Estate, the scaffolding has been removed from the leisure centre at the heart of the estate. With another three months to go before the restoration is complete, the work to date has removed the frosted glass windows and clumsy flood lighting to create a clean, elegant facade. This is a great time to look at it. Chamberlin, Powell and Bon – Elain Harwood
Tag: Chamberlain Bon and Powell
Great Arthur House, the centrepiece of Golden Lane Estate was not only London’s tallest residential tower when completed in the 1950s but it had and still has, a superb roof garden. These pictures give some indication of its size and attraction. It provides superb views over the City, it has a beautifully-designed pagoda, roof for two trees, areas for sheltered seating and a small pond, fed by the huge curved roof that gives the building its personality. And, it is closed to….everyone. It has become slightly newsworthy locally over the past couple of weeks because someone has managed to get up there and added a couple of graffiti tags.
Why is it closed? Allegedly because there were a number of suicides twenty years ago.
Roof gardens have become fashionable again. The one on the recently-opened One New Change is pretty amazing and pretty corporate. The roof garden on Great Arthur House is intimate, residential, almost cosy. One of the residents who visited on a rare occasion when it was opened two years ago remembers deckchairs on a Sunday afternoon. There is little public space in the City, Great Arthur House roof garden could be a special place for everyone who lives here. View a video of the roof garden.
Here is a great view of Golden Lane Estate with the swimming pool at its centre. Work is due to start any minute on restoration. There is some nervousness about this. The plans involve making some significant changes. At present it is easy to walk around the site at two levels. The lower level space between the sports hall and the swimming pool is due to be blocked in with a dance studio. The roof will also have photovoltaic panels and all of the windows will be replaced with double glazed versions. It should be good but will the windows look right or will they be out of character? Will the dance studio destroy the lightness and fluidity of the current arrangement? Will the panels on the roof look ungainly and inappropriate and will they generate enough electricity to make their installation worth while. The problem with much-loved places is that they lead to conservatism from those who want to preserve a quality which it is feared will be lost with the improvements. Has the Festival Hall been ruined by its new stage and the removal of the acoustic canopy? Is the Barbican worse off because of its orange paint work. Golden Lane Leisure Centre will be a test case for matching elegant restoration with the joy of moving through water. (Picture: Tim Crocker).
Work on the overhaul of the Barbican Centre was completed nearly two years ago. The changes to the building were significant – a new bridge was installed to connect Silk Street and Riverside entrances; bold graphics were used to sign each of the floors and main venues; and the pointillist walls and carpets were replaced with bold oranges and reds. The improvements were major and muscular, not only making it easier to move around the building but visually stunning. So a great surprise to see the way in which the Riverside Cafe has recently been transformed into a 1950s style canteen cum classroom. School chairs, a blackboard, American diner-style benches and these light fittings based on pickle jars, have created a retro atmosphere slightly out of style with the building. The cafe is now billed as a food hall. Perhaps the design is intended as a refuge from the hammered concrete and wide open spaces of the foyers.
Work is due to start tomorrow on the restoration of Golden Lane Leisure Centre. The Centre contains the only public swimming pool in the City. The campaign to resist its closure led to 850 responses to the consultation which convinced the Corporation (which owns it) to invest £2.6 million on the restoration. The changes have been controversial with the architects originally proposing to fill in the space between the pool and the badminton court. There will now be changes to this listed building but of a modest nature. Meanwhile, every swim now requires a bus trip up to the west end.