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More from Alexander Davidson

The Barbican and the Making of the Modern Office Building – Pt. 2

The Barbican Redevelopment Scheme, comprising the Barbican Estate, Barbican Arts Centre and the office buildings around London Wall and Moorgate, is well known to people with an affection for twentieth-century architecture, and has become major cultural centre in its own right. Nevertheless, very few people are aware of how a type of plastic manufactured in rural Kent quietly revolutionised the design and construction of modern office building, in particular the curtain-walling systems that enabled open-plan offices. In the second of two viewpoints on the New Barbican, Alexander Davidson tells a story encompassing two office buildings built as part of the Barbican Redevelopment Scheme – Lee House and St Alphage House – and how the plastic Holoplast was manufactured, used in construction, and eventually came to be demonised by the City of London Corporation.

Winterton House and Plastic Cladding

The viewpoint deals with four Greater London Council housing blocks – two in Tower Hamlets and a second pair in Westminster, where the architects employed an experimental plastics building system in their design and construction. More latterly, the buildings were involved in the “Homes for Votes” scandal in the 1980s, which has received renewed attention in the light of the Grenfell Tower disaster.

The Beddington Zero Energy Development (BedZED)

This viewpoint deals with BedZED, the most notable mixed-use sustainable community to be developed in London over the last twenty years. Develped by Bioregional and the Peabody Trust to designs by Bill Dunster Architects, BedZED was subject to significant media attention upon its completion in 2002 and no shortage of controversy. In this viewpoint, I argue that rather than being seen as good or bad, the scheme should be seen as an indication of how much our expectations regarding sustainabilty have changed over the last two decades.

More in United Kingdom

53 Eaton Ave – “Dream Demon” (1988)

The beautiful suburban home is overtaken by living nightmares in 1988 horror “Dream Demon”.