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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.

The Toilet Tower on Conduit Mews

This viewpoint focusses on a toilet tower (a series of bathrooms stacked in the shape of a helix), built as part of scheme to transform four Victorian terraced houses into student housing in Paddington, London, in the late-1960s. More specifically, how architects Nicholas Grimshaw and Terry Farrell promoted plastics in architecture on aesthetic grounds in a way which has ultimately proved to be unsustainable.

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.

More in United Kingdom

An illegal funeral souvenir.

Funeral spectators were expected to be mournful and well behaved – Jenkin Evans had other ideas.