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News: December 2018

Celebrating post war heritage

London Zoo's Casson Pavilion
IoE number: 469315 © Mr Dan Woodrow. Source English Heritage.NMR


Icons of England

England’s post war buildings make some of the most striking contributions to our urban landscape and architectural identity. Their uniqueness of design, pioneering materials and the way in which they sought to meet the country’s needs following the devastation of war deserves recognition. This article showcases PastScape’s records for some of the most fascinating buildings from this period.

Post war architecture hasn’t always been considered with great affection, however. Like most styles of architecture they have suffered the cycles of fashion and been described in the past as ‘ugly’ and ‘outdated’. Perceptions are changing though, and many of these buildings are increasingly being seen as ‘icons’ rather than ‘eyesores’.

Mural inside Plymouth Civic Centre
Reference: DP034889 © English Heritage.NMR 

In 1987 the heritage value of post war buildings was formally recognised for the first time when buildings from this period began to be listed by English Heritage. The first post war building to be listed was Bracken House while the Commonwealth Institute and the Royal Festival Hall were among a number to be listed the following year. Protecting and conserving post war buildings has generally proven to be a controversial issue and this is mainly due to the different ways in which they are perceived as well as the challenges conserving their unique forms and materials.

Most recently though, it seems that more and more people are coming to love, rather than loathe our post war heritage. They are photographing them and sharing the images online and even starting social media campaigns to save them from the demolition ball. Many also want to grasp a rare chance visit one. When the BT Tower opened for a day in August 2010, 325 000 people applied to go but just 465 were chosen.

The BT Tower
Reference: DD88/00675 Image courtesy of English Heritage.NMR

That people want to live in places like the
Barbican and enjoy the cultural offerings of the Southbank Centre shows that these are buildings which enrich the quality of our lives. They contribute to the sense of place in our cities and have more than earned their place in our architectural history.

View the records:

Discover some of the most exciting post war heritage in England by clicking on the links below:

Commonwealth Institute
The Barbican
Royal Festival Hall
Southbank Centre
Bracken House
Preston Bus Station
The Rotunda, Birmingham
Plymouth Civic Centre
The Casson Pavilion, London Zoo
Administrative building at Heinz UK Headquarters
Research laboratories at Heinz UK Headquarters
Boots D90 West Headquarters
BT Tower
Alexandra Road Estate
No. 20 Blackheath Park - Architect Peter Moro's own house
National Theatre
Severn Bridge
Smithdon School

For more information about the listing of post war buildings, please see the English Heritage website.

The Barbican Estate
Reference: AA098613 Image courtesy of English Heritage.NMR

The Tower Block initiative

Among the records of England’s post war architecture that can be discovered through PastScape are those of nearly 200 tower blocks. The records were created or enhanced as part of a partnership project to document and disseminate information about post war mass housing in the UK. The partners involved in the project were the Edinburgh College of Art, the University of East Anglia, the Royal Commission on Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland and English Heritage.

To explore a sample of these records, click on the links below.
Nos. 1-34 Geffrye Estate, Hackney
Nos. 35-68 Geffrye Estate, Hackney
Sandown Court, Preston
Tom Collins House, Byker
Killingworth Township, Longbenton

For more information on the Tower Block project, please visit the website.

Read a further story about modern heritage which takes a look at recording post war shipwrecks. 

Story published January 2011.