Docomomo UK: Buildings at Risk

docomomo uk buildings at risk page

Lubetkin and Tecton’s Elephant House at Whipsnade (1935)

Whipsnade Zoo’s Elephant House was designed by Lubetkin and Tecton in 1935, using reinforced concrete. According to Historic England, the long, low single-storey composition has a “bowed front and light cantilevered canopy to full length, glazed beneath to centre (glazing altered late C20) and open, supported by pilotis to each side. To rear, projecting above canopy, are four cylindrical cubicles to house elephants, each one top lit through circular opening at apex of low pitched metal covered roof. Built to house young elephants only.”

     The building was listed Grade II* in 1988 but has been empty since the elephants were moved to a new complex across the park. The ZSL, which owns Whipsnade, is now faced with the problem of finding a new use for the building.

Rosemary Stjernstedt’s Central Hill Estate (Lambeth, 1966-74)

Central Hill is a social housing estate in the London Borough of Lambeth, designed by Rosemary Stjernstedt and the Lambeth Council planning department, under the directorship of Ted Hollamby. The state contains more than 450 homes, built 1966-74, near the site of the former Crystal Palace. Lambeth Council plans to demolish the estate so it can can finance the construction of new social housing. The campaign group Architects for Social Housing has been working with residents to develop an alternative regeneration plan for the estate, and many residents continue to oppose the demolition of the estate. Click on the text or on the picture for more.

Blomfield and Williams’ Enterprise House, Hayes (1911-12)

Enterprise House, built in 1912, is the only remaining factory building in Europe designed by Arthur Blomfield and Sir Owen Williams using an innovative reinforced concrete frame developed by Albert Kahn for Henry Ford In Detroit. In America these buildings were known as “Daylight Factories”.

     The building was originally the machine shop of His Master’s Voice (HMV, later taken over by EMI), and was part of its gramophone production campus at Hayes.

     In 2014 Workspace Group gained consent to redevelop the site in a 50/50 joint venture with Polar Properties. At the time, Workspace’s interest in the joint venture was valued at £3 million.

    The proposals at 133 Blyth Road would provide 98 apartments and a 38,000 sq ft business centre for creative industries. Workspace says that only one of the existing tenants will stay on: the Vinyl Factory, a firm that specialises in producing limited-edition vinyl records.

     (Photo by Nigel Cox.)

Ted Hollamby’s Cressingham Gardens (early 1970s)

Cressingham Gardens is a council garden estate in Lambeth, south London, located on the southern edge of Brockwell Park. It comprises 306 dwellings in a mixture of four-, three- and two-bedroom houses and one-bedroom apartments. It was designed at the end of the 1960s by the Lambeth Borough Council Architect Edward Hollamby and built at the start of the 1970s.

     In 2012 Lambeth Council proposed demolishing the estate, to replace the terraced houses by apartment blocks. Most of the apartments would then be for sale to the private sector. Residents and others are currently campaigning to prevent the demolition. For more information, click the picture.

Trevor Dannatt’s Plante house (1960)

Former Docomomo.UK trustee Trevor Dannatt built a single-storey house at 5a Templewood Avenue, Hampstead for George Plante in 1960. The house is now on the market – at £4.9 million – and there are fears that it might be redeveloped, although there are currently no live planning applications lodged with Camden Council. For illustrations, click here for the estate agent’s website.

Architects’ Co-Partnership’s Dunelm House (1964-66)

In the early 1960s, Ove Arup built Kingsgate Bridge (now Grade 1 listed) at Durham University. Four years later, Arup was involved in Durham again as structural engineer and architectural advisor on the Architects’ Co-Partnership’s Dunelm House, a five-storey concrete building right next to the bridge. On completion in 1966 Dunelm House immediately won a Civic Trust Award and an RIBA Bronze Medal. It is, by any standards, a remarkable piece of concrete abstraction, beautifully sited by the river. More recently, appeals to have it Grade II listed have been unsuccessful, given the more powerful representations of the University, which wants to demolish it, with the support of the Student Union that the building accommodates. The University says it is desperately short of space, having grown from 3,000 students in the 1960s to its present 17,500, and that the cost of repairing Dunelm House (£15 million) is unrealistic, given its limited budget. Meanwhile, efforts are underway to preserve this N.E. England Modern masterpiece, and we are backing them. 

Southwark Council’s North Peckham Civic Centre (1966)

North Peckham Civic Centre (Southwark Planning Portal: 17/AP/4234 scoping opinion) is arguably the best 20th-Century building on London’s Old Kent Road. Originally built in 1966, the former Civic Centre now accommodates a local church but is threatened with demolition.

     Local activists think that demolition “would be a blunder of epic proportions” and want the building to be included in a conservation area, or listed with support from Southwark Council. This seemed likely when, in May 2016, the building unexpectedly appeared in the Council’s first draft AAP as a building of “architectural or historic Interest”. This designation has however since been removed.

     The old Civic Centre is made up of elements that could warrant its appearance on the front pages of any current architecture magazine, and according to architect Ulrike Steven, “if built now might even be a contender for the Stirling Prize … It is a sleeping beauty that should be refurbished and used more intensely, giving better public access to the hall and the former library, both of which are currently underused.”

     Of particular merit is the external ceramic sculpture (see illustration). 

Lambeth Council defaces Macintosh Court

Lambeth Council has deliberately vandalised Macintosh Court, a Grade II listed building, in spite of eight notifications by the architect.
     According to architect Kate Macintosh, after whom the building was renamed, the Council has refused to stop damaging the building and Council officers admit they will ask for retrospective consent.
     Macintosh describes Lambeth’s consultation of her as a “cynical exercise in diversionary tactics”.
     In May 2015 Macintosh Court, a sheltered housing scheme for over 55s in south London, was saved from demolition when it was given Grade II protection by English Heritage.
     In late 2017 the building’s owners, Lambeth Council, left residents in their homes while they embarked on a series of overdue maintenance and remedial works.
     However, far from enhancing and rehabilitating the qualities for which the building was listed, the Council embarked on an extensive series of illegal alterations, disfiguring the building.
     When the scheme’s original architect Kate Macintosh, now 81, informed the Council’s conservation officers in July of the work, she was ignored.
     The work was completed, causing significant further damage to the building.
     The case highlights a weakness in planning law where local authorities are expected to act as both judge and jury over planning decisions affecting their own properties.
     The council now intends to seek retrospective permission from itself for the illegal work – alterations that Kate Macintosh describes as a “mutilation”.
     We are concerned that the Council’s conservation team has already failed to enforce planning law.
     In this context we are sceptical of the Lambeth conservation team’s ability to act impartially in assessing a planning application presented by another part of the council.
     Docomomo.UK is worried that if this matter is not resolved with a full reversal and repair of the illegal work, it will make a mockery of Listed Building legislation, setting a disastrous precedent and undermining the legislation’s fundamental purpose to protect the nation’s architectural heritage.
     The campaign to restore the building has the full support of the Macintosh Residents Association. Alterations made without consent to a listed building risk prosecution under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990.
     However, for Grade II buildings this law is enforced not by Heritage England but by the local planning authority.
Kate Macintosh MBE is a retired architect most renowned for designing south London landmark Dawson’s Heights, a hilltop social housing scheme in the London Borough of Southwark. She worked under Denys Lasdun on the National Theatre project, and subsequently designed public buildings in Hampshire and East Sussex. Oliver Wainwright described Macintosh as “an unsung hero”, and the building as “a Modernist Gem”.
For further information please contact: Philip Boyle Docomomo coordinator:  
Kate Macintosh can be contacted on: 01962 842275 or by email at