21 Mercer Street
Heritage Category: Listed Building
List Entry Number: 1113134
Date first listed: 15-Jan-1973
Date of most recent amendment: 16-Mar-2017
Statutory Address: 21 Mercer Street and boundary wall and railings to rear, London, WC2H 9QR
The above map is for quick reference purposes only and may not be to scale. For a copy of the full scale map, please see the attached PDF - 1113134 .pdf
This copy shows the entry on 16-Dec-2018 at 07:59:59.
Statutory Address: 21 Mercer Street and boundary wall and railings to rear, London, WC2H 9QR
The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
County: Greater London Authority
District: Camden (London Borough)
Parish: Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference: TQ3009281045
Terraced house, late C17, restored and in part remodelled 1983-5 by the Terry Farrell Partnership as part of the regeneration of Comyn Ching Triangle. To the rear is the parapet wall and railings forming the boundary between No 21 Mercer Street and Ching Court.
Reasons for Designation
21 Mercer Street, a terraced house, late C17, restored and in part remodelled 1983-5 by the Terry Farrell Partnership as part of the regeneration of Comyn Ching Triangle, and including rear parapet wall and railings, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Architect: a significant, formative scheme by a leading British architect and exponent of post-modernism;
* Architectural interest: a C17 house, retained as part of a spatially powerful, mixed-use regenerative scheme, marked by bold form and detail, based on an intellectual understanding of historic precedent, interpreted in a witty post-modern idiom;
* Contextual placemaking: a masterly exercise in placemaking, eliding the old and new, that recognised the scale and patina of the original buildings and spaces in the creation of Ching Court;
* Degree of survival: very little altered, retaining Farrell's restored facades, their detail, fixtures and fittings;
* Historic interest: an early and exemplary project in urban contextualism, reflecting the emerging philosophy of conservation and regeneration.
Comyn Ching Triangle in its present form is the result of a regeneration project, executed in three phases from 1978-91 by the Terry Farrell Partnership. The project integrated the restoration of existing C17, C18 and C19 listed buildings and shop fronts with the design and erection of new buildings and the creation of a new public space, in a mixed use development. It occupies one of the triangular blocks that radiate from the Seven Dials, laid out in 1692 by Sir Thomas Neale, and is bounded by Monmouth Street to the W, Mercer Street to the NE and Shelton Street to the SE, and at its core is Ching Court, and a public thoroughfare through it, created in 1983-5.
The regeneration of Comyn Ching Triangle was central to Farrell's work in the Covent Garden area, following Clifton Nurseries (1980-1). It is a significant example of his approach to urban contextualisation from the 1980s, in its pragmatic elision of a new urban plan and structures with the existing scale, fabric and patina of the essentially C17, C18 and C19 streetscape.
Farrell created a new landscaped, public space in the centre of the site, an area which had previously been gradually built over, obscuring the original building line. New entrances from Monmouth Street and Shelton Street provided access to this courtyard, and a diagonal public route across it, while a series of added entrances at ground floor level within the courtyard provided access to the upper floors of the existing buildings and gave prominence to the rear elevations which had been previously hidden by extensions and years of accumulated buildings. At the corners of the site new buildings replaced redundant commercial premises, while the intervening street frontages of existing commercial premises, most of them listed buildings of C17 and C18 origin, were renovated. Integral to the project was the reinstatement and refurbishment of the premises and showroom of the longstanding occupants, Comyn Ching ironmongers, at 17-19 Shelton Street.
The historic streetscape is made up of traditional three and four storey buildings, now mostly with added attics or mansards and with basements. Most are conventionally constructed in red, plum and stock brick, some with red brick or engineering brick dressings, some stucco rendered or painted, and have slate and tile roofs.
The scale, forms and palette of materials and colours used in the new buildings at the corners of the site complement and provide both a unifying identity and new vitality to the scheme. They are clad in traditional materials interpreted in a forward-thinking way, while windows and bold Mannerist entrances are coloured turquoise blue and deep red. Throughout, the scheme is unified by Farrell’s interpretation of the Comyn Ching logo – paired inverted ‘Cs’ which are a signature of the metalwork.
At the core of the site, Ching Court is a discrete and tranquil paved court, which creates a seamless connection with the buildings. Sloping from N to S, it is reached by semicircular steps descending from the N entrance and shallow stepped paving rising from the Shelton Street entrance. The corner rotundas, prominent rear entrances, modelled rear windows, masonry parapet walls, kerbs and a built-in seat to the rear of Mercer Street, place the buildings within the landscape. Varied forms of steel balconies, window guards, and later planters also designed by Farrell, and bearing the CC logo, provide context within the idiom of the site.
RECEPTION On completion the scheme was admired and well received, notably in a critique in the Architects' Journal (6 March 1985), which praised its architectural assurance and ingenuity. 'Where old fabric has been kept it is revered and treated seriously, but in the final result we are not so much aware of the old and the new co-existing side by side as of one single lively identity embodied in the still recognisable historic streets' (AJ 6 March 1985, 58). The project won a Civic Trust Award in 1987 and on 26 March 1999 the Seven Dials Renaissance Project was awarded an Environmental Design Award by the London Borough of Camden.
PROJECT DEVELOPMENT Designs for the enabling stage were prepared from 1978 and executed on site from 1981 to 1983. Following the granting of listed building consent, the corner buildings at Seven Dials were demolished and the C17 panelled interiors and stairs from 51 Monmouth Street were removed and stored, to be reinstated in 55 Monmouth Street.
Phase 1 (on site June 1983, completed May 1985), entailed the restoration, conversion or part-reconstruction of 15 listed C17-C19 houses and shopfronts; and the creation of Ching Court and new entrances within it to the upper floors of Shelton Street and Monmouth Street buildings. It encompassed 53-63 Monmouth Street, laid out as a mix of offices on three storeys above retail on the ground floor and basement levels; 11-19 Shelton Street, arranged as a mix of flats on three storeys above retail at ground floor and basement levels; and 21-27 Mercer Street, arranged as four houses, for private sale.
Phase 2 (on site 1985, completed c1987) comprised a new building on the corner of Seven Dials, at 45-51 Monmouth Street and 29-31 Mercer Street, which provided four storeys of offices above ground and basement level retail premises. A new building on the corner site at 19 Mercer Street and 21 Shelton Street provided flats on six storeys and a basement.
Phase 3 (on site c1989, completed c1991), addressed the southern apex of the site, 65-75 Monmouth Street and 1-9 Shelton Street. The restoration, conversion or part-reconstruction of four listed buildings (65-71 Monmouth Street) and four unlisted C17-C19 houses and shopfronts on Shelton Street, integrated with a new building at the southern corner of the triangle, provided retail accommodation on the ground floor and basement, three storeys of offices above, with a residential top floor.
ARCHITECT Sir Terry Farrell (b 1938) is a pre-eminent British architect and urban designer, of international standing. He has been a leading force in establishing postmodernism as an architectural presence in this country. After graduating from the University of Newcastle School of Architecture, Farrell took a Masters in Architecture and City Planning at the University of Pennsylvania, where tutors included Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown, whose work would later have a bearing on the postmodernist movement in Britain.
While working briefly for the LCC in 1961-2, Farrell was responsible for the Blackwall Tunnel Ventilation Towers (constructed 1961-4, each listed at Grade II, National Heritage List for England 1246736 and 1246738). After 15 years in partnership with Nicholas Grimshaw, which included the Herman Miller Factory, Bath (1976, listed Grade II, NHLE 1415261), Farrell set up practice independently. At that time he was also involved in Charles Jencks' Thematic House, London (1979-84), an early and important essay in postmodernism. Notable projects in Britain, the majority in London, include Clifton Nurseries, Covent Garden, (1980-1), TV am studios, Camden Lock, 1982, now altered; Comyn Ching, Seven Dials (completed 1985); Landmark House, City of London (1985-7), Charing Cross Station (Embankment Place), Westminster (1990); Alban Gate, 125 London Wall (1990-2); MI6 headquarters, Vauxhall (1993); also the Edinburgh International Conference Centre (1995). More recent projects range from the Home Office, London (completed 2005); the Great North Museum, Newcastle (completed 2009) to Bicester Eco Town, Oxon (ongoing). He established an office in Hong Kong in 1991, leading to a prolific practice in Asia, noted for Beijing South Station (completed 2008).
Farrell continues to be an important voice, contributing through published works to current architectural opinion. The Farrell Review of Architecture and the Built Environment (2014) followed a commission from the Department of Culture Media and Sport.
Terraced house, late C17, restored and in part remodelled 1983-5 by the Terry Farrell Partnership as part of the regeneration of Comyn Ching Triangle. To the rear is the parapet wall and railings forming the boundary between the properties and Ching Court.
MATERIALS: the front elevation has a timber ground floor, painted black, and rendered and painted upper floors, the rear of the house is in stock brick; it has weather-boarded mansards with pantiled roofs. To the rear are masonry parapet walls, steel railings and balustrades.
The scale, forms and palette of materials and colours used in the new work complement and provide both a unifying identity and new vitality to the scheme, where traditional materials are interpreted in a forward-thinking way.
PLAN: three-storey house with added or rebuilt attics and basement, in two bays with the entrance to the right.
EXTERIOR: the ground floor was restored or recreated as a shopfront by Farrell. It is of timber, with blind panels alternating with two-over-four pane sashes, with simple pilasters framing the outer bays, and a six panel door to the right, all beneath a plain fascia and cornice, in the centre of which is Farrell's number plate. The upper floor windows are set near flush, in late C17 or early C18 manner, beneath cambered or segmental arches. On the first floor they have six-over-six pane sashes and on the second floor three-over-six panes. Casement or fixed light windows in the mansard roof are set back behind a shallow plain parapet.
REAR: the rear has six-over-six pane and four-over-four pane sashes in exposed boxes beneath segmental brick arches, the smaller windows lighting the stairwell. The mansard has three small-paned casements. The area is enclosed by a tubular steel rail on a moulded masonry parapet wall into which a rococo timber seat is built to the rear of No 23 Mercer Street. The rails have panels with Farrell's reversed CC insignia, for Ching Court, and his added planters are set on the parapet wall. The seat is flanked by a pair of cherry trees, accentuating the oriental character of aspects of the Court.
INTERIOR: not seen.
NOTE: The mapping of the rear parapet walls and railings is not drawn to scale.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
Legacy System number: 477512
Legacy System: LBS
Books and journals
The Master Architect Series: Terry Farrell: selected and current works, (1994)
Cherry, B, Pevsner, N, The Buildings of England: London 4, North, (1998 revised 2001), 318
Davies, Emma (ed), Collage and Context Terry Farrell The Partnership's Complete Works 1981-1991, (2013)
'Facsimile facades in Comyn Ching?' in Architects’ Journal, Vol. 173 no.14, (8 April 1981), 629
'Historic Precedent: the rehabilitation of the 18th century buildings in the Comyn Ching triangle at Seven Dials in Covent Garden' in Architects’ Journal, Vol. 181 no.10, (6 March 1985), 47-58
'Post-modern: continuity in the work of Farrells 1981-2011' in Architecture Today, Vol. 222, (Oct 2011), 2-23
End of official listing