29 Mill Street, China Wharf

Overview

Heritage Category: Listed Building

Grade: II

List Entry Number: 1448987

Date first listed: 08-May-2018

Statutory Address: 29 Mill Street, China Wharf, London Borough of Southwark, SE1 2BQ

Map

Ordnance survey map of 29 Mill Street, China Wharf
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Location

Statutory Address: 29 Mill Street, China Wharf, London Borough of Southwark, SE1 2BQ

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Greater London Authority

District: Southwark (London Borough)

Parish: Non Civil Parish

National Grid Reference: TQ3401579890

Summary

A speculative residential development designed in 1982-1983 in a Post-Modern idiom by Campbell Zogolovitch Wilkinson and Gough (CZWG).

Reasons for Designation

29 Mill Street, China Wharf, 1982-3 by Piers Gough of CZWG, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:

* a seminal example of Post-Modern architecture in Britain, China Wharf combines extrovert geometry with considered contextual references: the bold river front of Baroque curves responding to the scale of the Thames, while the landward elevations allude to C19 warehouses; * the use of a sophisticated scissor-section plan and angled glazing to make optimum use of the floor space and afford most apartments privacy and a river view.

Historic interest:

* an early example of a regeneration scheme in London’s docklands, which under the aegis of the London Docklands Development Corporation, was on a vast scale from a national perspective and engaged leading architects such as CZWG to produce architecturally ambitious schemes.

Group value:

* with the attached listed warehouses.

History

China Wharf is an example of speculative Post-Modernist development, and an early example of the regeneration of the area immediately below Tower Bridge informally known as Shad Thames.

Post-Modernism, a movement and a style prevalent in architecture between about 1975 and 1990, is defined in terms of its relationship with modern architecture. Post-Modernist architecture is characterised by its plurality, engagement with urban context and setting, reference to older architectural traditions and use of metaphor and symbolism. As a formal language it has affinities with mannerism (unexpected exaggeration, distortions of classical scale and proportion) and the spatial sophistication of Baroque architecture. Post-Modernism accepts the technology of industrialised society but expresses it in more diverse ways than the machine imagery of the contemporary High-Tech style.

The origins of the style are found in the United States, notably in the work of Robert Venturi and Charles Moore which combined aspects of their country’s traditions (ranging from the C19 Shingle Style to Las Vegas) with the knowing irony of pop art. A parallel European stream combined an abstracted classicism or a revival of 1930s rationalism with renewed interest in the continental city and its building types. In England, the American and European idioms converged in the late 1970s, to produce works by architects of international significance, including James Stirling, and distinctive voices unique to Britain such as John Outram. The 1980s revival of the British economy was manifested in major urban projects by Terry Farrell and others in London, while practices such as Campbell Zogolovitch Wilkinson and Gough (CZWG) devised striking imagery for commercial and residential developments in Docklands and elsewhere.

In the early 1980s the entrepreneur Andrew Wadsworth purchased New Concordia Wharf and commissioned CZWG to convert its rooftop water tower into a penthouse apartment for himself, and to develop the adjacent China Wharf in the gap between Concordia and a warehouse complex known as Reeds Wharf. CZWG’s striking design was approved by the London Docklands Development Corporation, following an appeal to the Royal Fine Art Commission. The project was a joint development by Wadsworth's Company, Jacob's Island Company and the contractor, Harry Neal (City) Ltd, and had a contract value of £1,700,000. CZWG went on to prepare designs for Jacob’s Island, a large, mixed-used scheme to the east, and for the Circle, LB Southwark, both for Wadsworth. It was recognised in 1983 by the Architects Journal as being a witty and colourful composition, typical of CZWG. An ultimate Post-Modern gesture, it featured on the cover of the 1990 London Phone Book (Residential L-Z).

CZWG was formed in London in 1975. The practice developed an eclectic, Post-Modern style, underpinned by a consistent design approach, including the use of bold geometric gestures, engagement with the urban context and the resourceful use of building materials and technologies. The four founding partners, Nicholas Campbell, Rex Wilkinson, Roger Zogolovitch and Piers Gough, studied together at the Architectural Association in London between 1965 and 1971. The practice's early work was based on the conversion of older buildings such as Phillips West 2 (1975-1976) and pioneered ‘loft living’ in the UK: the conversion of industrial buildings to live/work units for artists, designers and others. The 1980s regeneration of Docklands brought housing commissions such as China Wharf and the Circle (1987-1989), while the practice's workload has since diversified to include civic and commercial projects.

Details

A speculative residential development designed in 1982-1983 in a Post-Modern idiom, by Campbell Zogolovitch Wilkinson and Gough (CZWG).

MATERIALS: reinforced concrete frame, with steel balconies and windows. Brick skin to the gable elevation, and concrete to the rear.

PLAN: six residential storeys and a roof top terrace which are raised over an office level on the ground floor. To the southern side there is an underground car park. An entrance door in the south-eastern corner at ground level gives access to the small lobby, where there is a lift, and stair to alternate upper-storeys. The stairs also provide access to offices and flats in the neighbouring Reeds Wharf ‘B’ building (Grade II). Each residential floor is comprised of apartments, accessed from central corridors. To permit windows on both elevations, most apartments are planned on a so-called ‘scissor section’, where interlocking dwellings step over a central corridor. Most of the apartments were designed with open-plan living rooms and adjoining kitchen on the river side and two bedrooms on the landward side. On the roof there are also roof terraces.

EXTERIOR: the exterior comprises three contrasting elevations. The river-facing elevation is constructed of in situ concrete with steel flanges evoking the riverine heritage of the area. The striking coral red central section is in a shape that is reminiscent of a pagoda surmounted by a bold semi-circular arch. It consists of three bays and seven storeys, projecting over the Thames on four substantial black-painted piers. The central section is pierced with large windows, and projecting balconies. The central windows are semi-circular in form, and the outer balconies are carried on curved segments of steel. To maximise river views, the corners of the building are canted and fully glazed. Between the supporting piers there is a boat-cum-balcony with the stern bearing the name ‘the Great Harry’ (after the English carrack or "great ship" built for the fleet of King Henry VIII). Access from the riverfront to the rear of the building and the main entrance is via an underpass where 29 Mill Street meets New Concordia Wharf to the west. The entrance arches are made of stock brick with coral red/pink concrete above, and their angles and shapes reflect the riverside elevation.

The gable elevation, which faces Bermondsey Wall Walk, abuts the former warehouse known as Reeds Wharf B, in a C19 warehouse idiom. Formed of stock brick, this elevation features three bays of segmental windows whose cills progressively rise from left to right, as the window size above reduces. A central loophole frame, a feature characteristic of C19 warehouses, houses the junction with Reeds Wharf to the east, which appears to be sliding into the loophole. The main entrance to the building is below the loophole and recessed within a broad brick arch. The double-doors are made of timber and have multiple lantern-like vertical lights.

The rear (south-west) elevation is cantilevered over the basement and first floor. Nine scalloped bays of white-painted concrete are a reference to riverside grain silos, but may also perhaps be interpreted as the giant flutes of a classically inspired column. They rise from inverted semi-dome bases painted coral red. The scallops incorporate windows angled to prevent overlooking of neighbours to the south. To the north-west, the building is attached to New Concordia Wharf (Grade II).

INTERIOR: special interest is primarily vested in the plan, and in the treatment of the public areas. The entrance foyer is designed in a ‘jazz moderne’ style with polished black granite floors and bright-blue steel stair rails, ending in the lobby in a corkscrew-like spiral. The corridors accessing the apartments have chunky bright blue dado rails and ebony black doorframes surrounding coral red doors with brass fittings and up-lighters. Between the entrance doors there are a number of panelled cupboards. The spiral design of the stair rail is also reflected in red metal safety barriers and window catches at the east end of the corridors.

The apartments were not inspected, but based on available imagery (2017) they were originally open-plan, white-walled, and functionally fitted out, distinguished only by the semi-circular partition between living room and kitchen. Some refitting of these interiors has taken place, with some apartments formed from former offices.

Sources

Books and journals
Jencks, C (Editor), Post-Modern Triumphs in London, (1991), 30-31
Moffett, Noel, The Best of British Architecture 1980-2000, (1992), 47
Sudjic, D, English Extremists: the Architecture of CZWG, (Unknown), 84-9
Williamson, E, Pevsner, N, The Buildings of England: London Docklands, (1997), 64 and 250
Powell, K , 'Post Modernism' in Country Life 1990, , Vol. ., (.), .
'China Wharf' in Architektur Wettebewerbe, , Vol. 140, (December 1989), 4-9
'China Wharf' in Architectural Review, , Vol. 185, (April 1989), 28-37
'China Wharf' in Architecture interieure cree, , Vol. 227, (December 1989), 80-81
'China Wharf' in Architects Journal, , Vol. 177 No 7, (February 1983), 32-33
'China Wharf' in Architects Journal, , Vol. 177 No 22, (June 1983), 33
Other
St Saviour's Dock Conservation Area Appraisal, Southwark Council, July 2003

End of official listing