Mixed-use residential development with offices and commercial units, 1987-1989 by CZWG (Campbell Zogolovitch Wilkinson and Gough).
Reasons for Designation
The Circle, 1987-1989, by CZWG is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
*for its compelling fusion of Post-Modern architectural design and place-making, which juxtaposes references to neighbouring warehouses with the dramatic urban intervention of a cylindrical void in brilliant blue;
*the complex is enhanced by Shirley Pace’s ‘Jacob – the Circle Dray Horse’ sculpture, a central focal point of the development which celebrates the area’s history.
* as a key work by CZWG, a celebrated practice at the forefront of British Post-Modernism;
*as a bold landmark development in the regeneration of Docklands under the aegis of the London Docklands Development Corporation;
*as a pioneering large-scale development to employ emerging ‘fast track’ construction methods.
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 strands 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 CZWG devised striking imagery for commercial and residential developments in Docklands and elsewhere, of which the Circle is an example.
The Circle was commissioned by Andrew Wadsworth and designed by CZWG (Campbell Zogolovitch Wilkinson & Gough). Wadsworth commissioned CZWG to design several other major residential projects in Docklands, including New Concordia Wharf and China Wharf to the east. The Circle site, which extends along Queen Elizabeth Street from Shad Thames to Three Oak Lane, had in the C19 hosted a variety of enterprises, including a flour mill, cooperage, oil and colour works and stabling for Courage’s Brewery. CZWG’s brief included 302 apartments, eight office suites, a swimming pool, shops, a restaurant and parking. Piers Gough recalled that Wadsworth requested two separate designs on both sides of Queen Elizabeth Street in order that he could sell part of the site, but Gough instead opted for a single master plan that aimed to make ‘a focal point in a rather dull street’ (County Life, 1990, p 43). In building the development, the American management contractors, Lehrer McGovern, introduced a novel ‘fast track’ construction technique. This was a steel dry envelope system which allowed the interiors to be fitted out in water-tight conditions at the same time as work proceeded on the exterior. The apartments within the £32 million development varied in size from studio flats to three-bedroom penthouses. Around 97% were pre-sold to plan before construction began; this immediately prior to the decline in the property market in the wake of the 1987 stock-market crash.
CZWG was formed in London in 1975. The practice’s eclectic, post-modern style is underpinned by a consistent design approach, including the use of bold, geometric gestures, engagement with urban context and resourceful use of building materials and technologies. The four founder 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 workload 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, while the practice’s workload has since diversified to include civic and commercial projects.
In 1998 planning permission was granted to add an additional floor to each of the four quadrants of the central circular space to provide additional flats. This was subsequently renewed in 2004 and a Certificate of Lawfulness was granted in 2011 to confirm its implementation. An initial phase of this work was undertaken between December 2017 and January 2018, immediately prior to listing.
The Circle, Southwark, London; 1987-1989 by CZWG, lead architect Piers Gough with executive architects Robinson, Keefe and Devane. Including a central bronze sculpture, ‘Jacob – the Circle Dray Horse’, 1987 by Shirley Pace.
STRUCTURE AND MATERIALS: in-situ reinforced concrete frame, clad internally in steel panels and externally in stock brick and glazed blue bricks. Pine log struts to balconies feature throughout.
PLAN: four residential storeys (rising to six at the circus) above the ground-floor commercial units and two basement storeys of car parking which unite the two halves of the site. The irregular footprint of the building follows Queen Elizabeth Street, opening out into a circus at its mid-point. There are returns at the junctions with Shad Thames to the east and Curlew Street and Three Oak Lane to the west. The circus is divided into four quadrants, linked by two pairs of entrance foyers. Vehicular access to the basement car parks are on the right side of the main entrances on both sides of the circus. The apartments, which are approximately square on plan, are laid out on two sides of a central corridor with stairs and lifts at the exterior angles of each quadrant.
EXTERIOR: there are two contrasting design forms employed in the scheme: street elevations in stock brick responding to the C19 warehouses of Shad Thames; and the blue cylinder of the circus which variously references storage vessels and the area’s C19 dye and paint works. The circus is faced in cobalt blue glazed bricks and comprises four quadrants, each having a row of diagonal balconies. Each quadrant has a parapet with curved sides shaped like a vast vessel terminating with triangular projections. The identical entrances either side of the circus are sheltered by semi-circular projecting metal-clad canopies which connect the quadrants and reinforce the symmetrical composition.
The stock brick elevations to the rest of the elevations follow the precedent of the surrounding narrow streets of C19 warehouses, characterised by Gough as ‘excavated canyons of London stock brick’. The street-facing and rear elevations feature repeated bays of casement windows of portrait proportions and with gold-coloured metal glazing bars with tall and slender doorways placed between broad shop windows to the street. The fifth-floor windows alternate between flat- and segmental-headed lintels, reflecting the wavy parapet above (a reference to the Thameside location). Balconies run diagonally up the elevation (allowing each to be open to the sky) and are detailed with angled metal slat railings, a wooden handrail and a steel base bearing on thick pine log posts and struts. The double-height entrance from Queen Elizabeth Street to the north-east courtyard features a tall, rectangular opening cut through a semi-circular arch, its geometry mirrored in the metal entrance gates which incorporate a semi-circle. The passage to the courtyard on this side is oversailed by a glazed bridge with walkways at ground and first-floor level (also with gold-coloured metal glazing bars). The south-west courtyard is accessed via a simpler splayed entrance with steps up to a rectangular metal gate. The steady rhythm of the Queen Elizabeth Street elevations is punctuated by the distinct corner treatments at the junctions with Three Oak Lane (where the upper floors rest on a concrete bracket reminiscent of a ship’s prow), Curlew Street (which has a projecting bay with a towering grid of square windows) and Shad Thames (with a chamfered corner and wrap-around balcony). The return to Shad Thames incorporates a stepped-back terrace of three double-storey houses of similar design, their upper storeys recessed behind a roof terrace.
INTERIORS: only partially inspected (2017). Both sides of the circus are entered via broad, curved entrance lobbies which incorporate bespoke reception desks (in the form of a narrow slice of a circle) and staircases with white-veined black marble dressings and metal handrails. Elsewhere on the site, the commercial units and offices at street level, along with the residential units above, were all internally fitted out to standardised specifications and their interiors are not considered to be significant components of the architectural design. Sitting below the development is space for car parking which unites the two halves of the development; this is not innovative in its form or layout and is also not considered to be an architecturally significant element of the ensemble.
SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: at the centre of the circus is an equine statue in bronze mounted on an ashlar plinth. ‘Jacob – the Circle Dray Horse’ of 1987 by Shirley Pace is a realist, over-life size sculpture of a dray horse, alluding to the area’s C19 brewery stables and the parish name Southwark St John Horsleydown (which may derive from the ancient name for a grazing ground). The plinth incorporates two bronze plaques recording the names of the firms associated with the development; and bearing information on the history of the area. The sculpture is spotlit by lights on each of the four quadrants of the circle. The stock brick garden planters and ventilation/service structures in each of the four communal garden areas form part of the original scheme.
The map which identifies the area covered for listing shows the subsidiary features in schematic form; the central sculpture and all hard landscaping (including the brick planter/service structures in the communal gardens) form part of the listing.
This list entry was subject to a Minor Amendment on 26/06/2018