210, 220, 240, 250, 260 and 290 Park Avenue

Overview

Heritage Category: Listed Building

Grade: II

List Entry Number: 1450354

Date first listed: 18-Apr-2018

Statutory Address: Aztec West , Almondsbury, South Gloucestershire, BS32 4SY

Map

Ordnance survey map of 210, 220, 240, 250, 260 and 290 Park Avenue
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Location

Statutory Address: Aztec West , Almondsbury, South Gloucestershire, BS32 4SY

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

District: South Gloucestershire (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Patchway

National Grid Reference: ST6050482762

Summary

Speculative offices, built between 1987 and 1988 in two phases, designed by Campbell Zogolovitch Wilkinson and Gough (CZWG) for the Aztec West business park.

Reasons for Designation

210, 220, 240, 250, 260 and 290 Park Avenue, Aztec West, speculative offices of 1987-1988 by CZWG, are listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:

* as a key project by CZWG, a celebrated British Post-Modernist practice; * a good example of a commercial development in the Post-Modern style, combining bold geometries, polychromy and traditional materials to dynamic effect.

Historic interest:

* as a flagship commercial development on Aztec West, a pioneering example of a post-industrial business park.

History

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 devised striking imagery for commercial and residential developments in Docklands and elsewhere.

Aztec West has been identified as a pioneering English example of 'a new generation of high-tech business parks' (Blueprint, December 1987). Business parks are conglomerations of commercial units on a planned, landscaped campus characterised by a sub-rural location, good road links and recreational amenities. Although based on examples from the United States, the development of the business park also drew upon models already established in the UK, such as trading estates and science parks. Their development was made possible by widespread ownership of the motor car from the 1960s. A lead architect usually drew up the master plan, although variety was achieved by commissioning several architects to design the individual buildings.

The masterplan of Aztec West (the name based on ‘A to Z technology’) was designed around 1980 by Nicolas Grimshaw and Partners (in succession to Farrell Grimshaw and Partners), with development co-ordinated by Bruce Gilbreth Architects, and landscaping by Brian Clouston and Partners. The development was a property investment by Electricity Supply Nominees, the electricity industry’s pension fund. The choice of site was based on proximity to Bristol and the M4 corridor; the so-called ‘sunrise valley’ which attracted high-technology and science-based firms from the early 1980s. The design of the park was influenced by examples in California’s Silicon Valley and featured office buildings designed by a variety of architects along a generously landscaped ring road, Park Avenue. The road is bisected by a pedestrian walkway, and was originally provided with water features, shops and a ‘trim trail’ (outdoor gym). The first units, designed by Grimshaw and Partners and Brian Taggart Associates, were highly-glazed units on a light steel frame.

210, 220, 240, 250, 260 and 290 Aztec West was designed by CZWG, built between 1987 and 1988, and marks a conscious departure from the earlier high-tech buildings. CZWG's plan was based upon two intersecting squares with internal courts; designed to be capable of being realised in two staged phases. The landscaped circular entrance courts were based upon the turning circle of a car, celebrating the form of transport that enabled the out-of-town workplace. The interiors were planned for flexible subdivision to accommodate multiple units of different sizes. Phase I was built for Electrical Supplies Nominees and Phase 2 for Arlington Securities. The original entrance canopies, incorporating extruded, Art Deco-inspired lettering, have been replaced.

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 had 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 to 1976) and several pioneering examples of ‘loft living’: 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 (1986 to 1987) and the Circle (1987 to 1989), while the practice’s workload has since diversified to include institutional and commercial commissions.

Details

Speculative offices, built between 1987 and 1988 in two phases, designed by Campbell Zogolovitch Wilkinson and Gough (CZWG) for the Aztec West business park.

MATERIALS: light steel framework, faced with red and buff bricks and pre-cast concrete elements.

PLAN: two square blocks with inner courtyards. There is a circular entrance court at the blocks' intersection. Two further semi-circular entrance courts at the diagonal corners mark the position of additional entrances.

EXTERIOR: the two-storey buildings have banded cladding of red and buff brick with pre-cast concrete dressings. Full-height vertical window strips represent implied columns, with engaged ‘capitals’ marking from a continuous concrete architrave. Comparable treatment to projecting sills. These features are influenced by Ricardo Bofill’s Les Espaces d'Abraxas housing at Marne-la-Vallée, France, of 1978 to 1983. The cornice is marked by projecting concrete edgings alternating with brick courses which terminate in projecting points at the far end of each semi-circular entrance court. At the centre of each entrance court is a vertical break in the façade into which is set an entrance gate, with curved metal work, to the courtyard, surmounted by a metal balcony. Flanking entrances, marked by a rendered semi-circular arch, give access to each office unit; the entrance canopies are later replacements. At the diagonal corner of each block there are also louvred doors which replicate the form of the office entrances and provide access to services. There is a square, inner courtyard at the centre of each block. Each courtyard has concrete paviours in a herringbone pattern around a circular gravelled area bisected by a path with seating. A first-floor covered balcony runs around the edge of the courtyard, with semi-circular patterned metal work to the balustrade, a wooden handrail and herringbone-patterned brick-clad walkways. The balcony is accessed by a split staircase fire escape at one corner. Pairs of drainage chains hang from the balcony and connect to the courtyard floor.

INTERIOR: each square, two-storey courtyard block is subdivided into two L-plan units with direct access to the courtyard at the junction. Stairs and WCs are located inside the flanking office entrances. The staircases have tubular handrails, and a section of open-tread metal stairs up to the first-flight level. The open-plan office interiors have been refurbished.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: the entrance courts have concrete paviours in herringbone pattern, into which is set the circular ‘turning circle’.

Sources

Books and journals
Gorst, Thom, The Buildings Around Us , (1995), 158-162
Sudjic, D, English Extremists: the Architecture of Campbell Zogolovitch Wilkinson Gough, (1988), 42-45
'No. 233' in Industria delle costruzioni, , Vol. 25, (March 1991), 42-47
Cooper, M, 'By-pass Moderne' in Blueprint, , Vol. 43, (December 1987/January 1988), 42-43
Glancey, J, 'Aztec West' in RIBA Journal, , Vol. 95, no. 2, (February 1988), 42-44
'200 Aztec West, Bristol' in Brick Bulletin, (1989), 12-14
Buchanan, P, 'Aztec West' in Architectural Review, , Vol. 174, no. 1041, (November 1983), 37-45

End of official listing