McKay Trading Estate


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Statutory Address:
Blackthorne Road, Slough, SL3 0AH


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Statutory Address:
Blackthorne Road, Slough, SL3 0AH

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

Slough (Unitary Authority)
Colnbrook with Poyle
National Grid Reference:


Warehouses and offices on 1976-1978 by John Outram Associates, assistant architect Tony McIntyre and architectural assistant Ernest Nagy.

Reasons for Designation

The McKay Trading Estate, of 1976-1978 by John Outram Associates, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:

* as an early example of Post-Modernism in Britain; a sophisticated design in brick with arched elevations and supergraphic numbers denoting warehouse units; * as a rare example of a warehouse complex given architectural distinction, which led to further jobs for the architect.

Historic interest:

* as John Outram's first independent building, with features which were to be repeated in his later works; * for its use of pre-cast concrete, a material in which John Outram was particularly innovative.


Peter McKay of McKay Securities Group, a friend of John Outram's parents, had planning permission for a single 100m warehouse at Poyle, but wanted ten separate units. He gave Outram his first independent commission; rather than reapply for planning permission for individual warehouse units, Outram designed the separate units in a single, stepped building which was subdivided internally.

John Outram (1934 -) was born in Taiping, Malaya. He was set for a military career but was discouraged by national service, when instead he discovered architecture while serving in Canada. He studied at Regent's Street Polytechnic and the Architectural Association in 1955 - 1960, where he shone in the vanguard of modernist thinking. However, he became disillusioned with modernism working for the London County Council and then in private practice for Fitzroy Robinson and Louis de Soissons. Instead he began to study traditional building, classicism and ancient mythology, assembling a collection of antiquarian books in which he engrossed himself. He set up his own practice in 1973 intending to move to Cyprus, but his plans were thwarted by the Turkish invasion the next year. He had designed only two interiors before being offered the job at Poyle.

The warehouses at Poyle were so successful that McKay commissioned a further group in Kensington, which have been demolished. These and a later group at Aztec West near Bristol (altered) established Outram as a unique talent, a designer of practical, modest buildings that were nevertheless thought all the way through from first principles to realise a considered architectural programme. The client for Outram's major country house at Wadhurst saw Poyle, liked it, and its flat elevations became the model for those in the later commission.

Outram was a notable figure in Post-Modernism, a movement and style prevalent in architecture between about 1975 and 1990. Post-Modernism is defined in terms of its relationship with modern architecture and 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 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.

Outram's warehouses at Poyle remain in use. The office interiors, including the main entrance hall of the first unit, have largely been refitted and there has been some replacement of window and door units.


Warehouses and offices on 1976-1978 by John Outram Associates, assistant architect Tony McIntyre and architectural assistant Ernest Nagy.

MATERIALS: brown brick over grey brick, with brick arches forming a continuous curved roofline that conceals sheet roofing behind.

PLAN: the building is set at an angle to the road and is broadly rectangular, comprising an office block and nine warehouses set in pairs, save that the first forms a pair with two-storey offices. Each warehouse has to the front a projecting window and set-back loading bay, some pairs set further forward than others. To the rear, the shorter lengths of warehouses 1-4 and 9 form a stepped profile at either end. On the south-west (street) elevation are the two-storey, five bay offices with a double-height entrance hall adjoining the first warehouse.

EXTERIOR: the elevation facing Blackthorne Road is of five bays with a continuous curved roofline and full-height timber window frames, fitted with dark glazing, in each bay. At the springing point of each arch, delineating the bays, there are small concrete sections. The return elevation facing the entrance to the site has a full-height window containing the entrance to the first unit and lighting the double-height entrance hall within. The canopy over the door is a later addition.

Behind the block facing the street are alternating pairs of warehouse doors and projecting office wings for each unit. Each unit is identified by a concrete 'capital' with the number of the unit in relief 'supergraphics'. The loading bays have timber spandrels matching the office window units and replacement roller shutter doors. Some of the smaller office units have replacement glazing.

INTERIOR: the entrance hall to the largest unit is the main interior designed by Outram, this originally had timber boarding to the arched ceiling and bands of timber set in white plaster. This has been refitted and is now uniformly white; it is not known if the timber bands survive. The offices beyond are functional and have been refitted. The smaller offices to the individual units, not inspected, are understood to be plain and largely refitted. The warehouse interiors are utilitarian.



This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

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