Flats, maisonettes and houses comprising the Newlands Quay, Maynards Quay and Peartree Lane developments. 1986-1988 by MacCormac Jamieson Prichard & Wright for the London Docklands Development Corporation (LDDC).
Reasons for Designation
Shadwell Basin Housing, comprising the principal blocks of Maynards and Newlands Quays and the buildings of Peartree Lane and built to the designs of MacCormac Jamieson Prichard and Wright (MJPW) between 1986 and 1988, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* an urbane and imaginative residential group in the Post-Modernist idiom, notable for its colourful and striking design, assimilation of historical models from the C19 dockside vernacular to Venetian palazzos and sensitivity for its setting;
* the buildings are little altered since completion.
* MacCormac Jamieson Prichard & Wright, founded by (Sir) Richard MacCormac, is a key late-C20 practice, notable for its strong sense of humanity and for mediating between modernism and Post-Modernism;
* one of the earliest and most successful residential developments in the 1980s regeneration of London’s docklands, which under the aegis of the London Docklands Development Corporation, was on a vast from a national perspective and engaged leading architects to produce architecturally ambitious schemes;
* with the Grade II* listed St Paul’s Church.
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 CZWG devised striking imagery for commercial and residential developments in Docklands and elsewhere, of which Shadwell Basin is an example.
Shadwell Basin was originally constructed in 1828-1832 to designs by H R Palmer as an extension of the Eastern Dock of the London Docks complex. It was greatly enlarged with the addition to the north of the New Shadwell Basin of 1854-1858 by J M Rendel. In the C20 the docks at Wapping became unable to serve large steam-powered vessels, and cargoes were instead unloaded downriver and conveyed by barges to warehouses at Wapping. The London Docks closed to shipping in 1969 and in 1981 were acquired by the London Docklands Development Corporation (LDDC). Shadwell Basin was the only component of the London Docks complex to have been retained, the other docks being in-filled and mostly developed with groups of housing.
The LDDC embarked on a deliberate policy of commissioning prominent architectural practices to design distinctive, largely private, ‘statement’ developments in the initial phase of development. As part of this policy, in 1983 the LDDC commissioned MacCormac Jamieson Prichard and Wright (MJPW) to devise a ‘guideline study’ for a residential scheme at Shadwell Basin. They proposed enclosing the basin with high-density urban housing that reflected C19 docklands warehouses, letting the Regency period St Paul’s Church and its churchyard on the north side of the basin play a part in the composition. They envisaged large buildings, deep in plan, with a ground-level colonnade set against the quay edge referencing Jesse Hartley’s 1845 Albert Dock in Liverpool and, it has been suggested, Palladio’s Basilica at Vicenza. Heavy masonry was proposed for the cellular rooms and lighter panels of steel and glass for the semi-open plan living rooms. The docklands vocabulary was completed with lockside houses, gate houses and dock wall houses, with detailing inspired by the industrial vernacular of loading bays, crane cabins and gantries.
After gaining outline planning approval, the site was acquired by Sanctuary Land, a charitable trust, at competitive tender on the condition that they proceeded with MJPW’s outline scheme. In the autumn of 1984 organisations representing recreational users of the basin for sailing and other water sports objected to the scheme on the grounds of the reduction in wind speed following the enclosure of the open basin. The LDDC responded by making reductions in building height, and the omission of a planned lock-side terrace on the south-west corner of the site, conditions of planning consent. MJPW completed these alterations, but the developer later engaged another practice to prepare the working drawings and supervise construction with some alteration to the original specifications including the exact shade of the red and blue of the bold colour scheme. The development was constructed between 1986 and 1988 and received a Civic Trust commendation in 1989. Cross subsidy permitted some of the apartments to be sold on an ‘affordable’ basis.
Sir Richard Cornelius MacCormac (1938–2014) was educated at Westminster School, Trinity College, Cambridge and the Bartlett School in London. After stints with Powell and Moya and Lyons, Israel and Ellis, he joined the London Borough of Merton in 1967, designing acclaimed groups of low rise housing which developed the ‘perimeter planning’ concepts first advanced by Leslie Martin and Lionel March at the Cambridge School of Architecture.
MacCormac formed a partnership with Peter Jamieson in 1972, later joined by David Prichard, in which he was the principal designer and spokesman. The focus on the firm’s early work was on housing schemes, including extensive estates at Newport, Gwent (a development of the designs produced for Merton) and, notably, at Milton Keynes. The Sainsbury Building at Worcester College marked a breakthrough for the practice, which led to further buildings in Oxford at Wadham (the Bowra Building, 1993), St John’s (Garden Quadrangle, 1994) and Balliol and at Cambridge at Trinity and Fitzwilliam colleges, where MacCormac’s refined chapel gained particular attention. Later buildings include work at Warwick and Lancaster universities, including the Ruskin Library of 1996-2000, a new centre for Cable and Wireless outside Coventry, and Southwark underground station.
The firm developed a reputation as the ‘go-to’ establishment architect for a safe pair of hands that bridged the gap between modernism and Post-Modernism. In 1983 the Architectural Review had dubbed MacCormac a ‘romantic pragmatist’ for this balance, a love of the Arts and Crafts Movement (including Charles Holden and especially Frank Lloyd Wright) coupled with a strong sense of humanity and a rejection of system building. He set up his own consultancy in 2008, when the old practice became MJP Architects.
Flats, maisonettes and houses comprising the Newlands Quay, Maynards Quay and Peartree Lane developments. 1986-1988 by MacCormac Jamieson Prichard and Wright for the London Docklands Development Corporation (LDDC).
MATERIALS AND STRUCTURE: loadbearing masonry faced with brown bricks, steel panels and reconstituted stone blocks with timber framed windows, now largely replaced in powder-coated aluminium. The distinctive colour palate consists of red for the steel panels and doors and dark blue for the windows and balconies.
PLAN: flats and houses in terraced groups around three sides of the New Shadwell Basin. Newlands Quay and Maynards Quay, at the north-west corner, are two adjacent groups of five-storey flats and maisonettes. Behind Maynard Quay is a group of five detached monopitched houses (not included in the listing) built end-on to Garnet Street and separated from the street by a brick wall. A lower, three-storey group (Peartree Lane) defines the north-east corner, the intervening gap framing views of St Paul’s Church (1817-1820 by John Walters). Adjoining the road bridge over the entrance to the basin is a three-storey terrace of four houses and behind the north-east group are two detached houses, off Peartree Lane. The complex is completed by Benson Quay (not included in the listing) at the south-west corner of the basin. This comprises an almshouse-like U-shaped group of two-storey houses with a terrace of five storey flats to the west.
A relatively high density was achieved by locating service rooms, kitchens and bathrooms at the centre of the plan with the larger living rooms overlooking the water and bedrooms to the back.
EXTERIOR: the dwellings within the five-storey terraces of Newlands and Maynards Quays are articulated by a rhythm of solid brick and masonry blocks interspersed with linking sections of glass and red-painted steel cladding with metal balconies in contrasting blue. The brick elements are composed of paired but separated sections with monopitch roofs, giving the impression of split pediments. The façade of these blocks is punctuated by square casement and oversized porthole windows and the ground floor is clad in reconstituted stone blocks. The upper storeys project out over an arcuated colonnade with concrete columns, beams and soffits. Projecting from the side elevations are cantilevered elongated steel bays recalling dockside cranes and gantries. The rear (landward) elevations are similar but with continuous brick walls into which are set groups of square windows. The arches highlight the main entrances to the apartment while the ground floor colonnade of Maynards Quay shelters car parking spaces.
The three-storey Peartree Lane group wraps round the north-east corner of the basin and extends along the entrance canal to the east. The buildings are similar in composition, materials and colour scheme to the five-storey ranges, with gabled structures of three bays, with a colonnade and large round-arched windows, linked by lower, recessed, glazed sections with metal balconies. The rear elevations have projecting bays on the first floor supported on concrete columns with round-arched French-windows above. The terrace of four, three-storey, houses fronting onto the canal are simpler, with flat frontages enlivened by metal first-floor balconies with French-windows. Two detached houses placed either side of a metal archway onto Peartree Lane create a close with the other blocks. These houses have a three-storey, pitched-roof, main section and stepped two and single-storey roof-terraced side blocks. The main section has metal-clad, first-floor bays supported on concrete columns, adjoining the archway and second-floor half circle windows facing the street.
INTERIORS: the interiors, apart from the entrance foyers of Maynards Quay, were not inspected (2017). The entrance foyers and stairwells are functional with concrete stairs with metal balustrades incorporating metal mesh panels.
SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: brick boundary walls and blue-painted steel gates and fences to Peartree Lane.