22 Shad Thames

Overview

Heritage Category:
Listed Building
Grade:
II
List Entry Number:
1475166
Date first listed:
28-May-2021
Statutory Address:
22 Shad Thames, London, SE1 2YU

Map

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Location

Statutory Address:
22 Shad Thames, London, SE1 2YU

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:
TQ3390979879

Summary

Offices and showroom (originally with a penthouse flat). Built 1988-1991 for the designer and manufacturer David Mellor to designs by Michael Hopkins and Partners. Subsequently acquired in 1996 by Sir Terence Conran as a headquarters resulting in some minor alterations.

Reasons for Designation

22 Shad Thames, built 1988-1991 for the designer and manufacturer David Mellor to designs by Michael Hopkins and Partners, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:

* for its carefully crafted design, separating form and function and emphasising the structural integrity of its concrete frame;

* as a sympathetic insertion into its dockland setting;

* for the high-quality of its materials, finishes and structural techniques;

* for its largely unaltered exterior.

Historical interest:

* as a significant building in the career of Sir Michael Hopkins, one of England’s foremost post-war architects;

* for its association with David Mellor and Sir Terence Conran, two of England’s most important post-war designers;

* as an exemplar of the high quality of design encouraged by the London Docklands Development Corporation during the late-C20 regeneration of London’s docklands.

History

22 Shad Thames was the second building the designer and manufacturer, David Mellor CBE, commissioned from his friend, (Sir) Michael Hopkins, having previously employed him to design his purpose-built cutlery factory in Hathersage, Derbyshire, the Round Building, which opened in 1990. In 1988, during the regeneration of the London Docklands under the London Dockyard Development Corporation (LDDC), Mellor had purchased the site of a C19 warehouse on the west bank of St Saviour’s Dock for a planned Docklands showroom. Prior planning permission for the development of the site had been granted by the LDDC in October 1987 and plans for the new building were submitted in May 1988.

The design team for Michael Hopkins and Partners consisted of Hopkins, John Pringle, Bill Dunster, Lucy Lavers, Nono Kezic and Ernest Sim Fasanya but, as with the Round Building, David Mellor was closely involved with the design and construction process. The structural engineer was Buro Happold and the main contractors were Sir Robert McAlpine and Sons but much of the non-structural elements were done by David Mellor Design Ltd including producing the lead sheets for the exterior.

The brief called for a flexible building, capable of re-use, but initially providing a combination of showroom, workshop, offices and a private residence for Mellor. This was met by providing a six-storey building with a duplex apartment on the upper two floors, showroom and light-industrial unit (this never seems to have been used as planning permission was granted in August 1990 for change of use from a workshop to a shop or showroom) on the ground floor, offices on the floors in between and basement parking. The design shows signs of the influence of the important American architect, Louis Kahn (1901-1974) and particularly the Yale Centre for British Art, New Haven, Connecticut, completed after Kahn's death, which Hopkins visited shortly before the commission. John Pringle stated later that ‘The building is consciously made up of few elements and the aim was to refine their details as much as possible and express the construction of each component as fully as possible’. Great care was taken with the construction and finish of the in-situ concrete frame. The fair-faced finish to the concrete columns, which were cast using steel formers and then meticulously sandpapered, was inspired by the concrete work of the Japanese minimalist, Tandao Ando. It was admired by architects such as Piers Gough, designer of the nearby China Wharf, who wrote ‘if there are any specialist concrete contractors who can…build silky-smooth column faces like those for the David Mellor cutlery shop…drop me a line or send me a postcard, please’.

The building started in May 1989 and was completed by 1991. It subsequently won an RIBA regional award in 1993 and Civic Trust award in 1994, as well as being published in the architectural press. In 1996 Mellor vacated the building and it was taken over by Sir Terence Conran (1931-2020) as the headquarters of Conran and Partners resulting in minor alterations to the building, including, probably, a replacement stair between the fourth and fifth floors and the addition of a glazed balcony on one side of the atrium. Terence Conran occupied the penthouse for a short period of around two years before the company converted it into a recreational facility for their staff with the removal of all partitions on the fifth-floor. In 2017 consent was granted for the removal of the original timber and aluminium glazed structure on the roof and its replacement with a like-for-like structure. This was apparently built but was subsequently removed. Conran and Partners vacated the building at the end of 2020.

David Mellor (1930-2009) was a designer and manufacturer, best known for his cutlery, silverware and industrial design. Sir Terence Conran has described him as 'Britain's greatest post-war product designer'. Elected in 1962 as the youngest Royal Designer for Industry, Mellor enjoyed a series of government commissions, including the redesign of the traffic light system for the Ministry of Transport, a controversial new post box and a set of minimalist stainless steel cutlery for use in government, NHS and prison canteens. In 1969 Mellor opened the first of several shops, in Sloane Square in London and in 1990 opened his bespoke factory in Hathersage.

Sir Michael Hopkins (b 1935), started an architectural practice together with Patty Hopkins in 1976, ending a partnership with Norman Foster that had begun in 1968. During the 1960s, Hopkins, along with Norman Foster, Richard Rogers and Nick Grimshaw, was responsible for developing the ‘high-tech’ idiom, a technologically-sophisticated architecture of steel and glass. He had worked with Frederick Gibberd and Sir Basil Spence in the 1950s, and then studied at the Architectural Association where he met his future wife Patty (nee Wainwright, b 1942); it was at her final 'crit' in 1967 that the couple met Norman Foster. The Hopkinses formed their own practice in the house they completed for themselves in 1976. The building became the forerunner of the Hopkins steel and glass buildings, commissioned in the 1980s for Greene King in Bury St Edmunds, Schlumberger's headquarters in Cambridge, 1985 (listed at Grade II*, National Heritage List for England 1438644) and Fleet Infant School for Hampshire County Council of 1984-1985 (listed at Grade II, NHLE 1440165).

Hopkin's later work broadened to embrace new forms and building types. On projects such as the Mound Stand at Lord's Cricket Ground in London (1987); the Queen's Building, Emmanuel College in Cambridge (1995); the Jubilee Campus, University of Nottingham (1999) and Portcullis House (2000), Hopkins strived to reconcile traditional materials and craft techniques with advanced engineering and environmentally-responsible technology. This he has termed the 'updating of the traditional materials'. Hopkins was elected a Royal Academician in 1992 and received a knighthood in 1995. The couple jointly won the RIBA Gold Medal in 1994 and the practice has been nominated for the Stirling Prize three times.

Details

Offices and showroom (originally with a penthouse flat). Built 1988-1991 for the designer and manufacturer David Mellor to designs by Michael Hopkins and Partners. Subsequently acquired in 1996 by Sir Terence Conran as a headquarters resulting in some minor alterations.

MATERIALS: in-situ fair-faced reinforced concrete frame, clad with glass, steel and lead. The southern stair tower is constructed of structural flanged steel plates bolted together.

PLAN: the building has a western street elevation to Shad Thames and overlooks the quayside at St Saviours’ Dock to the rear (east). The building is of six storeys plus basement and comprises an exposed concrete frame, three bays wide and four deep, flanked by narrow recessed service bays. The ground floor, originally a showroom but now a subdivided reception area for the offices, has a raised display area to the rear. The upper floors are three storeys of open-plan offices with meeting room subdivision and, originally, a two-storey penthouse with a double-height hall in the middle, set back to form roof terraces to the front and rear. This is now used as a staff recreation area. A free-standing single bay to the south houses the main stairs and a lift; and to the north is another, concrete-framed, end bay containing plant, kitchens, lavatories and a concrete escape stair. The shallow plan permits natural ventilation, with the remaining services, chiefly light fittings and conduits, cast into the concrete floor slabs.

EXTERIOR: the front and rear elevations consist of three bays defined by slender fair-face concrete columns (supporting four floor slabs). The ground floor of the street elevation is recessed half a bay behind pilotis, providing a covered walkway over the street pavement (the circular lights in the soffit are replacements). Both the front and rear elevations are fully glazed with plate glass walls to the ground floor showroom set on shallow concrete plinths (with an entrance of fully glazed double doors with circular metal door handles and a transom) and full-height horizontal sliding windows in aluminium frames to the upper floors. Those to the fifth storey have functional industrial-style metal balconies, with metal balustrading to the roof terraces of the penthouse.

The flank walls, where exposed, have mainly lead-faced, panel infill, set on hidden steel frames (on the southern wall there is a vertical row of glazed panels). The recessed single-bay northern service tower is clad in tall steel plates. The free-standing southern tower is constructed of large, grey-green coloured, flanged steel plates.

The southern stair tower stands on a concrete plinth and is separated from the main building by a raised passage which has six open-tread concrete steps with a tubular polished steel handrail, to the street. At the end of the passage is the glazed main entrance to the offices, which are connected to the stair tower by glazed bridges on each level (apart from the fifth floor).

At the front of the building, the fifth-floor terrace originally had a glazed conservatory which was replaced with a replica and subsequently removed. To the rear of the building, on the ground-floor, there is a small terrace overlooking St Saviour’s Dock. This has its original tubular-steel balustrade.

INTERIOR: the space of the double-height ground floor showroom, now (2021) containing a reception area, circulation space and two meeting rooms at the lower level is divided by the concrete columns, and separated into two by a concrete platform to the rear of the building. This has the original open tread stair with marble treads and metal balustrade with glazed panels. The floor has the original marble tiles but the lights are later replacements. The showroom extends out to the rear terrace.

The three floors of offices are open plan with some later partitioning to form meeting rooms on the first and second floors. The concrete ceilings have been painted white on these two floors but the round ceiling lights appear to be original.

The former duplex apartment features a double-height central lobby lit by a replacement pitched skylight and overlooked by galleries. Accommodation was principally arranged on the fourth floor, reached from the stair tower, with additional accommodation, and front and rear roof terraces, reached via the stair in the central lobby. This is in the form of a curved cantilevered stair with a solid balustrade, at one end of the lobby. It is probable that this is a later modification as the original plans show a centrally placed spiral stair. All partitions and original fittings to the flat were removed in early 2021.

The concrete stair in the north stair tower has the original polished tubular steel handrails.

This list entry was subject to a Minor Amendment on 7 June 2021 to amend the description.

Sources

Books and journals
Davies, Colin (ed), Hopkins, The work of Michael Hopkins and Partners, (1993), 120-129
Davies, Colin (Author), Hopkins 2 - The Work of Michael Hopkins and Partners, (2001), 8, 10
Davies, C, 'Construction Celebration: Shop and offices, Docklands, London - Architects: Michael Hopkins & Partners' in Architectural Review, , Vol. 189, iss. 1136, (1 October 1991), 29-34
Slessor, C, 'Current Account' in Architects' Journal, , Vol. 191, Iss. 20, (16 May 1990), 38-43, 46-51
Slessor, C, 'Street Wise' in Architects' Journal, , Vol. 191, Iss. 20, (16 May 1990), 26-29
Pringle, J, 'David Mellor Building, Shad Thames, Butlers Wharf, London' in Concrete Quarterly, (22 July 1992), .
Green, E, 'Pride and Thrift Sharpen Up' in The Independent, (8 June 1991), 33
Glancey, J, 'Where the Spaces Between put the Buildings to Shame' in The Independent, (27 February 1991), 17
Other
Montagu Evans, Submission in Support of COI: 22 Shad Thames (February 2021)

Legal

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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