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Postmodernist Masterpiece Listed

  • Two buildings of Sir Terry Farrell’s Comyn Ching Triangle in London’s Covent Garden added to the National Heritage List for England
  • Farrell’s scheme was an early, striking example of urban regeneration with historic buildings integrated into new development

Two buildings which make up part of Comyn Ching Triangle, Sir Terry Farrell’s Postmodernist masterpiece in Covent Garden, London, have been newly listed at Grade II and two other buildings in the complex have been given updated listings by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport on the advice of Historic England.

Image of Comyn Ching in Covent Garden, London. Two buildings in the Postmodernist scheme, designed by Sir Terry Farrell, have been listed at Grade II.
Comyn Ching in Covent Garden, London. Two buildings in the Postmodernist scheme, designed by Sir Terry Farrell, have been listed at Grade II. © Kevin Christopher Burke via Flickr

Postmodernism at its purest

Comyn Ching Triangle stands in one of the blocks that radiates from Seven Dials in London’s Covent Garden, laid out in 1692 by Sir Thomas Neale.

The development was an important regeneration project carried out in three phases by the Terry Farrell Partnership between 1978 and 1991.

Farrell restored existing 17th, 18th and 19th century listed buildings on the site and integrated them into the scheme with complementary new buildings and a vibrant public space, Ching Court, at the core.

The bold corner blocks by Farrell,  45-51 Monmouth Street and 29-31 Mercer Street and 19 Mercer Street and 21 Shelton Street were built 1985-7. These define the Triangle and have been newly listed at Grade II. They stand harmoniously next to the existing 17th and 19th century buildings and although powerful are not too assertive.

Two other buildings within the complex, 15-19 Shelton Street and 65-71 Monmouth Street, have also had their listings updated to recognise their place in Farrell’s scheme.

Roger Bowdler, Director of Listing at Historic England said: “Comyn Ching Triangle represents Postmodernism at its purest and is an early, masterful exercise in placemaking by one of the country’s leading architects. It is widely seen as one of Terry Farrell’s most important works of the time where he delivered much-needed urban regeneration to Covent Garden by keeping, respecting and integrating historic buildings, rather than redeveloping the site.

Covent Garden had been saved from destruction in the 1970s by both community action and listing. Comyn Ching marks the recovery of this special area of London. It is a striking example of the emerging philosophy of conservation and regeneration, and deserves recognition through listing.”

Sir Terry Farrell’s team said: “We are thrilled that Comyn Ching Triangle has been listed. Commissioned almost forty years ago, this scheme demonstrates that new buildings need not disrupt the historic townscape and that creative design and adaptive reuse can enhance existing buildings and truly revitalise an area.

This approach to placemaking has informed all of our projects since and is becoming more widely accepted now, although it was quite a radical response at a time when modernism and ‘starting again’ was the prevailing ideology. It is great news that this contribution to a much-visited and well-loved part of London is being recognised and protected for future generations of placemakers.”

Image of the entance to Ching Court, part of Sir Terry Farrell's postmodernist Comyn Ching scheme in Covent Garden, London. Two buildings in he scheme have been listed at Grade II.
The entance to Ching Court, part of Sir Terry Farrell's postmodernist Comyn Ching scheme in Covent Garden, London. Two buildings in he scheme have been listed at Grade II.

Merging old and new

Farrell’s expert merging of old and new styles in the scheme was well received at the time and has stood the test of time. The high quality, carefully considered materials and colours he chose for the new buildings unified the scheme but also gave it new vitality.

Traditional materials have been interpreted in a forward-thinking way, while turquoise blue and deep red were used for windows and bold Mannerist entrances.

These listings are part of a wider Historic England research project to better understand Postmodernism and identify the country’s best examples for listing.

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