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BLOG BEING UPDATED - TRY AGAIN LATER This blog records the controversial era of British architecture, 1960's Brutalism. Many Brutalist buildings have been demolished and many still are under threat

Monday 24 February 2014

102 Petty France - Westminster

102 Petty France is a government brutalist office block in the heart of the city of Westminster. The corner tower dominates the approach from Tothill street (shown left), the road which leads to the west front of Westminster abbey, indeed it is just visible when looking from the west door of the abbey. On the other side it also dominates the skyline of nearby St James Park and can just be seen as far away as Hyde park. It is a building built to dominate its location and the skyline, a true characteristic of a brutalist building. It was built as government offices by the architects Fitzroy Robinson & Partners with Sir Basil Spence (Coventry cathedral- although this couldn't be more different in style). 

The offices were completed in 1976 to allow the relocation of government departments away from the increasingly overcrowded offices at Whitehall to more modern and fit for purpose offices. Before its completion very few new modern government offices had been built and many civil servants were working in offices built for the 19th century bureaucracy (when there was a much smaller state). 

The comprehensive redevelopment of much of Whitehall was at first advocated as the solution to the increasing space requirements of the modern civil service but when this was hit with problems in the late 1960's and ultimately collapsed in the 1970's more space was desperately required outside the historic core of Whitehall. This building was thus a part of the solution and was used from 1978 as the Home office, until 2004 when it moved to a new site in Horseferry road. More recently after a long process of modernisation it became the ministry of justice - appropriate I think given its prison like appearance. 

This building embodies most things about the brutalist movement, the scale and mass of the building which makes no attempt to fit in with the Georgian houses of Queen Anne's gate which it overlooks with such intrusion, the heavy use of concrete in such a uncompromising way and finally the controversy surrounding the building, never being admired and not demolished due to the size and expense of the job. It is hard to love such a building as this but it can be said to have more character than some of the new offices boxes in London which would have been built on the site if demolished. For better or for worse, the building's future is relatively safe for future generations to detest (or love?). Although not listed the expense of demolition means it will continue to dominate the skyline of Westminster for many more years.   


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