This website contains profiles of Modernist buildings in Britain. Each profile contains a description and history of the building, photographs and a location information. The following list of sites are Modernist buildings are "Commercial". Click the building name or the "read more" link to view the building profile.
92-94 Royal Avenue, Belfast, County Antrim, BT1 1DL
Standing on the corner of Royal Parade and North Street in the centre of Belfast (less than half a mile north of Donegall Square and the City Hall) the former Bank of Ireland Building is one of the finest Modernist buildings in Ireland.
The building was constructed during 1929 and 1930 to designs by Joseph Vincent Downes. Born in 1891, Downes studied architecture at University College Dublin before graduating in 1920. During his studies Downes worked an apprenticeship at the architectural practice of Lucius O'Callaghan (1877 - 1954) and James Henry Webb (1873 - 1955). After graduation Downes initially worked in London for Sir Herbert Baker (1862 - 1946) before moving to work for the practice of Robert Atkinson (1883 - 1952). Notably, Atkinson worked on the Gresham Hotel in Dublin, which was rebuilt between 1925 and 1927 following damage sustained during the Irish Civil War.
In 1928 Downes joined the practice of McDonnell and Dixon (Laurence Aloysius McDonnell, d 1925; William Albert Dixon, 1892 - 1970), for whom he designed the Bank of Ireland Building. He set up his own practice in 1935, subsequently expanding the partnership. In 1943 Downes became Professor of Architecture at University College Dublin, before returning to practice in 1950. He died at the age of 76 on 23 November 1967.
Built of Portland Limestone, the Bank of Ireland Building occupies a corner plot and is five storeys tall, with a shallow ground floor storey beneath a piano nobile (main) first floor. The building comprises three bays along... Read more »
Portland Place, London, W1A 1AA
Located on Portland Place, north of Regent Street in Central London, stands the imposing structure of Broadcasting House, home of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) since the early 1930s. Today the building serves as the broadcaster's headquarters for news gathering, radio, television and online services. The building's original purpose was home to Britain's fledgling radio service, the country's first purpose-built broadcasting facility including offices and radio studios.
Broadcasting House was designed by architects George Val Myer and Watson Hart, using a steel frame clad in traditional Portland stone. The building rises for nine storeys, with a three storey basement, and extends substantially north for some thirty-five bays along Portland Place. The building terminates to the south with a narrow, rounded main facade on Langham Place, adjacent to All Souls Church, by eminent English architect John Nash.
The western side of the building along Portland Place, is higher that that to the east, along Langham Place, where the height of the building diminishes from nine storeys to six, so that it didn't block the light for properties on neighbouring Langham Street. The sloping roof used to bridge the change in height was obscured by the clock tower, a practical and effective design solution.
The main facade rises for six storeys and is topped with an ornamental clock tower, with an oval shaped clock and, originally, two latticework masts for long wave and short wave radio; the mast visible today is a replica. Above the main entrance doors, atop a stone lintel,... Read more »
120 Fleet Street, London, EC4A 2BE
Located at 120 Fleet Street in the City of London on the corner of Shoe Lane, the former Daily Express Building is one of London's most iconic Modernist buildings. The building was constructed between 1930 and 1932 to serve as the headquarters of the Daily Express Newspaper in the capital. Even today, the building is a striking structure amongst the more traditional stone-clad buildings on Fleet Street and appears futuristic compared to even the most recent additions to the streetscape. In the 1930s, the building must have been such a stark contrast to other architectural schemes of the time.
Architects Ellis and Clarke (the practice later became Ellis Clarke and Gallanaugh) were commissioned by the owner of the Daily Express William Maxwell Aitken, Lord Beaverbrook, to extend forward the existing Daily Express buildings towards Fleet Street. Their original proposal would see a steel-framed structure, clad externally in Portland stone, a scheme similar in principal to that of the Daily Telegraph building further west along Fleet Street. However, complications arose from the physical constraints of the site - it was a relatively narrow plot - and the requirement to have printing presses running through the basement of the existing and new buildings. It meant their scheme was impractical.
English architect Sir Evan Owen Williams (1890 - 1969) was drafted in to the project to resolve the problems with the scheme. Williams was an architect and engineer and his company was later responsible for the design and construction of the first section of... Read more »
Warwick Road, London, SW5 9TA
Standing in West London is one of the capital's premier exhibition centres, Earls Court. Famous for hosting exhibitions, trade shows and concerts, for many years Earls Court played host to the British Motor Show where iconic cars such as the Jaguar E-type and Morris Minor were officially unveiled to the public. The centre traces its history back to 1887, but the current landmark structure at the site was designed by American architect Charles Howard Crane (1885-1952) in 1937.
The main building at Earls Court has a concave facade formed of two outer blocks and a recessed central section. For many years the building retained its original unadorned concrete-faced facade (as illustrated) but this was subsequently covered with cladding, which also concealed the original windows with a layer of additional glazing. The outer blocks of the main facade carry two later additions - large advertising hoardings used to promote events at the exhibition centre - beneath lettering spelling 'Earls' on the affixed to the top of western block and 'Court' on the eastern block.
The central section comprising five bays. The bays are filled tall windows, with each window topped with a square motif. The central bay motif depicts a knight - an Earl - atop a horse. From left to the right the remaining motifs depict science and industry represented by meshed cog wheels, music represented by musical instruments, sports represented by a tennis racket and archery target, and a thistle and leaves representing flora and fauna.
There is a projecting,... Read more »
42-47 Minories, London, EC3N 1DY
Standing on the east side of Minories in Central London, less than half a mile north of the Tower of London, stands the Ibex House, a impressive-looking 1930s office block. The building is in the Streamlined Moderne style of Modernist architecture, popularised by the Odeon Cinema chain, but used here for a commercial building. Ibex House was designed by the architectural practice of Fuller, Hall and Foulsham. Today, the practice is one of the lesser known of the period. Fuller, Hall and Foulsham also designed Blenstock House in Cental London, located at the junction of Blenheim Street and Woodstock Street just off Oxford Street, home to the auction house Bonhams.
Ibex House occupies a large rectangular plot on Minories, with an extended H-shaped footprint. The building extends for approximately 40 metres on Minories, and for around 100 metres along Haydon (to the north) and Portsoken Street (to the south). Ibex House is built around a structural steel frame, with a western and eastern core providing a space for lifts and staircases. The building ranges over eleven storeys, with a basement level. The top three storeys of the central section on the building on its east-west alignment are stepped back successively, with just the top storey stepped back on its east and west elevations.
The exterior of Ibex House is clad in distinctive black faience for its lower storeys and buff faience above. Each storey features black metal framed windows that form continuous horizontal bands of... Read more »
Great Marlborough Street/Argyll Street, London, W1F 7TA
Ideal House in London stands on the corner of Great Marlborough Street and Argyll Street, just off Regent Street. The building is an impressive structure, standing out from the buildings nearby with is polished black granite facade and gold-coloured decoration.
Ideal House was designed by architects Raymond Hood and Gordon Jeeves for the American National Radiator Company. The design was inspired by the American Radiator Building on Bryant Park in Manhattan, New York designed by Raymond Hood and John Howells and built in 1924. That building was an early skyscraper for New York so its tall appearance contrasts with that of Ideal House, however the black and gold exterior is common to both buildings.
Completed between 1928 and 1928 Ideal House must have a dramatic sight when completed, contrasting against the more traditional London architecture on Regent Street and in the surrounding area. Ironically, the Tudor-style Liberty opposite on the south side of Great Marlborough Street was built four years previously, yet in architectural style it is centuries apart compared to Ideal House.
The building was constructed of large polished blocks of black granite. The upper storey of the building is ornamented with an enamel frieze and cornice in yellows, oranges, greens and gold. The black and gold colours were the colours of the National Radiator Company. The entrances on Great Marlborough Street and Argyll Street were decorated with ornate enamel surrounds, although the surround on Argyll Street was subsequently removed.
The building comprised some seven stories, with a recessed attic... Read more »
Red Lion Street, Richmond, Surrey, TW9 1RE
Throughout Greater London there are many Modernist multi-use buildings. Lion House on Red Lion Street in Richmond, Surrvey is a fine example of such an building, built very much for utilitarian purposes. Lion House stands in the centre of Richmond just off the central Hill Street/George Street thoroughfare.
Like so many Modernist buildings in Britain Lion House provides a contrast to the traditional buildings in historic Richmond, not only in its style but also its scale (it is considerably larger than all the buildings in the immediate surroundings). However, opposite is another Modernist building, the Odeon Richmond which still operates as a cinema to this day.
Lion House is a five storey building, primarily faced in light brick from the first floor upwards. The ground floor is tiled in contrasting horizontal bands of black and white tiles beneath a projecting canopy. The ground floor is currently used for commercial purposes. Above, the remaining floors mirror the banding of the tiles below with thick bands of white render below the window lines. The main elevation features ten bays, three of which are have curved bay windows for three storeys. The windows are Crittall-style metal windows.
The right-most corner of Lion House features a projecting corner tower, providing an entrance to the building at ground level. The south-west corner of the tower features a corner window extending the full height of the tower with a projecting canopy lip, itself beneath a larger, flat canopy roof. There are three vertical flagpoles atop the uppermost canopy.
The fifth... Read more »
89-101 Royal Avenue, Belfast, County Antrim, BT1 1FE
Standing on the corner of Royal Parade and North Street in the centre of Belfast (less than half a mile north of Donegall Square and the City Hall) the former Sinclair's Department Store is a fine example of Modernist architecture in Ireland, in the Art Deco style.
Sinclair's was once one of Belfast's most prestigious department stores. The store on Royal Avenue as seen today was built in 1926 in the classical style. By 1935, Sinclair's was extended with an Art Deco-style addition by Belfast-born architect James Scott, who had previously designed the 1926 building. At its height the store had premises had on North Street, Lower Garfield Street and Royal Avenue. The three streets form a triangle with Royal Avenue to the west, North Street to the east, Lower Garfield Street to the south and with the 1935 addition to the north, at the 'point' of the triangle.
According to the Irish Architectural Archive James Scott was born in 1875/76 and died in 1949/50. He designed a number of building in Belfast, but the Sinclair's Department Store commissions were arguably his most significant works.
For the 1935 addition to the department store, Scott used a corner site on Royal Avenue and North Street, opposite the Art Deco-style Bank of Ireland building. By occupying a corner site, Scott was able to produce a dramatic, expansive scheme, with facades on North Street and Royal Avenue, and the main facade on the corner of North Street and Royal Avenue. The building extends over five storeys,... Read more »
27 Tooley Street, London, SE1 2PR
Standing on Tooley Street, near to HMS Belfast and on the south side of London Bridge in central London, St Olaf House was built between 1928 and 1932 for the Hay's Wharf Company. The Hay's Wharf Company was founded in 1867 ane operated warehouses and wharves on the Thames in London. St Olaf House was built on the site of the former Church of St Olave. The company commissioned the architect Harry Stuart Goodhart-Rendel to design a London headquarters for the company.
Harry Stuart Goodhart-Rendel was born in Cambridge in 1887. As well as an architect Goodhart-Rendel was a soldier, composer, pianist and writer. In 1913 he inherited the ancestral family home, Hatchlands Park, near Guildford in Surrey. Hatchlands was beuqeathed to the National Trust in 1945 and was handed over to the Trust on the death of Goodhart-Rendel in 1959.
St Olaf House is a steel-framed building, clad in white Portland stone. The building footprint is a T-shape with the 'arm' of the T facing onto the River Thames. The building is six storeys high with a wide entrance bay at the Tooley Street frontage. The entrance bay is lit by two large decorative bronze light fixtures. The building name is carried above the entrance bay in tall, slender gilt lettering. Steel columns divide the entrance bay area, with a entrance hall set to the rear. With the exception of the outside corners at ground floor level, the corners of the building are chamfered. To the right of the entrance bay... Read more »
12 Red Lion Square, London, WC1R 4QD
Standing on Red Lion Square just off High Holborn in central London is Summit House, an impressive office building in the Modernist style. Designed by the British architect Joseph Emberton with his architectural partner Percy Westwood, Summit House was built in 1925 for the Austin Reed Company.
The Austin Reed company was founded in 1900 by Austin Leonard Reed as a gentleman's tailor. By 1911 the company had a flagship store on London's Regent Street, and by 1925 the company commissioned the architectural practice of Westwood & Emberton to design its London headquarters for the company. By the 1930s the company had concessions aboard the transatlantic Cunard Liners Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth. The company went into administration in 2016, before the brand name was bought out by the Edinburgh Woollen Mill company.
Architect Joseph Emberton and his partner Percy Westwood formed Westwood & Emberton in 1922. Emberton was born in Staffordshire in 1889 and died in 1956. Percy Westwood was born in 1878 and died two years later in 1958.
The practice was responsible for a number of designs for Austin Reed shops, including in Glasgow (on the corner of Gordon Street and Renfield Street) and Sheffield (on Fargate, near to its junction with the High Street) although these were in a more traditional style of architecture compared to Summit House. Emberton in his own right was responsible for some notable Modernist buildings including Simpson's of Piccadilly (in London), the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club in Burnham-on-Crouch and Blackpool Pleasure... Read more »