Daimler Car Hire Garage, London

  • 7 Herbrand Street, London, WC1N 1EX
  • Designed by: Wallis Gilbert and Partners
  • Built: 1931
  • Tags: Art Deco, Garage

Standing on Herbrand Street in Central London, behind Woburn Place and within walking distance of Russell Square Underground station, is the former Daimler Car Hire Garage. Designed by Wallis, Gilbert and Partners, who also designed the Hoover Factory building and canteen in West London, the building was designed to serve as the headquarters of the Daimler Hire Car Company. The building basement served as a private car park while the upper storeys of the building provided parking for the Daimler fleet, necessitating the construction of a spiralling ramp, which gives the building its unique appearance.

Constructed of reinforced concrete and extending over four storeys (and basement level) the building comprises a main block, with a central stairwell and lift core. Each of the storeys features Crittall metal-framed windows forming distinctive horizontal bands. The piers between each window are set with horizontal channels, mirroring those in the windows.

The central core has a narrow, continuous vertical window providing illumination into the core. The facade is rendered and painted white, the window frames picked out in a distinctive green colour. The central core window and doorways feature distinctive green and black faience tile surrounds.

To the left, the building extends for two bays, before a projecting block extends forward to accommodate a down-ramp to the basement. This left block extends south along Herbrand Street for a further three bays and terminates in a slender four-storey stairwell core, with a narrow slot window. The block rises for three storeys, the final storey only extending over the final two bays, providing a balcony space overlooking a central courtyard (formed by blocks housing the down and up ramps). The balcony parapet features a distinctive moulding formed by repeating narrow, vertical niches.

To the right of the central core is the building's iconic spiralling ramp. The window line rises as the ramp spirals upwards, forming dramatic ribbons of glass that follow the form of the building. It must have been a challenge for the builders and architects to achieve this dramatic form. The ramp served as the garage's main entrance, providing access to the upper storeys. At its northern end on Herbrand Street the building features a ground floor entrance, with a tiled, recessed doorway, with narrow slot windows on either side. Above the door, there is a distinctive double chevron faience pattern.

The ownership of the building passed with the takeover of the Daimler Hire Car Company, and it became a taxi and bus garage with the London Taxi Centre using the upper storeys and the Frames Rickard coach company using the basement. This continued for many years, until the condition of the building started to deteriorate. Following a £7 million renovation, the building was converted to 60,000 square feet of office space. The building is currently occupied by the advertising agency McCann Erikson.

The building was awarded Grade II listed status on 9 March 1982. Many industrial and commercial Modernist buildings have been lost, too big to find alternative uses for, or too difficult to redevelop. Thankfully the former Daimler Car Hire Garage survives as an important example of commercial architecture in the Modernist style.


Posted on Sunday, February 5, 2017

A celebration of Modernist architecture in Britain