Recommending modern buildings for listing is one of the most high profile things that English Heritage does. In 1987 the principle was established that post-war buildings could be listed and by the end of 1995 the importance of the period had been recognised by the listing of 189 buildings. In the same year, the listing of post-war buildings was opened up to public debate and consultation, in recognition of the strong views many people hold on the subject in general and individual buildings in particular.
25 years on, there are 699 post-war listed buildings and sites (September 2013), and 20 post-war registered landscapes. This is still a tiny number, reflecting the very high level of selectivity and rigour involved in our assessments, but it represents a broad range of special buildings - some of the best of the period across the country.
Current 20th Century Listing Projects
While individual buildings are still assessed each year in response to applications, much of our work in this area is driven by the National Heritage Protection Plan, which has an activity dedicated to later twentieth century architecture (4A2). The first set of thematic projects when post-war listing began looked at the whole range of buildings from the period 1945-1965. We are now continuing the contextual and thorough approach of thematic projects, picking up from the mid 1960s and into the 1990s, so we are ahead of the ‘30 year rule’ listing threshold for future assessments.
We consult owners and other interested parties on all cases and provide advice to the Secretary of State, who is responsible for listing decisions. Current studies on 20th century architecture include work on public libraries, Roman Catholic churches, commercial buildings and works of art incorporated into architecture.
A New Exhibition
English Heritage is holding an exhibition at the Wellington Arch on the history and future of post-war listing. Brutal and Beautiful will run from 25 September through 24 November 2013. It features extraordinary English Heritage photographs of listed post-war buildings and architectural models. Associated with this is a public debate with a panel of experts at the RIBA on October 29, 2013, considering the love/hate relationship with post-war listed buildings and their protection.
For more information on post-war architecture we recommend
England: A Guide to Post-war Listed Buildings (2003) by Elain Harwood. This is currently being revised with contributions from the Designation Department, and a third edition will be published in 2014, featuring new photography by James O. Davies and descriptions of all post-war listed buildings. Also forthcoming in 2014 is a Yale publication by Elain Harwood,
Space, Hope and Brutalism: English Architecture 1945-1975.
The History of Post-War Listing
1980 - Firestone Factory demolished over bank holiday weekend. Within a year, the Historic Buildings Committee of the DoE recommended 150 inter-war buildings for listing.
1987 - Lord Elton issued statutory instrument (DoE Circular 8/87) introducing the thirty year rule and ten year rule.
1987 - Bracken House, the Financial Times newspaper office in the City of London (1955-59, Sir Albert Richardson), is the first post-war building to be listed.
1988 - The Economist Group was listed, the first under the ten year rule.
1991 - The Willis Faber and Dumas building in Ipswich (1972-75, Foster Associates) was listed, the first post-war building to have management guidelines developed.
A Change of Heart: English Architecture since the War: A Policy for Protection, by Andrew Saint, is published by English Heritage.
1992 – 2002 - First period of thematic research programme on post-war buildings by building type.
1996 - public consultation on exemplars for post-war listing, with the booklets
Something Worth Keeping? published by English Heritage.
2007 - the youngest listed building, Dame Elisabeth Frink’s Desert Quartet Sculptures in Worthing, 1988-9, listed at Grade II*.
2011 - National Heritage Protection Plan launched with activity dedicated to later twentieth century architecture, continuing the thematic approach.
2011 - the youngest Grade I building, the Lloyd’s Building by Richard Rogers Partnership in the City of London 1982-87, is listed.
2013 – Brutal and Beautiful exhibition on the history and future of post-war listing at the Wellington Arch, London.
Post-War Listed Buildings are Often Successfully Adapted and Changed
Listing is not a preservation order but rather an identification stage at which buildings are marked as having special historic or architectural interest. Listed buildings can be altered, extended or even demolished within government planning guidance once the case has been made. There are many examples of post-war buildings accommodating successful adaptation and heritage-led regeneration.
University of Sheffield Library and Arts Tower (1955-59 and 1961-65, by Gollins Melvin Ward and Partners), listed at Grade II*: Conservation Plans for both buildings by Avanti Architects who also undertook a conservation/adaptation project for the Library including creation of a new mezzanine exhibition area; restoration of the Catalogue Hall; insertion of new study carrels in the internal stack areas; upgrading of services and other fabric repairs. Arts Tower refurbishment by HLM including new curtain wall, entrance foyer modifications and lift replacement, with major changes to the internal cellular plan form of Arts Tower to create new teaching, studio and office facilities.
Bracken House, City of London (1955-59, Sir Albert Richardson, first post-war building listed in 1987), where Michael Hopkins and Partners replaced the octagonal printing house with offices in 1988-91. The Grade II* listing was revised in 2013 and now includes reference to this redevelopment.
Park Hill Flats, Sheffield (1957-60, Hawkins Brown and Studio Egret West), listed at Grade II*: major alteration undertaken to create new accommodation in a scheme that was shortlisted for the RIBA Stirling prize in 2013.
University of East Anglia, Norwich (1968, Denys Lasdun, extended 1974): before the library and connecting walkways were listed at Grade II in 2003 English Heritage held detailed discussions with the University about extending the library and development of a Heritage Partnership Agreement to cover the campus. Architects Shepheard Epstein Hunter subsequently designed a six storey extension and reorganised the interior of the existing building, and the completed library was formally opened in the spring of 2006.
Paddington Maintenance Depot, City of Westminster (1966-68, Bicknell and Hamilton), built as the garage and depot of British Railway’s fleet of parcel vans and listed at Grade II* in 1994, the building was adapted in 2001 for use as offices.
Haggerston School, Hackney (1964-67) listed at Grade II: Erno Goldfinger school adapted from a girls' school to a mixed academy under the BSF (Building Schools for the Future) programme. Avanti Architects restored the principal spaces in the entrance and assembly hall block, transformed the plan of the main classroom block and added a new technical/ crafts building which replaced unsympathetic accretions harming the setting of the listed elements.