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Greater London, Kensington And Chelsea, Chelsea, Queen Anne's Gate, General

Commercial Office (20th Century)

Site Name Greater London, Kensington And Chelsea, Chelsea, Queen Anne's Gate, General

Classification Commercial Office (20th Century)

Canmore ID 284752

Site Number TQ27NE 6

NGR TQ 2790 7960

NGR Description Centred on TQ 2790 7960

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

Permalink http://canmore.org.uk/site/284752

Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Not Applicable
  • Parish Kensington And Chelsea
  • Former Region Greater London
  • Former District Kensington And Chelsea
  • Former County Greater London

Sir Basil Spence

Building Details

In 1970 the United Kingdom Provident Institution (UKPI ) asked Sir Basil Spence OM RA to prepare an outline scheme for the redevelopment of their offices at Queen Anne's Gate Buildings and Central Buildings, 4 Matthew Parker Street, London. It is unclear from the Archive if the practice undertook any work for UKPI at this time.

In 1975 UKPI once again contacted Sir Basil Spence OM RA because the owners of Caxton House, which adjoined 4 Matthew Parker Street, announced their plan to demolish the existing building and redevelop the site. UKPI wanted to employ the practice to act on their behalf in order to outline the implications of the proposed redevelopment on 4 Matthew Parker Street and 2 Queen Anne's Gate Buildings.

Archive Details and Summary

The Sir Basil Spence Archive holds three manuscript files on this project. One file relates to the 1970 proposed redevelopment and includes a small amount of correspondence. The other two manuscript files relate to the demolition of Caxton House.

The manuscripts reveal that the properties lie within a conservation area. The practice was asked to inspect the proposed stone finish for the new walling and the repairs to the existing stonework to satisfy that they were appropriate to the area.

The project architect for this job was Christopher Libby. However, he left the practice in October 1975 to set up business on his own. The manuscript material includes correspondence in which the practice agreed to call upon Libby when necessary to ensure continuity on the project. The file subsequently contains invoices and correspondence with Libby's new practice.

The 45 drawings in the Archive relate to proposed redevelopment and show the existing building with proposed alterations.

This text was written as one of the outputs of the Sir Basil Spence Archive Project, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, 2005-08.

Sir Basil Spence

Building Notes

In 1958 Land Securities Investments commissioned Robert Matthew as consultant architect design an office block at Queen Annes Gate, London to be built by Fitzroy Robinson and Partners. The site belonged to the government and the new development was intended for the use of a government depeartment. The site was previously occupied by Queen Anne's Mansions, a 14-storey Victorian mansion block which many regarded as an eyesore.

Fitzroy Robinson & Partners intital design was for a 224ft block which the Royal Fine Arts Commision (RFAC) rejected as unsuitable for the site. However Fitzroy Robinson & Partners were unable to come up with a suitable alternative design and a number of consultant architects were brought in the last of which was Sir Basil Spence in 1964.

Spence's design was presented to the RFAC in 1964 and incorporated a 15 storey U-shaped block and 196ft partially detached tower which he intended to terminate the vista created by Tothill Street.

This new design was once again met with disapproval. However a letter from the RFAC published in the 28 June 1972 edition of the Architects' Journal states that as it was a government development they 'had power to develop their sites regardless of local planning regulation'. The site was seen as a sensitive one sitting in close proximity to St James Park and within sightline of Buckingham Palace. Many saw Spence’s high-rise tower and dense block as unsuitable for the area and feared it would over shadow the park.

The building was completed in 1976 and became the main headquarters for the Home Office from 1978 until 2004 when they moved to new premises. Further refurbishment was completed in 2007 when the Department for Constitutional Affairs moved into the building.

Archive Details and Summary

The Sir Basil Spence Archive holds one manuscript folder containing press-cuttings which illustrate the disapproval and controversy caused by the building.

The Archive includes 95 photographs some of which show mock-ups produced by the practice to address press criticism in the 1970s.

Among the 39 drawings is a bound publication which includes plans and elevations all of which show Sir Basil Spence’s scheme.

This text was written as one of the outputs of the Sir Basil Spence Archive Project, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, 2005-08.

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