'Hanging Gardens of Basingstoke' listed by English Heritage

Horticulture at two post-war office schemes has helped them gain listed status.

 The roof gardens at Mountbatten House. Picture: James O. Davies, English Heritage.
The roof gardens at Mountbatten House. Picture: James O. Davies, English Heritage.

Mountbatten House, Basingstoke by Arup Associates (built 1974 to 1976) and the former Central Electricity Generating Board Building (The Pavilions) in Bristol also by Arup (1975-8) have landscape elements as a key part of their design and have been awarded Grade II listed status by the secretary of state for Culture, Media and Sport.

Mountbatten House’s Arup-designed roof gardens, dubbed The ‘Hanging Gardens of Basingstoke’ has also been awarded Grade II listed status on English Heritage’s register of historic parks and gardens.

In total 14 of England’s best post-war office buildings have been listed in this round, following a drive to assess commercial buildings of 1964 to 1984.

Mountbatten House is the former headquarters for the paper merchants Wiggins Teape and has been listed as an unusual and distinct example of 1970s commercial office architecture.
Built between 1974 and 1976, Mountbatten House remains largely intact.

It also has an important historical association with the nationally-renowned garden designer James Russell.

The roof gardens are admired for their design and technical achievement and the elaborate planting scheme in a commercial office landscape.

Landscape architect Peter Swann, who in 1973 had only just established his landscape practice. was consultant on The Pavilions, following work for the Central Electricity Generating Board Building (CEGB) on a number of their power stations and overhead power line schemes.

The landscape work at the new CEGB regional headquarters included the creation of an 'invisible' car park, the introduction of a continuous perimeter plant box to soften the connection between the building and its landscape, extensive ground-modelling and top-soiling, elm replacement along the north east boundary, external soft landscaping, and an extensive planting scheme both outside and inside the building.

A landscape management plan was also finalised on completion to budget for future maintenance.

Director of designation at English Heritage Roger Bowdler said: "The clearer we can be about what deserves to be listed, the better for all. These offices show how architecture has adapted to recent radical changes in how we work, they show how the open-plan working space for computer-led work came about, and how architects responded to the need for lettable, attractive spaces with ingenuity and a deep understanding of human needs."

English Heritage said it was particularly selective in which buildings were recommended to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport because the threshold for special architectural or historic interest in recent buildings is particularly high. From the original research experts selected 23 buildings for assessment.
Buildings generally become eligible for listing once they pass 30 years from the start of construction, and the earlier on owners can establish whether their building is likely to become listed, the earlier on they can start to plan.

This is particularly desirable with commercial buildings which are especially prone to frequent adaptation.

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