100 Buildings, 100 Years review – ‘A battle between modernism and tradition’

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100 Buildings, 100 Years review – ‘A battle between modernism and tradition’
The Hepwoth Gallery in Wakefield / © Sarah J Duncan/PR
100 Buildings, 100 Years review – ‘A battle between modernism and tradition’
The Hepwoth Gallery in Wakefield / © Sarah J Duncan/PR

What are the best British buildings of the last century? And do the critics’ favourites match those of the people?

In the summer of 1980 a group of us from the newly formed Thirties Society drove out of London along the Great West Road. We were told demolition squads had arrived at the splendid art deco headquarters of the Firestone tyre company. The planning minister, Michael Heseltine, was intending to list it for protection but had first informed the owners, Trafalgar House. The company sent in wreckers over the weekend before a notice could be served. We watched in horror as the building was reduced to rubble.

The Firestone building, like its sister the (surviving) Hoover building on the A40, were bravura works of the late 1920s by the American firm, Wallis, Gilbert and Partners. Its destruction provoked outrage and Firestone became a martyr to the cause of 20th‑century conservation. The Hoover factory was duly listed and Trafalgar House vilified. Of Firestone all that remains are some gates. ….

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