Senate House - Malet Street, Bloomsbury, London, UK
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member Master Mariner
N 51° 31.260 W 000° 07.732
30U E 699182 N 5711672
Quick Description: When Senate House was built in 1937 it was the second tallest building in London with St Paul's Cathedral being the tallest.
Location: London, United Kingdom
Date Posted: 10/30/2012 11:50:34 AM
Waymark Code: WMFKJ0
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member razalas
Views: 4

Long Description:

The Senate House Events website [visit link] tells us:

"Commissioned as the first purpose-built home and central headquarters of the University of London, Senate House welcomed its first occupants in 1936, a century after the University was granted its Charter. It was designed as the centrepiece of architect Charles Holden’s plan for a campus that, in the words of visionary Vice-Chancellor William Beveridge, would be “something that could not have been built by any earlier generation than this… an academic island in swirling tides of traffic, a world of learning in a world of affairs.”

Ranked among the capital’s earliest skyscrapers and clad in Portland Stone, Senate House is home to the University’s world-famous library, as well as administrative offices and meeting rooms. It was the first large-scale building in the country to be heated by electricity, using an early form of storage heater. The offices were naturally ventilated, but an early form of air conditioning was installed in the main public rooms.

After 70 years, during which Senate House was used in wartime by the Ministry of Information (a development that is said to have inspired George Orwell’s description of the Ministry of Truth in his novel Nineteen Eighty-Four), Holden’s Grade II* listed masterpiece was in need of attention. A multi-million pound refurbishment programme, begun in 2006, provided the building with modern, upgraded and more cohesive office space, improved meeting and teaching facilities and new and enhanced library resources.

The University of London’s original remit of overseeing examinations has evolved into the provision of a wide range of value-added activities and services for its 19 autonomous Colleges of outstanding reputation. These services range from distance learning and research facilitation to career development advice and information technology solutions. Today, Senate House is not simply an icon of 20th century architecture, it is equipped for the next stage of the University’s evolution."

Senate House is a Grade II* listed building and the entry at the English Heritage website [visit link] tells us:

"Senate House and Institute of Education. 1932-1938. By Charles Holden, built with funding from the Rockefeller Foundation. Brick load-bearing construction with Portland stone facing. Symmetrical design, not completed, comprising central tower flanked by two courtyard ranges to either side. The southern, completed half, houses the ceremonial and administrative functions of the University of London. The northern half houses the Institute of Historical Research and School of Slavonic Studies in more functional surrounding: north-east wing not completed. The initial concept of a single, spinal building extending the length of Torrington Square was abandoned as building began, but survives in model form displayed on the first floor balcony of Senate House.

EXTERIOR: central, higher fourth floor is the University library, with above it offices and bookstack housed in the formal 18-storey tower built in recessed stages with broad central buttresses on the east and west sides. 6 windows at 1st floor level. 4 and 5 storey wings with 10-window forward return and 14 windows width each. Under enriched, flat canopies, 2 square-headed entrances each side of the central buttress, all with 2-leaf glass doors with vertically patterned metal grills. Above the canopies small rectangular windows with patterned grills and keystones. Square-headed, recessed windows with metal frames, those at 1st floor level on the tower being elongated with enriched spandrel panels and flanked by medium sized windows at the angles, with balconies, culminating in lunettes at 6th floor level. From the 2nd floor to the 18th, small vertically set windows, in groups of 3 until the penultimate stage when they are continuous. Flanking wings with metal balconies to windows at angles. Flat roofs with plain bands at parapet levels. East facade similar. Inner courtyards similarly treated, with hopper heads dated 1936.

INTERIOR: imposing Egyptianate entrance hall at base of tower with travertine floor and walls with broad fluted pilasters a semi-open space giving through access, with doors to south leading to Senate House and to north to Institute of Historical Research and School of Slavonic Studies. Senate House. Principal spaces all with travertine cladding to walls and floors, ceilings of moulded plaster with flat panel patterns and embellishments based on a London plane tree motif. Staircases floored in travertine, with bronzed balustrades treated as stylised Ionic columns. Principal entrance hall on two levels with first floor balcony having elaborate bronzed balustrade: Holden's original model exhibited here. On ground floor there is to east the MacMillan Hall, named after Lord MacMillan first Chairman of the University Court, with square panelled ceiling, travertine walls decorated as fluted pilasters at end and to sides set with acoustic panels to Holden's design and coloured glass, teak floor, and original light fittings. Memorials to HRH Queen Mother, Chancellor 1955-80, and to Princess Royal, Chancellor 1981- . William Beveridge Hall, named after the University's Vice Chancellor 1926-8, retains dado panelling set with brass filets in Greek key pattern under acoustic quilting, with semi-permanent seating and stage. On first floor processional stair leads to Chancellor's Hall, with square panelled timber to window recesses, travertine cladding, and square panelled plaster ceilings. Inlay pattern floors, original doors and fittings. To east a suite of rooms set round courtyard includes Court Room and Senate Room. Senate Room and ante rooms fully panelled in English walnut, the former of double height with trabeated ceilings, original fixed seating in stepped rows arranged like a council chamber with dias. Bronze uplighters. Ante rooms with heraldic glass by E Bossanyi dated 1937. On north side committee room and processional suite of corridors with dado panelling and moulded cornices, original furnishings and fittings. On south side the Vice Chancellor's offices not inspected. Second floor staff common rooms and third floor common rooms and refectories originally with painted mural ceilings. Those in refectory not seen under later acoustic tiles; war memorial tablet in corridor. Fourth floor libraries of double height. Two general reading rooms, the Middlesex Libraries, finished in oak with original bookshelves and fittings of English walnut. Goldsmith's Library to south with glazed bookcases, and ceiling of cypress wood and stained glass by E Bossanyi. Above these the bookstacks supported by steel frame on concrete raft. The offices retain original doors, lettering and fittings. The whole is a remarkably unaltered ensemble of 1930s design, with a high proportion of highly decorated ceremonial spaces over functional offices. The Institute of Historical Research and School of Slavonic Studies with ground-floor entrance hall of single-storey height, travertine floors and finishings similar in style but simpler than those found in Senate House.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: attached cast-iron railings on stone sleeper wall and gates of radial pattern with central bosses containing coats of arms. Pillars with pilasters and geometric enrichment, those at the gates surmounted by rectangular down-lighter lamps with small defused panes and topped by stepped features.

HISTORICAL NOTE: built as a landmark, in 1937 this was the tallest building in London apart from St Paul's Cathedral."

The Guardian newspaper's website [visit link] carries a timeline for Charles Holden:

1875: Born in Great Lever, Bolton, May 12 .

1895: Brother-in-law apprentices him to EW Leeson, a Mancunian architect; studies architecture at the Manchester School of Art and Technical College.

1902: Wins competition for first major design project, the Bristol Central Reference Library.

1907: Designs the British Medical Association building, now Zimbabwe House.

1925: Designs improvements at Piccadilly Circus tube station.

1925-26: Commissioned to design stations on southern extension of Northern line.

1927-29: Designs London Transport headquarters at 55 Broadway.

1930: Begins work on Piccadilly line extensions north and west.

1931: Designs improvements at Leicester Square station. Wins competition to design new buildings for University of London; only Senate House is built.

1936: Awarded Riba Gold Medal.

1960: Dies, May 1.

The Neo Humanism website [visit link] has a biography of Holden that tells us:

"Sir Charles (Henry) Holden (12 May 1875 - 1 May 1960) was an English architect known for his designs of stations on the London Underground railway system.

Holden's childhood in Bolton was not easy. His father's drapery business went bankrupt, and his mother died when he was eight. After leaving school, he worked first as a railway store clerk, and as a chemical laboratory assistant.

His brother-in-law, Frederick Green, a land-surveyor, employed Holden at the age of twenty to be apprenticed to E. W. Leeson, a Manchester architect. He studied at the Manchester School of Art and Technical College, with such success that he soon was soon teaching. Around 1896, Holden revealed his grasp of architectural form in designs he submitted to the Building News Designing Club, using the pseudonym 'The Owl'.

Holden's friends in Manchester included artist Francis Dodd (1874-1949) and Dodd's brother-in-law, the etcher and draughtsman Muirhead Bone who, with his brother, James, remained lifelong friends.

Developing his career as an architect, Holden undertook some major assignments. In 1907, he designed the British Medical Association Building on the Strand in London, now Zimbabwe House.

London Transport executive Frank Pick engaged Holden as architect for several projects, including the southward extension of the Northern Line to Morden in 1925-6 and a new headquarters in 1928-30. A revival of 18th century monumental styles then dominated British architecture. In contrast, Holden's design for the 55 Broadway headquarters, over St James's Park tube station, was original and modern: not just a building but a complete design. He commissioned sculptures for the exterior of the building from contemporary artists - Jacob Epstein, Eric Gill, Eric Aumonier, Henry Moore, A.H Gerrard, Samuel Rabinovich and Allan Wyon. The most controversial - considered indecent at the time - were the two groups by Epstein, Day and Night. His attention to this kind of detail typefied Holden's commitment to total design.

The 1930-5 Piccadilly Line extension both north and west, gave Pick and Holden the chance to develop a new type of station. Aiming for a striking and inviting modern appearance, they adapted for English surroundings simple, geometric styles and exposed brickwork they saw on the Continent. This led to their 'classic' style of Underground architecture, using clean, simple forms - cylinders, curves, rectangles - often decorating the interiors with brightly coloured tiles. All parts of a building were to be harmonious, all aspects integrated into the design. This included interior and exterior lighting, platform seats, clocks, kiosks, ticket machines, even litter bins.

Sudbury Town first demonstrated this style, opening on 19 July 1931. At least 17 other similar stations soon followed. A number of them - including Enfield West (now Oakwood), Southgate, Arnos Grove and the original Sudbury Town - were in 1971 designated as of "special architectural interest", as was the 55 Broadway headquarters building.

Sir Charles Holden's great-niece Dr Jean Ward in 1999 presented to the RIBA Architectural Library Drawings Collection many topographical drawings, family photographs and ephemera by or relating to him. They joined a large body of material acquired in the 1970s at the closure of his partnership, Adams, Holden & Pearson."

Architect: Charles Holden

Prize received: RIBA Royal Gold Medal

In what year: 1936

Website about the Architect: [Web Link]

Website about the building: [Web Link]

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