The Co-op – good for architecture

CWS Leman StreetWhen in London last weekend to take yet more industrial architecture photos for the forthcoming (when I’ve written a bit more) book, I chanced to be on Leman Street, in that peculiar bit of the capital running south from Aldgate East station. Pevsner points out the wonderful CWS buildings, and is absolutely right, it is a veritable co-op canyon, with massive warehouses-cum-offices on both sides. The most eye-catching are the towered corner building of 1885-7 at the south end, by CWS architect JF Goodey, and opposite (and best of all) a refugee from Amsterdam, the massive and very bricky offices of 1930-3 by CWS architect LG Ekins (see left). Fabulous brickwork detailing. Ekins is usually said to have been the CWS architect during 1916-45, but he worked for the Society at Dunston (Gateshead) a little earlier, so I presume he was the CWS head architect from 1916 and in their department before that. We know the names of several CWS architects but little else about them, mostly I guess due to their archives having been destroyed. A researcher in Rochdale is doing a dissertation on some aspects of CWS architecture, but it would definitely be worth a whole book. They were early adopters of reinforced concrete and their buildings – if one includes factories, offices and shops – have played a part in townscapes throughout Britain. Think of the enormous Scottish Co-op offices in Glasgow, on the south bank in Morrison Street, almost under the M8 – it is Leeds Town Hall-like in scale. Anyway, back to work…..

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