Les Choux de Créteil – Paris
Construction: 1969 – 1974
Architect: Gerard Grandval
I took a trip out to Créteil just to have a look at these unique buildings. The 10 ‘Cabbages of Créteil’ are set in leafy gardens which provided some much needed shade on a hot day. The curvaceous concrete balconies of the circular towers give them their distinctive sprout like appearance. Wooden shutters provide a nice contrast of materials while adding a luxurious feel.
Apparently choucroute production was big in the area during the 19th century. While that may not be to my taste, the architecture that stands there currently certainly is.
Attenborough Building – Leicester
Architect: Arup Associates
Home to Leicester University’s Arts and Humanities departments, the Attenborough Building consists of three towers clustered around a central core connected to a low rise seminar block via a raised walkway. The most distinctive feature of this construction is the windows, which angle at the top leaving the bottom to protrude from the exterior surface of the building. Ostensibly to provide ventilation to the interior, this unusual feature certainly provides an interesting texture to the exterior. Like the Sheffield University Arts Tower the Attenborough tower is serviced by a paternoster lift, although on this visit I didn’t have a ride.
Elizabeth House – Leicester
Architect: John Middleton
After leaving Leicester railway station you are immediately greeted by the sight of this handsome tower. The understated raw grey of Elizabeth House stands in sharp contrast to the gaudy blue of nearby St Georges Tower, which was quite a looker before it was clad.
Bewick Court – Newcastle
Architect: Taylor Woodrow Construction
With its original concrete skin covered in plastic cladding, I’m not sure that the look of this building appeals to anyone. It is notable, however, for its position astride John Dobson Street. The tower, along with a small piazza, sit atop a concrete platform spanning the four lane road. A network of raised walkways connect the platform with several neighbouring buildings and the square behind Pearl Assurance House. This is a small part of the now faded dream of a pedestrianised city, raised on concrete above the noisy and polluted road network.
While the raw concrete aesthetic of brutalism was the accepted style for British public sector building in the 60s and 70s, the steel and glass style inspired by the work of German architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was popular in the private sector. Somewhat unusually for an educational building of the time, Sheffield Arts Tower clearly displays a Miesean influence, bearing more than a passing resemblance to van der Rohe’s 1958 Seagram Building in New York. The brutalist influence is there however, as the grey blue steel and glass structure sits atop 16 raw concrete piers and a raised concrete walkway links the mezzanine level to the Western Bank library next door.
The building also contains one of the last remaining paternoster lifts in the UK, which is great fun.