An urban view — 01 August 2014

Every month CabbieBlog hopes to show you a little gem of a building which you might have passed without noticing.

Welbeck Street car park can hardly be described as little and marks a sea-change from the neo-classical usually featured, with its mid-20th century Brutalism style of architecture it towers above you in a seemingly menacing manner – but bear
with me.

Poured concrete structures are not usually my thing – the Barbican with its discoloured walls; the National Theatre now undergoing a facelift so future generations might like it; and certainly not what J. G. Ballard described as: “The true temples of the automotive age”. Car parks are rarely designed to be structures of beauty.

London’s first ever multi-storey car park was built a short distance away in Wardour Street, it is now an O’Neills.

O'NeillsFor the motorist the Welbeck Street car park’s beauty is rarely appreciated situated within a labyrinth of narrow streets, its most attractive feature starting above eye level on the second floor.

The Welbeck Street car park, built in 1970, for Debenhams in Oxford Street, its external structure is formed of tessellated concrete polygons that interlock to present a geometric façade. Its design was deemed worthy to feature in ’Lesser known architecture’ staged by the Design Museum.

In 2009 Colin Wharry recognised Welbeck Street car park’s potential. Working on the premise that car park use in London might soon be curtailed, he hit on the idea to convert the structure into a primary school.

Colin-Wharry Overlaying the façade in glass printed with white dots that increase in radius as they move up the building, it would act as an acoustic barrier the BD student’s design created a new image for this iconic building giving it a blurred out of focus appearance.

Main image by Ben Starkin Photography, who points out that the Welbeck Street car park was quite famously featured at the end of The Chemical Brothers video ’Believe’.

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