Walk 5: Westminster Parking

The Hilton from Stanhope Row

The Hilton from Stanhope Row

On a very wet Saturday morning (17th March), I set off on another Twentieth Century Walk, led by Ian McInnes. Entitled, ‘Westminster Parking’ the two-hour amble through central London included both a wide array of car parks, and everything that came between them. This included the Hilton Hotel on Park Lane (left, 1959-1961) which caused a kerfuffle when built because of its height. Apparently, the common areas are still very 1960s – definitely a candidate for an internal viewing and perhaps a cocktail in the top floor restaurant! The car parks included the South Audley Street Parking Garage (1959-1962), soon to be replaced with a private house (the cost of the land makes the mind boggle!); the former Macy’s Motor Garage (1925-1926) of which only the facade remains despite being listed in 2009; and the Cumberland Garage, a part of the Cumberland Hotel (1930-1935).

My favourite was the Lex-Selfridges Ltd car park (1957-59), the first multi-storey scheme to be built post-1945 and still sporting lovely original ‘pinkish mauve’ and ‘lemon yellow’ tiles (Architects’ Journal, see below), which have survived despite seeming rather retro in comparison to the swish Selfridges frontage on Oxford Street. Thanks to some very kind compatriots, I was sheltered from the inclement weather with various umbrellas and my notebook just about survived. We considered the sociability and conviviality of architectural enthusiasm, the strangeness of walking a tour of car parks designed for four-wheeled travel, and looking at things that were mainly underground. A good morning’s entertainment.

Tiles at the back of Selfridges (1957-1959)

Tiles at the back of Selfridges (1957-1959)

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