Wallis, Gilbert's concrete makes a comeback

One of the British practice's earliest creations is reborn as a modern, concrete-loving, mixed use hub
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Promotional material for EMI's Hayes plant, now reborn as the Old Vinyl Factory
Promotional material for EMI's Hayes plant, now reborn as the Old Vinyl Factory

Wallis, Gilbert & Partners are best known for the stunning 1930s Hoover Building in west London, yet they're currently gaining fans for another of their old industrial sites. A 20th century factory site of theirs, also to the west of the capital, is about to be redeveloped into a mix-used hub, courtesy of a handful of architects including AHMM. Now called the Old Vinyl Factory, this was where EMI produced its records, including many of The Beatles releases; in its heyday the site employed around 4000 workers.

 

Workers at the Hayes plant
Workers at the Hayes plant

Wallis, Gilbert had winning ways with concrete, and their pioneering designs can be found all around London's peripheries, as industrial bases for the likes of Coty Cosmetics, Simmonds Aerocessories, the Pyrene Company and Firestone tyres.

The Old Vinyl Factory
The Old Vinyl Factory

Thomas Wallis - whether 'Gilbert' ever really existed is yet to be proven - certainly left Britain with some impressive and important structures, though at the time the architectural establishment was less than enthusiastic about his designs.

Now, the developers of the vast Old Vinyl Factory site delight in the buildings and their heritage. To celebrate Wallis, Gilbert's legacy, The Old Vinyl Factory is hosting a free event in their honour, and in honour of their favourite building material.

 

The Old Vinyl Factory
The Old Vinyl Factory

Concrete Day, on 28 November, includes an illustrated talk on concrete by William Hall, author of Phaidon's book Concrete, and a debate discussing the motion, 'concrete has had its day'. That should get some hackles raised in the audience. For the itinerary and to register for the event, go here. To find out more about the development, go here. And for more on Concrete, buy the book from the people who made it, here.


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