Transport for London’s suite of depots, sheds and garages may not appear to be worth celebrating , but it may be worth giving them a thought as they are an integral part of the hidden infrastructure that keeps the city moving. Stockwell bus garage, opened in April 1952, is today a Grade II* listed building. When it became fully operational in 1953, leading periodicals such as the Architects’ Journal printed articles full of impressive statistics about the garage’s size.
It’s a lovely building – sinuous, curved, organic – and yet it exhibits the best constructivist principles… I could live in it for a year.
Stockwell bus garage, London: Landsdowne Way façade, 2012.
© Wilson Yau
The form of this building was generated by the need for a large unrestricted space of 73,350 sq ft for parking 200 buses. Designed by Adie Button & Partners, the bus garage was part of a wider scheme to replace trams. Everything these vehicles and their drivers could need to be able to serve Londoners was onsite: facilities for the fuelling, inspection and repair of buses, and for the employees a canteen and staffroom. Most of these services sat beneath the giant barrel vault created by reinforced concrete arches that span 194 ft and spaced at 42 ft intervals. Roof lights measuring 140 ft fill the gap between the ribs of the arches, allowing light into the depths of the 392 ft long main structure.
Low-rise and still fulfilling the same function since it entered service, it seems extraordinary that this man-made cave for buses is largely hidden from nearby main roads until one turns down the relatively quieter residential streets of Lansdowne Way and Binfield Road. With archive images from the Photographs Collection, and a few from this month, we can see it has changed remarkably little. After 60 years service it has gained some fans, such as writer Will Self: " it’s a lovely building – sinuous, curved, organic – and yet it exhibits the best constructivist principles… I could live in it for a year" ( Building , 2007).
References (available from the British Architectural Library, RIBA)
- Building, 2007, Dec 14. Wonders & blunders; Architects: Adie Button & Partners and Broadway Malyan. 272(50), p.43.
- Architects’ Journal, 1953, Dec. 31. Bus garage at Stockwell for London Transport Executive; Architects: Adie Button & Partners. pp.820-822 .