Listed Building

The only legal part of the listing under the Planning (Listing Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997 is the address/name of site. Addresses and building names may have changed since the date of listing – see 'About Listed Buildings' below for more information. The further details below the 'Address/Name of Site' are provided for information purposes only.

Address/Name of Site

1-140 Hutcheon Court and 1-144 Greig Court, AberdeenLB52525

Status: Removed

Documents

There are no additional online documents for this record.

Summary

Category
A
Date Added
18/01/2021
Date Removed:
22/02/2022
Local Authority
Aberdeen
Burgh
Aberdeen
NGR
NJ 93867 6980
Coordinates
393867, 806980

Removal Reason

This site has been removed from the List following a Building Designation Appeal.

Description

15 and 19-storey modern Brutalist 'slab' blocks of flats designed by Aberdeen City Architects Department, under the supervision of Tom Watson (Chief Architect) in 1973-1978 for the Aberdeen Housing Committee. The building contractor was the Aberdeen firm, Alexander Hall & Sons. The buildings are oriented on an east-west and north-south axes. They are in a built up inner urban area next to a ring road. Hutcheon Court contains 140 flats with a combination of maisonettes laid out on a crossover section and single storey flats at both ends. Greig Court has 144 flats with maisonettes and single storey flats at one end only. The maisonette flats are entered on the ground floor at either the bedroom or living area and cross up an over to the bedroom or living area providing a dual aspect on two levels. The facing slabs at the end of the blocks are set with large jagged granite aggregate.

The buildings are constructed with a reinforced concrete frame and has smooth-finished precast concrete cladding panels and poured concrete tapered columns at the ground floor. The long slab elevations have shallow continuous fire-escape balconies. There is a partially open undercroft with building facilities including laundry room, community room and substations which are slightly set back from the building line at the ground floor.

The interiors of the common areas largely retain their 1970s layout with some original finishes, fixtures, fittings and signage retained to the public areas. Most of the windows, doors and fixtures and fittings to the exterior and interior have been replaced.

Historical development

Hutcheon Court and Greig Court were designed and built in a selected redevelopment area and was part of a comprehensive building programme that was initiated by the City of Aberdeen Housing Committee to re-house residents into modern, healthy homes throughout the city centre. The Hutcheon Street Comprehensive Development Area Phase 1 is the fifth of a total of five inner city housing developments ranging in date from 1959 to 1978.

The post-Second World War improvement of Aberdeen City Centre city was inspired by the seminal planning tome 'Granite City A Plan for Aberdeen' of 1952 by W Dobson Chapman and Charles F Riley, two of the UK's most highly regarded architects and town planners. Their proposals, which broadly followed the prevalent thinking in the 1950s, was to recommend selective redevelopment (slum-clearance) in order to provide for public health, amenity and convenience which had been lacking in interwar housing schemes. In building terms their recommendations were for high density multi-storey blocks in the immediate periphery of the city centre and for neighbourhood units in outlying sub-urban areas (such as Kincorth and Kaimhill) with a mix of low- and high-rise housing and small scale commercial and public amenities such as shops and schools. Echoing contemporary planning theory of comprehensive redevelopment, their bias was towards flats as the most appropriate housing type, in contrast to 'monotonous' inadvertent urban sprawl.

Town planning was a relatively new discipline and after the upheaval of the Second World War, was of primary importance in driving housing and health reform forward. Soon after the establishment of the Town and County Planning Act of 1947, large cities and county councils across the UK embarked on the major reorganisation of their urban areas. They were committed to improving infrastructure and in providing housing which was integrated to well-planned commercial and industrial activity.

Comprehensive housing reform was first introduced after the First World War with the Housing and Town Planning (Addison) Act 1919 to provide decent housing for the working class and address inner city slums. This act marked a turn towards state-sponsored housing that was characterised by the development of planned council schemes and would dominate the housing supply in Scotland and the rest of the UK until the late 1970s. By the end of the Second World War, Scotland and other UK cities were embarking on unprecedented restructuring. In Scotland, the debate was centred on Glasgow and its overcrowding and sub-standard housing problem. Building within the city boundary or decanting the population to new settlements outside of the city into 'new towns' was the principle point of discussion. The type of housing to build, from cottages to 'four-in-a-block' flats, tenements to high rises, was also intensely deliberated.

While national housing policies and funding strategies were drawn up by central government, local authorities were responsible for deciding on the direction they would take to improve their housing stock. An important factor was the availability of land and how this affected housing density. With the rising cost of land as well as building materials, building high rises was an attractive alternative to low density housing schemes planned along earlier garden-city principles.

The establishment of new high-rise developments was largely aimed at re-housing people who had previously lived in sub-standard accommodation into modern healthy homes. Aberdeen's main housing problem after 1945, however, was not primarily its slums or its shortage of land, but rather a long waiting list for houses. Its ambitious plans for reconstruction was also not principally related to war-damage. Rather than an extensive slum clearance programme, the city of Aberdeen, which was identified by government officials as an area of potential economic growth, embarked on a highly ambitious plan of civic enhancement and regeneration. In this context, the inner-city multi-storey slab blocks planned from in the late 1950s to the late 1970s were unusual for their high-quality individual design by the city's own architects' department. They were exceptional for the period because they were not like the increasingly ubiquitous factory-made system-built schemes that were erected in all of Scotland's major urban centres, also including Aberdeen.

Statement of Special Interest

Hutcheon Court and Greig Court meet the criteria of special architectural or historic interest for the following reasons:

• They are of significant architectural interest as an outstanding example in Scotland of the modernist New Brutalism style in multi-storey housing. The exceptional architectural design is represented externally by the monumental side wall frames, the massive concrete piers at ground level and overall sculptural concrete detailing. The cross-slab in situ concrete frame construction is further expressed in the arrangement of shallow balconies to the long elevations and the concrete panelled framing which is noticeable throughout the exterior of the buildings.

• The design is of special interest for its innovative use of the crossover plan arrangement of maisonettes not often applied to housing of this type in Scotland or the rest of the UK. This plan form was chosen to create a greater sense of space in a flatted dwelling and usefully provided cross-ventilation.

• The contextual and regional design element of large granite aggregate incorporated into concrete panels directly references the North-East vernacular and is unusual for modernist blocks of this type. This motif is uniquely applied in these buildings and the six other blocks which were built as part of a group of inner-city multis in Aberdeen.

• The overall relative lack of alteration has contributed to a high level of authenticity.

• As high as 19-storeys, the buildings are a prominent landmark to the northeast of the city centre and have been integrated visually into Aberdeen's inner-city road infrastructure which was also conceived in the mid-twentieth century.

• The buildings, conceived as a pair, also form part of historic city-wide group of eight inner-city multi-storey housing developments (listed at category A) which were planned as part of the post-war regeneration of Aberdeen. Within the group of multi-storey buildings erected in Aberdeen, Greig Court and Hutcheon Court was the final of five to be built.

• The buildings are among a very small number of surviving multi-storey public housing schemes in Scotland that are of exceptional architectural interest and have survived largely unaltered.

• Greig Court and Hutcheon Court inform our understanding of the most architecturally ambitious and successful public housing programmes of the post-war period in Scotland, representing the huge changes which were taking place in town planning, housing and society in our towns and cities. The buildings are directly illustrative of a period on Scotland's modern history which was focused on the improvement of social welfare led by major state-sponsored commissions. Within this period, Aberdeen's town council and city architects are recognised as being innovators and amongst the leading providers of high-quality social housing in Scotland.

Architectural interest

Design

The vision and skill of George McIntosh Keith (1907-1971), city architect from 1954 to 1970, combined with the financial expertise of the city's housing convener and treasurer, Councillor Robert Lennox (later Lord Provost), led to a well-conceived and well-supported programme of public housing across the city of Aberdeen in the post-war period. Keith and Lennox were fully committed to a major multi-storey drive which was directly inspired by their visits in 1959 to innovative multi-storey housing sites at Roehampton Alton Estate near London and at Hutchesontown in the Gorbals, Glasgow. It was highly unusual for a building programme of this scale to be produced almost exclusively by the local authority architects' department which continued in the same ambitious manner under the direction of Thomas Campbell Watson (1914-c.1994) from 1970 to 1975.

In this context, the inner-city multi-storey slab blocks planned from in the late 1950s to the late 1970s were unusual for their high-quality individual design by the city's own architects' department. These buildings were exceptional for the period because they were not like the increasingly ubiquitous factory-made system-built schemes that were erected in all of Scotland's major urban centres, also including Aberdeen.

The result of this leadership in planning and architecture was a consistently high design quality across all the Aberdeen inner-city schemes which are very similar in plan, elevation and material. In their consistency and quality, these multi-storey buildings are among the most coherent and architecturally distinguished group of Brutalist flats in Scotland. The quality construction associated with the inner-city multi-storey blocks in Aberdeen are also due in part to the high standards used by the local contracting industry to the almost complete exclusion of national house building contractors.

The design of the Aberdeen inner-city blocks is an outstanding example of the modernist architecture of the period represented externally by the monumental side wall frames, the massive concrete piers at ground level and overall sculptural concrete detailing. This is further expressed by the cross-slab in situ concrete frame construction which is seen in the arrangement of shallow balconies to the long elevations and the concrete framing which is noticeable throughout the exterior of the building.

In addition to their structural expression of cross-slab in situ concrete frame construction, they are notable for their contextual design elements directly referencing the North-East vernacular by incorporating large granite aggregate into concrete panels, a device normally associated with smaller scale housing and uniquely applied in Aberdeen. In practical terms, the large aggregate, although a more expensive finish, would attempt to mitigate the effects of fierce weather and north-easterly winds which were a known challenge for buildings of this height in the city.

The Aberdeen multi-storey group of flats were clearly inspired by Le Corbusier's Unité d'Habitation slab blocks (from 1947) and his socialist ideal of 'cities in the sky' that set the standard for avant-garde architects who were designing multi-storeys building schemes in the following two decades in Scotland and the rest of the UK.

Internally, these multi-storey blocks also have innovative plan. More unusually applied in Scotland was the use of the crossover section plan of maisonette arrangement. Stemming directly from the Unité d'Habitation's 'internal street', it cleverly eliminated the need for the more common space-consuming external deck access plan, it allowed for more light penetration as well as ventilation and it provided a consistent design to the slab's long elevations. The crossover plan layout was a more expensive design but was promoted by the city architect to ensure that the flats felt like houses when experienced from the inside but also crucially, this higher specification plan form would allow better ventilation, an important consideration for multi-storey living.

The arrangement of the blocks, as exemplified by Hutcheon Court and Greig Court, is also found in its wider site plan. A combination of hard landscaping, building orientation and the relationship with low rise buildings that were carefully designed as part of the scheme, all considered the wider townscape. This attention to town planning and integration into the city is directly illustrative of the concepts of the Townscape movement which was prevalent during this period.

As well as the usual and essential amenities of rubbish shoots and storage areas, Thistle Court has a well-appointed laundry room and a community room which also illustrates the design quality of the building.

Hutcheon Court and Greig Court are remarkable not only for their avant-garde modernist architecture, but also for its relative lack of later alteration. There has been little change overall to the original design, plan form and materials except for wide scale uniform change to windows and doors leading to external balconies, some reglazing to the ground floor service areas. However, the overall relative lack of later alteration contributes to authenticity of the blocks which retain their historic character in their own right and within the wider townscape.

Setting

Greig Court and Hutcheon Court were planned as part of the Hutcheon Phase 1 scheme. They are sited in an inner urban area and because of the buildings' height (15 and 19 storeys) and location on rising high ground, the blocks are prominent both in their immediate and wider surroundings. The overall character is of a multi-period urban streetscape ranging predominantly from the 19th and 20th centuries and punctuated by the multi-storey blocks at a major inner-city road junction. These blocks were inserted into the existing historic street pattern and are immediately adjacent to the late 19th century former Gerrard Street Baptist Church (former Free Church) (listed category B, LB49192) church to the south. To the north, facing Hutcheon Court, is the former Stewart and Rowell's comb works (listed category B, LB44554). There is later 20th century housing to the west.

These buildings were designed as a set piece, integrated into the wider inner-city plan and is now familiar landmark in Aberdeen, along with the other similar blocks, contributing to the city's wider urban character. As high as 19-storeys, they are a prominent landmark to northeast of the of the city centre and have also been integrated visually into the road infrastructure of the city which was also conceived in the mid-twentieth century. The inner-ring road plays an important part in the setting and plan form of the buildings, especially in the arrangement of the blocks and in particular the car park which give is directly connected to the road.

These multi-storey blocks also have a distinct architectural identity as part of carefully planned series of building groups within the city centre. When siting the blocks, the architect-planners were conscious of their landmark status and the potential for dramatic effect within and outwith the townscape.

Historic interest

Age and rarity

Erected in their high hundreds (863 in total) in the years mainly between 1960 and 1980, multi-storey blocks of flats are a common building type in Scotland and are not rare. Architecturally innovative schemes were more expensive to build and fewer of these were erected with system-built, prefabricated structures predominating. Few multi-storey blocks of all types and quality now survive in close to their original form, with many having been demolished completely. There are now only a very small number of architecturally exceptional multi-storey buildings which survive which are not extensively altered.

Gilcomstoun Land was erected as part of the earliest phase of the inner-city redevelopment of Aberdeen and with Gallowgate and Castlehill are among the earliest Brutalist blocks of flats in Scotland planned as early as 1959. Erected in the 1970s, Thistle Court, Hutcheon Court and Greig Court are slightly later but were built in a similar style and to the same plan and design as the earlier blocks – externally however they differ in that they have larger granite aggregate applied to the concrete panels.

The first multi-storey public housing development erected in Aberdeen was at Ashgrove in 1959-61, a point block of ten storeys (40 flats). The block at Ashgrove is of standard design and forms part of a mixed-density (high and low rise) peripheral urban development. Earlier, innovation in modern public housing in the inner city was realised at Rosemount Square (1936-46 – listed category A) a courtyard development of Viennese-style modernist flats which anticipated the ambitious housing programme led by the City Architects' Department in the post-war period in Aberdeen.

Many of the first high rise buildings in Scotland being erected were provided by contractors in collaboration with local authority architects' departments, and some early experiments in Scotland include Crathie Court, Glasgow (1946, listed category B – LB51966) and Westfield Court, Edinburgh (1949). By the late 1950s, some of the more architecturally innovative schemes were by architects in private practice.

Around this time, the functionalist concepts of the early modernist period of imposed and comprehensive architectural order on society prevalent in the 1930s and '40s and typified by 'all-flats' schemes, was shifting towards socially inclusive architectural solutions and community planning, and by contrast was exemplified by the new mixed-development scheme. The garden city model was not favoured nor practical in urban areas but neither was the model of high-flats only.

Le Corbusier's Unité d'Habitation (1947-52) at Marseille, France, is widely recognised as the initial inspiration to this change in philosophy and his large slab block of flats located in a parkland setting, which included shops, leisure and other social amenities as part of the development, was the architectural embodiment of a utopian concept of city living known as the ville radieuse or the vertical city. It proved enormously influential and is often cited as the initial inspiration of the Brutalist architectural style and philosophy, which at Marseille (and at the other Unité schemes found in France and elsewhere) applied a raw concrete aesthetic (béton brut) to maximise the possibilities of new materials and building technologies to achieve its theoretical aims.

Early adopters of the new thinking in Britain were found in London and other large cities such as the housing complexes at the Golden Lane Estate, 1953-63 (listed Grade II*), the Alton West Estate in Roehampton, London, (1955-8 – listed Grade II*) 5 long 10-storey slab blocks of maisonettes in a parkland setting, and Park Hill in Sheffield (1957-60 – listed Grade II*). Other expressions of the Unité concept include the Barbican Estate (completed 1963-1982 – listed Grade II), Balfron Tower (1965-7 – listed Grade II), and Trellick Tower (1968-73 – listed Grade II), all in London.

Scotland's cities also responded with ambitious schemes in Glasgow, Dundee and Aberdeen, mostly with a focus on the ever-pressing need for slum-clearance with the help of forward-thinking city planners, engineers and housing chiefs, such as Robert Bruce and David Gibson in Glasgow. The Gorbals area of Glasgow, a notorious slum in the south of the city, plagued by overcrowding, saw the erection of multi-storey housing by architects in private practice, including Basil Spence's renowned Hutchesontown C scheme (1961-6 – demolished) and Hutchesontown B in 1958 (altered) by Robert Matthew who was leading Scotland in social housing reform, establishing the Housing Research Unit at the University of Edinburgh in 1959. One of the most distinguished of the tower block schemes in Glasgow was Anniesland Court, Glasgow (1966 – listed category A, LB43034), itself a megastructure with integrated shops. Similarly, in Leith, Edinburgh, the ambitious Kirkgate redevelopment included the largest and among the most architecturally accomplished multi-storey blocks of flats at Cables Wind House (1963-5 – listed category A, LB52403) and Linksview House (1964-7 – listed category A, LB52403). As of 2020, there are four multi-storey public housing buildings listed outside of Aberdeen.

Alongside the listed Brutalist blocks at Anniesland and Leith, the contemporary group of eight inner-city multi-storey blocks in Aberdeen is among a small number of Scotland's high-rise schemes which exemplify the advanced national and international interest in modern community planning combined with the latest architectural expression of the 'New Brutalism' style. Of these few surviving innovative schemes, there are fewer remaining which are not largely altered.

Also particular to Aberdeen and unique in Scotland is that these blocks were part of a comprehensive development plan which envisioned eight buildings from the beginning. It was not possible to build all eight multi-storeys at the same time and building work was staggered to meet capacity. This resulted in building taking place over a period of time from 1959 to 1977, however the buildings are part of the same scheme and are clearly associated with each other in their design and materials. Their importance as a group tells us much about social and city planning changes in post-war Scotland.

Social historical interest

The interest and widespread acceptance of modern multi-storey housing can be traced to Scotland's long tradition of tenement living. With the advent of 'right to buy' policies and the transfer of public housing stock to private ownership in the early 1980s, Aberdeen's inner-city multi-storeys form part of a historic movement in social housing in which Scotland's local authorities took a leading role.

Hutcheon Court and Greig Court and the group of contemporary inner-city multi-storeys represent a period of great social and economic regeneration in Scotland's cities in the post-war era and in particular tell us about changes taking place in town planning and housing. This state-sponsored town planning that was conceived in the immediate post-war years and peaked in the late 1960s, was the climax of concerted and unprecedented campaign to transform housing tenure in Scotland. Incredibly, by 1964, 79% of new housing built in Scotland was built by local authorities and was by a long way the highest proportionally in Europe with the average local authority owned housing ranging from 2-6% in this period (M Glendinning, 2003: p.122).

Association with people or events of national importance

There is no association with a person or event of national importance.

References

Bibliography

Canmore: http://canmore.org.uk/ CANMORE ID 300083 (Greig Court); CANMORE ID 300084 (Greig Court and Hutcheon Court); CANMORE ID 173287 (Hutcheon Court).

Archives

Aberdeen City Archives. Housing Committee records for Chapel Street/Skene Street Redevelopment (Gilcomstoun Land); Gallowgate (Seamount Court and Porthill Court); Castlehill Housing (Marischal Court and Virginia Court); Rose Street/Huntley Street (Thistle Court) – architects' drawings [H/CSK/15-16; C55; C61; C72 ACC 2804 F2/F3/F7; AR16; G27-28].

Printed Sources

Brogden, W. A. Aberdeen: An Illustrated Architectural Guide (Edinburgh: Royal Incorporation of Architects and Scottish Academic Press, 1986).

Dobson Chapman, W. and Riley, C. F. (1952). Granite City: A Plan for Aberdeen. London: B T Batsford Ltd.

Harwood, E. England's Post-war Listed Buildings. London: Batsford.

Harwood, E. (2016). Space Hope and Brutalism. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.

McDowell, D. Ed. (2009). Scotland: Building for the Future. Essays on the architecture of the post-war era. Edinburgh: Historic Scotland.

Glendinning, M. and Muthesius, S. (1994). Tower Block: Modern Public Housing in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. New Haven: Yale University Press. Pp. 240, 367.

Glendinning, M. Ed. (1997). Rebuilding Scotland: The Postwar Vision 1945-1975. East Linton: Tuckwell Press Ltd. Pp. 59, 158.

Glendinning, M. (2003) 'Tenements and Flats,' in Scotland's Life and Society: Scotland's Buildings, eds. G Stell, J Shaw and Susan Storrier. (East Linton: Tuckwell Press). Pp. 108-126.

Glendinning, M. (2010) 'Remaking the Future: the Multiple Faces of the Post-War Scottish Architecture,' in Scotland: Building for the Future Transactions, eds. Malcolm Cooper and Deborah Mays. (Edinburgh: Historic Scotland, 2010). Pp. 53, 59.

Glendinning, M. (2018). 'Central Aberdeen Slab Blocks' supporting text material for designation application to Historic Environment Scotland 08/08/2018.

Sharples, J., Walker, D. W., Woodworth, M. The Buildings of Scotland: Aberdeenshire: South and Aberdeen. (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2015). Pp. 89-90, 142 (Porthill Court and Seamount Court), 144 (Virginia Court and Marischal Court), 168 (Thistle Court and Gilcomstoun Land), 214 (Hutcheon Court and Greig Court).

Smith, R. (1989). The Granite City: A History of Aberdeen. Edinburgh: John Donald Publishers Ltd.

Online Sources

Keith, George McIntosh http://www.scottisharchitects.org.uk/architect_full.php?id=205983 [accessed 27/08/2019].

Tower Block UK Database: http://towerblock.org/ [accessed 23/08/2019].

Watson, Thomas Campbell

http://www.scottisharchitects.org.uk/architect_full.php?id=400253 [accessed 27/08/2019].

Additional information

Additional information courtesy of George McIntosh Keith, son of the city architect and who assisted his father during the design process in the early 1960s (interview held 11/02/2020).

About Listed Buildings

Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for designating sites and places at the national level. These designations are Scheduled monuments, Listed buildings, Inventory of gardens and designed landscapes and Inventory of historic battlefields.

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Images

Hutcheon Court (left) and Greig Court (right) west elevations, looking east, during daytime, with cloudy sky, tree and parked cars to foreground

Printed: 22/07/2024 03:54