53-55 Vastern Road, Reading

Heritage

Whilst there is little historic imagery of the Vastern Road site and its buildings, the SSE archives provides an insight into the building types that have been adopted over the years.  The photographs below provide an overview of the building styles and architecture that have influenced our latest proposals.

Site Development Timeline:

  • 1894 Frederick W Albury won the tender to design buildings for the Reading Electric Supply Co. Ltd. 
  • 1898 Buildings first appeared on a map with a small building close to Vastern Road and the main works building adjacent to the Thames (for ease of coal delivery).
  • 1900 Reading Electric Supply Co. Ltd.
  • 1912 Reading Electric Supply Co. Ltd (E Rowley Hill engineer and manager) & Reading Roller Skating Rink (on Vastern Road).
  • 1920 Reading Electric Supply Co. Ltd & Collier & Catley (building & timber yard) & Allen & Simmonds Co. Ltd (foundry & motor sales depot).
  • 1930 Reading Electric Supply Co. Ltd (Walter Barnes FCIS).
  • 1940 Reading Corporation Electricity Dept. (J.W. Arthur engineer & manager).  John Edwards listed at 55 Vastern Road (possible first reference to locally listed building as accommodation).
  • 1950 British Electricity Authority (Southern division) generating station.
  • 1960 Central Electricity Generating Board & Southern Electricity Board.
  • 1970 Central Electricity Generating Board & Southern Electricity Board. Demolition of the chimney and river fronting warehouse buildings.

Site Development Timeline

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Architectural Detail

When considering the design for the Vastern Road site, it has been necessary to understand the history of the site and how it has evolved over time.  The project team has worked with a heritage consultant to document the history of the site. The time-line above demonstrates the evolution of the electricity works over time, leading to the development of the office and substation complex currently occupying the site.

Aerial view of site looking south and brick detailing of turbine hall and furnace chimney

Aerial view of site looking south and brick detailing of turbine hall and furnace chimney


We have explored similar industrial buildings to inform the proposed design.

Power Station Precedents

The images to the right are of power stations built in the same era as Vastern Road and demonstrate similar forms, brick details and materiality. Following analysis of historic photographs of Vastern Road and other power stations constructed around the same period, the key features which have informed our design are:

  • Brick as an envelope material
  • Distinctive warehouse roof forms
  • Chimney
  • Arched windows

Power Station Precedents

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Wharfside Precedents

Wharfside buildings are immediately recognisable in terms of design, which was driven almost entirely by function rather than aesthetics. Common elements and materials of this style of built form include the following:

  • Multiple building storeys to maximise storage capacity on the river frontage
  • A repeated set of bays, dividing what are often very long buildings
  • Repeated punched window openings providing a level of natural light to spaces behind.
  • A central major opening formed from full tiers of goods doors with loading doors / platforms
  • Roof forms generally pitched as the technology / materials for flat roofs was not available
  • Envelope material generally facing brick
  • Engineering bricks used around all openings, including the arched lintels, to provide a robust finish at exposed edges
  • Brick arched window heads were the most efficient way to support an opening
  • Super graphics applied, often to the roof parapet to advertise the company and its products.

Wharfside Precedents

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