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Bank of England Printing Works
Langston Road, Loughton, Essex, UK
associated engineer
Ove Arup & Partners
Ronald Jenkins
Ronald William Hobbs
date  1951 - October 1956
era  Modern  |  category  Factory/Industrial Plant  |  reference  TQ446965
Although engineer Ove Arup had limited involvement with this important concrete building, it embodies the vision for bi-disciplinary co-operation between architect and engineer that prompted him to establish Ove Arup &Partners in 1946. The technologically advanced design was left to Arup’s trusted structures analyst Ronald Jenkins and principally Ronald William ‘Bob’ Hobbs to complete.
The factory's architects, Easton & Robertson, were Modernists that Arup had courted during his time associated with the MARS group of Modern Movement architects. Howard (Morley) Robertson (1888-1963) studied at the Architectural Association (AA) School of Architecture in London, and was its director in 1920-1935, which was the period in which Arup had joined the Association.
(John) Murray Easton (1889-1975) was responsible for the practice’s early design work, including the Royal Horticultural Society New Hall in London (1925). With its parabolic arched concrete portal frames, tiered clerestory glazing and stepped slab roof, it is a clear precedent for the Bank of England Printing Works. Another partner in Easton & Robertson, Ralph Maynard-Smith (1904-1964), transformed Robertson’s tentative shapes into a buildable building, and is credited with providing the architectural co-operation upon which engineers Jenkins and Hobbs thrived. Maynard-Smith was also a graduate of the AA, and later in life became an artist.
The centrepiece of the printing works is the vast printing hall, 240m long with a clear span of 37.5m. It is roofed with a series of six parallel concrete shells, springing from the large transverse arched portal frames. The shells are relatively unexceptional, only spanning in one direction. Between the shells, running the length of the hall, is a series of north-west facing clerestory roof lights that provide high levels of daylight for the printing activities below. Similarities can be seen with Owen Williams’s BOAC Maintenance HQ building, where concrete structure and glass were combined to provide similarly efficient day lighting.
Secondary areas of the building have smaller scale but similar concrete shell and glass roof structures. There is a band of two storey offices and administrative areas in a late Modern Movement style along the north-west length of the building.
Bob Hobbs is credited with having led the Ove Arup & Partners' team in the structural design of the printing works. On this project, he became the first engineer in the UK to use a combination of large post-tensioned precast concrete elements. Post-tensioning was used by Ove Arup & Partners at Smithfield Poultry Market, but used there prior to in-situ casting of the edge beams.
Architects: Easton & Robertson, including Ralph Maynard-Smith
Main contractor: Sir Robert McAlpine & Sons Ltd
Research: ND
"Cylindrical Shed Construction" by Rafael Garcia, Maria Teresa Valcarce
School of Architecture, Polytechnic University of Madrid
Proceedings of the Third International Congress on Construction History
Cottbus 2009
"The Concise Grove Dictionary of Art", Oxford University Press, 2002

Bank of England Printing Works