St Albans’ glass landmark could be reclad in bricks

Ziggurat House

Ziggurat House - Credit: Archant

There are fears that an “iconic” multi-storey building near St Albans station will be turned into a “looming brick mausoleum”.

Objections have been lodged against a bid to reclad Ziggurat House, Grosvenor Road, replacing its distinctive ground-to-roof glazing with brick.

The office block is to be turned into 64 one and two bedroom flats, but the continuous glass cladding is not suitable for residential use as a basic necessity is an openable window.

St Albans district council is currently considering a scheme from DLA Town Planning to completely alter the exterior of Ziggurat House.

The eight-storey-high building, originally constructed in the 1960s as part of the Cadbury Schweppes industrial site, is clad with reflective glass.

The proposed recladding with brick has annoyed St Albans Civic Society and Les O’Leary, chairman of Ridgmont Road Residents Association.

Les said: “The race to yuppie flats and dormitory St Albans continues.

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“If it goes ahead, it will result in the loss of a much-loved, by some people, iconic building that should provide sustainable employment.

“It is iconic and right on the railway line. All the other office blocks at the back of Ridgmont Road are changing to residential – Ridgmont Plaza and Beaufort House; that’s over 100 flats that were once offices.”

Les added: “Ziggurat House is gorgeous. It reflects clouds and the sky, and it is visible from various parts of St Albans.

“Do we lose the reflected sky, the changing patterns of light? Must we have a great looming brick mausoleum?”

St Albans Civic Society has also objected to the proposed recladding, describing the building as a “distinctive landmark building in the conservation area”.

The society said: “At times the building can seem to disappear, and on a sunny day it can look resplendent and iconic.

“By contrast the proposed cladding does nothing to disguise the towering elevations. The repetitive expanse of brickwork gives a heavy appearance. The result is a bland and anonymous high-rise block.”

In a report to the council, a planning officer said that while Ziggurat is an important building in St Albans’ townscape, “sadly not because of any great architectural quality”.

In the 1990s, the original brick building was reclad with a reflective rain screen cladding.

The officer said the scheme was the “inevitable result” of recent changes to planning rules, introducing permitted change of use from office to residential use.

The cladding needs to be changed so future residents can open windows.