Camden Sainsbury's becomes first listed supermarket

Nicholas Grimshaw's Camden Sainsbury's store in London has become the first purpose-built supermarket in the UK to be listed.

Following the advice of Historic England, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has listed the building, which is part of the High-Tech Grand Union Complex on Camden Road, at Grade II.

The development's terrace of housing facing Regent's Canal has also received the same listing.

However, a third part of the scheme, comprising Grand Union House, a workshop building on Kentish Town Road, and a small detached building which was formerly a creche was deemed not to meet the criteria for listing.

The Twentieth Century Society submitted an application for Grimshaw's £14 million scheme to be listed in February this year after developer Sellar revealed plans to partly demolish Grand Union House to create a new office building with a roof terrace.

The design by Andrew Phillips also proposed demolishing the creche in favour of a four-storey block of affordable housing with retail units on the ground floor.

While pleased that the supermarket and housing has been listed, Twentieth Century Society director Catherine Croft said the listing report 'completely misses the point that it was a pioneering mixed development'.

She said: "Grand Union House is deliberately the least architecturally expressive because that suits its function, but it's definitely an integral part of the whole development and it's extremely foolish not to recognise that."

Andrew Phillips, a former design director at David Chipperfield Architects, said: "There was never much doubt that Grimshaw's supermarket and canal housing should be listed. Historic England and DCMS have concurred with our own view that, ultimately, the building in Kentish Town Road is not quite in the same league.

"This decision means that a seriously anti-social area of public realm so close to the heart of Camden Town's centre can now be addressed."

Sainsbury's set up a design advisory committee in 1985 to commission designers to work on some of its supermarkets. Built 1986-1988, the Grand Union Complex was the first piece of urban design undertaken by Nicholas Grimshaw & Partners and its listed parts are considered to be excellent examples of High-Tech architecture, which borrows from the worlds of engineering and construction.

The supermarket's visibile steel frame is clad in glass and aluminium panels, while the industrial feel of the 10 houses and two flats of Grand Union Walk reflects the neighbouring working canal.

Duncan Wilson, Historic England's chief executive, said: "The Camden Road Sainsbury's is an outstanding example of High-Tech architecure in a busy urban setting. It is an unapologetically futuristic building which also sits comfortably alongside its historic neighbours – matching the scale of the 19th century terrace opposite – and rightly deserves to be recognised for its architectural significance."

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