Adam goes high-rise in Reading

Traditional architect Robert Adam is set to build three Neoclassical skyscrapers in the home-counties town

Neoclassical triplets - Robert Adam sails into Reading
Neoclassical triplets - Robert Adam sails into Reading

Ever since the 1980s, when he sketched some speculative Neoclassical towers for Spaghetti  Junction as part of a television programme, Robert Adam has yearned for the chance to apply his traditional architectural approach to high-rise in reality.

Now he has the opportunity, thanks to a real-life project for three residential towers in Reading.

The commission comes via his frequent developer partner Lochailort, with whom he built the village extension of Norton St Philip in Somerset. The Reading site, previously a BMW car dealership near the town’s Grimshaw-enhanced railway station, could not be more different. 

It’s not just the cladding that distinguishes this development from most contemporary towers; the plan of the buildings – broadly a double ogee- is defiantly unmodernist. Adam says that the division of the accommodation into three towers of differing heights, rising from a shared podium, is to do with maximising daylight into the apartments. The podium also contains the services for the towers, meaning that the top level – conventionally used for water tanks and lift motor rooms – is given over to penthouses, complete with roof gardens. Each penthouse adopts a different shape, and the towers step down from 26 to 24 to 22 storeys. 

It's not as if this existing part of Reading is architecturally magnificent
It's not as if this existing part of Reading is architecturally magnificent

Adam argues that – unless you count Holden’s Senate House in London – Britain never built the equivalent of America’s early Neoclassical skyscrapers, and in any case even those did not fully espouse the idea of the entire building as a single column, as Adolf Loos famously did in his Chicago Tribune competition entry. The Reading towers, he contends, are the first of their kind here. He rejects the charge that they can be seen as Postmodern rather than Neoclassical. 'Postmodernism spoiled things for the traditionalist lobby,' he remarks. 'This is serious.'

Ninth floor of middle tower
Ninth floor of middle tower

Whatever your views on the style – we’d love to hear them – here you will have, if planning approval is given, 315 apartments, three minutes from Reading Station.  I can’t see these hanging around on the market too long.