Maida Vale, made famous by the BBC studios in the area that shares the same name, is a beautiful and highly desirable part of London, characterised by cream coloured stucco architecture and large-scale mansion blocks. While many visit the area to walk along the canal in Little Venice, Maida Vale is full of architectural hidden gems, if you know where to look.
A largely residential area, Maida Vale is situated on the outskirts of central London next to Paddington and St. John’s Wood. It has a variety of residences of a huge urban scale, with many wrapping around private parks. Indeed, houses on Formosa Gardens, Crescent Gardens, and Triangle Gardens all have their own private parks, which you can see if you take a look at an aerial view on Google Earth. No doubt, this is wonderful for residents of these properties and differs greatly from the Georgian squares you see in other parts of the city, where the shared gardens in front of the houses are visible to the public.
Large boulevards and mansion blocks are also common sights in this affluent part of West London. This gives the area a slightly Parisian feel. Indeed, the aforementioned Formosa Street is reminiscent of the famous Marais district in the French capital.
Many of the residences in Maida Vale were designed as part of large urban projects, meaning that there is a uniform look to many of the homes you’re likely to see in the area. Cream coloured stucco exteriors are a staple here, and you’ll notice many of them on any visit. However, as previously mentioned, there is variety to be found if you know what you’re looking for. Here is my guide to Maida Vale:
Any trip to Maida Vale is incomplete without a visit to Little Venice. The interconnection of various canals, flanked by the area’s ubiquitous cream coloured houses makes for a wonderful sight. The best views of the canals are to be found from Blomfield Road or Maida Avenue. Heading south from Regent’s Canal you’ll find the less polished, grittier Edgware Road, which adds an exotic counterpoint to the more uniform architecture north of the Regents Canal.
BBC Maida Vale Studios
A building that made Maida Vale a globally recognised name among music fans. Hundreds of artists recorded live sessions here that were played out on the radio by BBC Radio 1 DJ John Peel between 1967 and 2004.
Architecturally, the building itself is also oddly banal: an extremely large corrugated metal roof, fronted by a long wall of decorative stuccowork – perhaps an archetypal example of the ‘decorated shed’ – a concept created by the architects (and parents of post-modernism) Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown in the early 1970s.
Music lovers might also have heard of Warwick Avenue, which was named in the Duffy song of the same name. The street offers views over the canals of Little Venice, and the tube station of the same name is the easiest way to travel to the area.
St Saviour’s Church – Warwick Avenue
Located next to Warwick Avenue tube station is the slightly bizarre creation of St Saviour’s Church. Unlike other buildings in the area, it is made almost entirely of modern red brick, save for the tall spire which is made from fibreglass!
The building also contains a block of flats, an unusual detail which results from the redevelopment of the site in the 1970s. Built in place of a very large Victorian Gothic church that was felt to be too large for the congregation, the original church was demolished to make way for the modern building. Make sure to walk around the side of the building where you’ll notice that the block of flats at the rear is overgrown with climbing plants.
Giotto House – 25 Blomfield Road
Situated a stone’s throw from Regent’s Canal, Giotto House is a fine example of the cream stucco exteriors that typify Maida Vale architecture. The entrance on Randolph Road is a richly detailed classical composition which frames a bust of the Italian master. The house is currently up for sale, so if you’re looking to own a slice of Little Venice, now is your chance.
The Warrington Hotel
Another fine classical composition in stucco, this grand 1850s pub and hotel’s exterior features a large scallop shell above an entrance porch of highly decorated faience. Inside the Art Noveau bar is magnificent and makes you feel like you’ve gone back in time by over a hundred years.
The oldest garden centre in London, Clifton Nurseries is nestled among cream coloured houses. Once inside, it opens out into a huge glasshouse that is a must-visit for the green-fingered, architecture and coffee enthusiasts alike.
63 – 79 Hamilton Terrace
Veering a little towards St. John’s Wood these vividly stripy red and white houses along Hamilton Terrace are well worth the trip for the architectural spectacle. Differing from the classical local idiom, these are houses are distinctly late 19C in style. They are recognised as Unlisted Buildings of Merit by Westminster Council.
Heading south from Maida Vale towards the centre of London one encounters the brand new Lyons Place development, a large-scale high-end housing block. Designed by another father of (London) Post-Modernism, Terry Farrell, the man who put the eggcups on the TVAM building back in the 1980s. Farrell is still creating arresting pop moments and here the gleefully surreal design incorporates huge petrol pumps into the front façade.
Further down Edgware Road and left onto Bell Street is a much more subtle intervention. Much feted by the architectural community, this Modernist gallery from the early 1990s by the architect Tony Fretton features a highly abstracted and carefully composed façade, concealing a surprising spatial complexity within.
St Mary on Paddington Green church
Back across Edgware Road from the Lisson Gallery, the little enclave which includes St Mary’s church and Westminster City College next to the Westway flyover is a rich, perhaps filmic, urban juxtaposition.
St. Mary’s church is a traditional 18th Century Anglican church which was altered in the 19th Century but restored to its former glory around 50 years ago.
Westminster City College
Across from the church is Westminster City College. In the context of the traditional cream stucco architecture of Maida Vale, this building is a breath of fresh air. This dramatic building shaped like a parallelogram juts out with the upper floors towering over the foyer below, the central atrium is even more spectacular. This is contemporary Architecture with a capital ‘A’ designed by Danish practice Schmidt Hammer Lassen in 2010.
Dominic McKenzie Architects is an award-winning London-based architecture practice. Our designs are contemporary and concept-led, but are always sensitive to the architectural context in which they are constructed. Contact us here.