Archive for February, 2012

23 Feb 2012

Little Chef – Markham Moor

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I didn’t think that I would ever have more than 2 words to say about Little Chefs (avoid them) but here was one worthy of note. It sits/sat adjacent to the A1 just south of Worksop, and boasts a remarkable roof. It is curvy and technically a hyperbolic paraboloid or hypar. It was designed by Sam Scorer, an architect who became renowned for these challenging structures. It was only with the advent of modern, versatile materials that these innovative shapes could be made. So Sam chucked this mad roof up in the 50’s, not as a fast food restaurant, but as a garage canopy. I could only find the one photo of it at this time and it has the typical tiny cars and tiny people of the period. The idea was simply to be striking, unusual, to bring in custom. A plan that continued to work until very recently.

I think that it was in 1975 that it was redeveloped into a surreal Chef. The original pillars of the roof were incorporated into the design of the building.

Even in it’s Cheffy guise it jumps out as unusual. As I passed it on the opposite carriageway I nearly drove into the central reservation craning round to take it in. The shape is crazy, it’s beautiful and probably rather mathematical. It’s extrovert and unique. A hell of a lot of trouble to go to for a roof. I love it. Why would  you rather have a shitty flat roof, Mr Chef?

My pics of the place at night were part of a series of the service stations between Worksop and London on a drive home one cold wet evening. I need to get a life, but it was just to break up the journey and inspired by seeing this place on the way North. Sorry the pics are smeary, but my lens was filthy and I had ahem.. forgotten my glasses. Lesson learnt. Then this week I was making the same journey and saw to my horror that the place was boarded up. Turned round and took some shots, went home and researched it. I wish now that I had initially taken some interior shots.

It’s sad and I can’t help being cynical at RCapital Partners LLP’s (whoever the f*ck they are) decision to shut this particular restaurant. OK, things are probably a bit shit for them financially, but they chose to dump a building that was likely to need some cash spent on it and could even potentially (nightmare for them) get listed, because it was actually interesting with some architectural worth. The Guardian once called it: “Britain’s only architecturally important Little Chef.”

I hope this building stays and doesn’t get flattened or just moulder away. It already had a close shave in 2004 when they created the flyover it sits near to. They were talking about demolition but there was a campaign to save it and it got a slip road instead of bulldozers, though it didn’t get listed status. Even if they don’t preserve the entire thing they might think about saving Sam’s roof.

Sam Scorer on Wikipedia