Fry and Drew: Online Resources

Graham Bligh on Pilkington Brothers’ Headquarters

Following on from the last post on Fry and Drew’s staff, here’s an excerpt from a recent interview with the Australian architect Graham Bligh, an employee at Fry, Drew & Partners around the same time as Duncan Horne.

Bligh describes his time working on the headquarters for the glassmakers Pilkington Brothers at St. Helens, Lancashire, designed and built from 1955 to 1965. Designed by Maxwell Fry, the project was run by Staff Architect, Peter Bond. As Bligh recalls:

‘I became entirely focused on the canteen building which is next to the lake … I particularly remember doing a detail of the building wall … coming up to the lake with the waterproofing going down … I had a detail which worked but it wasn’t aesthetically suitable, you know, things didn’t really line up and Peter chews my ear about that. But I said, “But Peter, it’s all under the water!” He says, “I don’t care where it is!” … It’s the integrity of the quality of dimensioning and the detail.’

13.1.14 PB Canteen

South façade of the Canteen, Pilkington Brothers’ Headquarters, St. Helens, c. 1965. © Pilkington Brothers

John Macarthur, Robert Riddel and Janina Gosseye interviewed Bligh in connection with the Architectural Practice in Postwar Queensland (1945-75) oral histories project. Visit the project’s website for further interviews with Graham Bligh and other Queensland-based architects.

  1. Fantastic quote which really encapsulates the architect’s drive for detail – I just wrote a piece on Sean Godsell’s recently completed Design Hub for RMIT University in Melbourne – the attention to detail on this building is also quite remarkable. As in the photo you have here you can see the line and the form being absolutely spot on – great execution.

    • Thanks for your interest, Chas. The Pilkington Brothers’ Headquarters really is a great building, although a bit worse for wear at the moment. More posts to follow on it soon… Hope you enjoy!

      • Thanks Jessica – I’ll certainly keep following. I hope there is a plan to restore the building – I feel we are rapidly losing a lot of ‘more recent’ architecture.

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