Shopping precinct and Cooper House

The shopping precinct in Whitecross Street we all know as Waitrose or Cherry Tree Walk is in fact named ‘London City Shopping’ – a name so boring that surely no one would ever use it.

London City Shopping mainly contains Waitrose. (Before Waitrose the supermarket was a Somerfield store.) There are also 10 smaller retail units on either side of the partially covered ‘mall’ named Cherry Tree Walk (a name which vies with ‘London City Shopping’ for worst name ever, but in the ‘least appropriate name imaginable’ category).

The shops in the complex which line Whitecross Street are unusual in having entrances on both sides: one facing Cherry Tree Walk and the other facing onto Whitecross Street. This arrangement may be typical of the area, since the shops along Goswell Road under the Golden Lane Estate also face two ways.

A refurbishment took place in recent years to extend the Cherry Tree Walk frontages of the shops further into the paved area. The existing shop units were extended forward from their recessed shop line. It has made the shopfronts look a lot more modern and attractive.

The covered courtyard outside Waitrose – which is called an ‘undercroft’ in architectural idiom – ought to be ideal for a little farmers’ market. But it has 13 stalls built in brick into the ground, and they look more like anti-tank barriers than stalls. They even have stupid little roofs (particularly stupid because no rain could ever fall on them because they are built underneath the flat development above).

The impractical stalls. Architects telling market traders what they want.

Typical of schemes where architects tell people how they are meant to operate, these stalls are unsuitable and barely utilised. Really, these brick-built structures should be removed, leaving a large flexible open space, under cover, which would be ideal for a proper local market.

Cooper House sits on top of the commercial shopping precinct. It is a block of Council flats. I don’t have any details about its construction, but judging from its design, it was probably constructed in the late 1980s.

View of Cooper House from further north along Whitecross Street

One educated guess is that the architect was Fitzroy Robinson of Fitzroy Robinson & Partners, who is known to have designed similar schemes. The style was invented by a firm of architects called Renton Howard Wood Levine who did many mixed shopping and residential developments for Islington in the style. The style was intended to replicate an Italian hillside village. It was a reaction against the Modern Movement with its tower blocks and slabs. The point was to break largescale concepts down to a more human and liveable scale.