Central Milton Keynes Shopping Centre
The arc joining Midsummer Place to the Centre:MK
|Location||Milton Keynes, United Kingdom|
|Opening date||25 September 1979|
|Owner||Prudential, Hermes (thecentre:mk)
Intu Properties (Midsummer Place)
|No. of stores and services||over 220 (thecentre:mk)
over 50 (Midsummer Place)
|No. of anchor tenants||4|
|Total retail floor area||1,790,000 ft² (166,000 m²)|
|Parking||over 17,000 spaces nearby|
|No. of floors||1|
Central Milton Keynes Shopping Centre is a regional shopping centre located in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, England which is about 50 miles (80 km) north-west of London. It comprises two adjacent shopping centres, the grade II listed building thecentre:mk which opened in 1979, and Midsummer Place opened in 2000. The Centre:MK is anchored by John Lewis, House of Fraser and Marks and Spencer, with Debenhams at Midsummer Place.
The Milton Keynes Development Corporation began work on the Shopping Building in 1973. It was to be the largest building of Central Milton Keynes and built at the highest point in the "New City". The architects were Derek Walker, Stuart Mosscrop, and Christopher Woodward, who had all been significant architects at the MK Development Corporation; and the engineers were Felix Samuely and Partners. The shopping area was opened on 25 September 1979 by Margaret Thatcher. The building's sleek envelope accommodated 130 shops and six department stores, arranged along two parallel daylit arcades, planted with sub-tropical and temperate trees.
The cool, elegant, steel framed design was influenced by the architecture of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and envisaged glazed shopping streets or arcades on the grand scale of the Galleria in Milan. Derek Walker also likened it to the Crystal Palace. It was described in 1993 as "still the best-looking if no longer the biggest shopping centre in the British Isles". It is unusual for second generation shopping centres in Europe for the amount of daylight allowed into the public areas, for the rigorous control of retail facias along the arcades themselves, for its public art, the unusually high level of accessibility for visitors with limited mobility (and other users laden with children and shopping), the lavish extent of the public spaces and their interior planting (reduced since the buildings was completed) and for the cool mirrored exterior.
Milton Keynes Shopping Building was designed with the public access to all the shops is flush and at ground level. Some of the shops then have two or three floors inside. A service road for deliveries runs above the shops, so that large lorries may service the shops at roof level, removing the peripheral service roads and loading bays at ground level that mar so many large shopping centres. This means all deliveries take place out of view of the shoppers, though lorries can sometimes be seen from the arcades as they pass at high level.
The internal landscaping, designed by Roger Griffiths and Tony Couthard, was very lavish with 47 plant beds with large plants and trees; temperate in the northerly arcade and semi-tropical in the southerly one. The planters were finished in the same travertine as the floor, but approximately one third of these have been removed since the building was opened, with consequent loss of both planting and seating for shoppers, to accommodate market barrows and stalls.
There are two large public areas, intended as civic open spaces, one indoors and one open air. The open-air garden square (Queen's Court) is just west of centre and has been redesigned away from its original concept as a relaxation space for visitor' The indoor space (Middleton Hall) is 1,800-square-metre exhibition space near the east end. During 2010, Middleton Hall was used as a temporary home venue for the Milton Keynes Lions basketball team, housing a 1,200-seat arena.
In a central space outside the building (but contained by it on three sides) is an open-air market, much of it under Secklow Gate (a flyover that gives first-floor service access to the shops' loading bays, as well as a useful North-South route).
In 1993, the building was extended at the western end, over much of what had been City Square to the even greater length of 720 metres. In architectural style this extension is similar to the original, though the join can be detected internally by the low ceilings and dark corrdors in the extension, quite unlike the handsome arcades of the original phase. Following extension this was documented in the 1997 Guinness Book of Records to contain the longest shopping mall in the world.
Midsummer Place is effectively a southwards extension of the centre but is owned and operated independently. It was a planning requirement that it did not physically attach to the original building. Midsummer Place was designed by GMW Architects of London and opened in 2000. Part of Midsummer Boulevard had to be closed to traffic allow this to be built.
A kinetic sculpture (Circle of Light, 1980) by Liliane Lijn hangs from the ceiling of Midsummer Arcade. The mechanism has not operated for many years. It was originally floodlit at night and is on the axis of the midsummer sun on which Midsummer Boulevard is accurately orientated.
Silbury Arcade contains three bronze figures (Dream Flight, Flying Carpet and High Flyer, 1989) by Philomena Davidson Davis, former president of the Royal British Society of Sculptors. Nearby, in Deer Walk, a mosaic pavement (c. AD 320) from Bancroft Roman Villa is on display. These works were previously sited in Queen's Court.
Before being redeveloped, Queen's Court also contained:
- a sundial and associated bollards (Bollards, 1979) by Tim Minett 
Oak Court contains:
- a stainless steel sculpture (Acorns and Leaves, 2000) by Tim Ward 
- the Concrete Cows (1978) by Liz Leyh
The Midsummer Place building contains:
- a bronze seat (Sitting on History, 1996) by Bill Woodrow
- a stained-glass window (2000) by Anne Smyth
- an animated clock with a frog that blows bubbles (2000), conceived by Kit Williams, and similar to the clock at Telford Shopping Centre.
In 1981, the building and its surrounding vicinity were used for the filming of the music video Wired for Sound by Cliff Richard. Filming took place at the eastern end of Midsummer Arcade (the distinctive tiling outside the John Lewis department being clearly visible), outside Norfolk House and in nearby underpasses. The building was also used as a location for still photography on the first self-titled album by Duran Duran.
Grade II listing for original building
In November 2008, English Heritage (the Government's advisor on historic buildings) recommended to the Culture Minister that the original building be designated a "II*" listed building which, the owners say, would curtail severely their ability to alter it if awarded. The Twentieth Century Society responded that this belief is unfounded.
It won a number of prizes when constructed and remains a valued element of Milton Keynes.
In July 2010, the Heritage Minister, John Penrose, advised the owners that he had decided that the building merited a Grade II listing, to applause from the 20th Century Society and other conservationists.
The Milton Keynes Partnership and the centre owners aim to expand thecentre:mk. In the original plan (suspended since mid 2007), Phase 1 of the redevelopment programme would include a new department store on the south side (for which the outdoor market would be moved southwards and Secklow Gate flyover would be closed), the colonnade on the west of Middleton Hall would be removed by expanding the shops into it, Crown Walk would be opened to allow pedestrian access through the centre after the shops close (shortening evening journeys on foot considerably), a restaurant quarter would open in a re-landscaped Queens Court, and an "enhanced" entrance would be created on the north side. Phase 2 may include expansion at the eastern end. However, these plans were put on hold by the centre owners and only the work in Queens Court went ahead.
The plans are controversial because they would mean the loss of the minimalist appearance of the building, the clarity of the layout and public spaces in the building. The closure of Secklow Gate was even proposed, remioving the rooftop loading facility that is such an important feature of the building. Additionally, objectors say that the plans to erect dwellings in the central area run the risk of hampering movement around and in and out of the centre as well as spoiling views of the shopping building.
Independently of the Centre management plans, Milton Keynes Council transport strategy calls for Midsummer Boulevard to be re-opened through the Midsummer Place to thecentre:mk to facilitate a "public transport spine" bus route along the Boulevard, from the station to Campbell Park.
- thecentre:mk, Facts and Figures, combined gross leasable area of thecentre:mk and Midsummer Place.
- RIBA Journal, May 1979.
- N. Pevsner and E. Williamson, Buckinghamshire, 2nd edition, Penguin Books (Buildings of England), 1994, ISBN 0-14-071062-0, page 494.
- A lost vision of modernism – Owen Hatherley writing in The Guardian, 16 July 2010
- Milton Keynes City Centre Management, thecentre:mk – Queens Court Redevelopment
- thecentre:mk, Events.
- The Guinness Book of Records 1997, Guinness Publishing, 1996, ISBN 0-85112-693-6, page 165.
- Milton Keynes Council, Arts Guide, The City Centre Artwalk numbers A6 and A24 to A32.
- L. Lijn, "Body and soul: interactions between the material and the immaterial in sculpture", Leonardo, 31(1), 5–12, 1998.
- stuad70, Circle of Light.
- Heritage Tile Conservation Ltd, Bancroft Villa fourth-century Roman pavement.
- thecentre:mk, Action Plan Ensure Art Stays in Central Milton Keynes.
- MK News, Concrete cows go on shopping trip.
- Midsummer Place, Art at Midsummer Place.
- Cass Sculpture Foundation, Bill Woodrow – Sitting on History I.
- Milton Keynes centre may become architectural 'treasure'. The Telegraph (The article is otherwise incorrect: the building is not 'surrounded by concrete flyovers' – there is one flyover that crosses the building at first floor level, where it connects with an internal service road.)
- Letter to the Editor of the Daily Telegraph The 20th Century Society
- Milton Keynes shopping centre becomes Grade II listed – The Guardian, 16 July 2010
- thecentre:mk, thecentre:mk of the future, accessed 29 May 2007.
- thecentre:mk, thecentre:mk of the future, accessed 15 December 2007.
- BBC News, Milton Keynes plans put on hold.
- Milton Keynes Council, Report on Planning Application 07/00577/REM (PDF). See section "CONSULTATIONS AND REPRESENTATIONS".
- Milton Keynes Council, Provisional Local Transport Plan 2006–07 to 2010–11: Appendix A: Bus Strategy: Public Transport Long Term Vision (PDF).
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