As well as sharp geometric shapes and lines, 1930s architecture incorporated
curves into its design, referencing the ocean-going liners which were in
their heyday in the 1930s. and there are still plenty of buildings to admire
in Ipswich that were built in this style.
Travelling into the town centre from Norwich Road/St Matthew's Street the
'Penningtons' building sails into view at the junction of Crown Street and
Westgate Street. Officially called Crown Hall Chambers, it was built in 1930
with a row of shops on the ground floor and offices, or chambers, above. It
still retains its cement geometric parapet and its metal Crittall windows,
both of them an integral part of the design of many buildings of that period.
A short walk along Crown Street brings you to Commerce Chambers at the corner
of High Street. Although this was not built until the end of the decade. it
is similar in style to Crown Hall Chambers with the curved end wall and metal
windows. It also has a stepped parapet which is very typical of the period.
As the line of the building continues down High Street the curve is replaced
by a rectangular facade. with long rectangular windows and decorative
brickwork adding to the overall 'Modernist' design. (photo opposite)
At the junction of High Street and Westgate Street, the Moss building has a
curved vertical parapet which mirrors the parapet of Commerce Chambers at the
top of High Street. (photo opposite) The white exterior is echoed by the
neighbouring Marks & Spencer building and fortunately all retain their
metal-framed windows. The corner of the Marks & Spencer building is
geometric with a wrought- iron balcony and is complemented by the strong
geometric lines of the windows running along both sides of the building.
This is similar in design to the corner of Electric House which fronts on to
Crown Street. The ground floor side of the building shows clearly the
horizontal lines which were an essential part of Art Deco design.
It is worth noting that when a rear extension was built, enough care was
taken to replicate the horizontal lines on the new part of the building.
The theme of curved buildings continues at the corner of Upper Brook Street
and Tacket Street. It was built for George William Hales in 1934, as
commemorated by the plaque on the building. It has unusual gable-like
structures on the parapet but it still has some typical features that denote
the Art Deco style. The windows in the top of the building, which have been
replaced, would undoubtedly have been metal-framed, but the beautiful
coloured glass at the top of the shop windows is still intact on all but one
of the windows (photo opposite) as is the curved apron on the front of the
The curved frontage is not so easy to see on the Art Deco H&M building in
Tavern Street but when it was built in 1937 for British Home Stores, the
curve at the front was echoed by the horseshoe- shaped cafeteria inside the
store. However, if you gaze up you can see it retains its vertical element
and stylish inset windows with the sills built as part of the building.
These are just some of the many 1930s buildings that survive in the town and
should be cherished and celebrated, so the next time you are out and about.
don't forget to look up. You'll be surprised at what treasures you'll