Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Maida Vale, London

Old building, new use

I sometimes say in my posts that such and such a building ‘caught my eye’. There can be few more eye-catching buildings than this one, standing out in its whiteness between trees in leafy Maida Vale. It began life in 1912 as the Maida Vale Picture House and carried on as a cinema until 1949. Since then it has been a dance hall, a casino and bingo hall – and since 1998 a mosque, the Islamic Centre of England.

Relatively little work was needed to convert the building, and most of the changes are architecturally cosmetic – although of great importance to the building’s current users: specifically the addition of calligraphic panels and the covering-up of statues in what was the auditorium and is now the prayer hall. The work has been done with sensitivity and one can still appreciate the architecture of the original cinema – the two towers with their domes, the white frontage with its round windows with ornate surrounds.

It is good both that this important early cinema has been preserved and that it has found a new use – often a challenge when so many old buildings seem worth keeping but difficult to find a role for. It’s worth looking out for – even if just from the top of a bus.

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For some of the information in this post, I am indebted to the a new book from Historic England: Shahed Salem, The British Mosque. I plan to review this book later in the year.


Hels said...

The building has the white, geometric feel of very early Deco and the two towers with Islamic-looking domes. It would be interesting to know if the prayer hall managed this balancing act.

Jenny Woolf said...

I remember it as a bingo hall!

Philip Wilkinson said...

Jenny: I'd love to know when the various changes of use occurred. I imagine that during most of my years in London (1980–1997) it must have been a bingo hall, but I don't remember ever passing the building before I saw it recently.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Hels: The prayer hall conversion seems to have been done sensitively. The figurative art has been covered up with geometrical forms that sit quite well in the Deco interior.