The Hyperbolic Paraboloid Petrol Station Canopy - a remnant of 1960s architectural fun


The Hyperbolic Paraboloid Petrol Station Canopy - a remnant of 1960s architectural fun

At Markham Moor, Nottinghamshire, stands a rare early example of a concrete hyperbolic-paraboloid structure - the canopy to a former petrol station. This particular style of saddle-shaped roof enjoyed a brief period in fashion, both because of its inherent strength and its intrinsic beauty, in the 1960s, but few early examples remain.

The building was constructed between 1960 and 1961 based on designs by Lincoln architect Sam Scorer, who is seen as one of the pioneers of this type of structure. Dr. K. Hajnal-Kónyi, who often collaborated with Scorer on thin concrete shell roofs, was its structural engineer.

As a student, Scorer became intrigued by the possibilities of designing a thin concrete shell roof. This led him to design a hyperbolic-paraboloid shell roof as early as 1956 for a water tower in Ilkeston, Derbyshire. Steel rationing in post-war Britain was one reason for the popularity of opting for a thin concrete shell design. Though it wasn’t his first, the roof of the old gas station in Markham Moor is his earliest large-scale roof in this format.

The unusually shaped roof originally served as a canopy to a petrol station, which quickly became a popular place to fill up on journeys along the A1, Britain’s longest numbered road (it’s a Roman road also called the Great North Road, which runs between London and Edinburgh). It provided a striking appearance in comparison to the general run of British 1960s gas stations. Many people would fill up there just to be able to say they had done so.

In the late 1980s, it stopped being used as a petrol station and was converted to a restaurant. It was owned by a number of restaurant chains during its life, but following the redevelopment of the A1/A57 interchange at Markham, which offered newer facilities, the site became redundant.

The iconic building was then slated for demolition in 2003. But fortunately, those plans were stopped and the shell canopy was designated a Grade II listed building in March 2012.

In late 2019, the building beneath the Hyperbolic Paraboloid Canopy became a Starbucks.

Further reading

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