Mobil Canopies at BP Filling Station
Architecture Listed places Post-War Architecture

8 Out of This World Examples of Space Age Architecture

Design has always mirrored society, and both the Space Race and the Moon Landing had a huge impact on the era.

On 20 July 1969, the Apollo Lunar Module Eagle landed on the moon.

It was the first crewed craft to land in space. 6 hours later, tens of millions worldwide watched as Neil Armstrong became the first person to walk on the moon, followed by Buzz Aldrin less than 20 minutes later.

What is Space Age Architecture?

Design has always mirrored society, and the Space Race and the Moon Landing greatly impacted the era. They affected everything, from what we ate to how we cooked it, to what we drove and how we looked at life on our (now seemingly smaller) planet.

A new sense of optimism inspired designers. Science Fiction influenced them as the public embraced technology and Modernism.

Here are some of the best examples of space age architecture in England.

1. Canopy at Markham Moor, Nottinghamshire

Reminiscent of the Star Destroyer from the opening scene of ‘Star Wars: A New Hope’, the canopy at a former petrol station in Markham Moor, Nottinghamshire, was built in 1961 to designs by Hugh Segar Scorer.

A photograph of a petrol station with a large curved roof
The Grade II listed canopy at a former petrol station in Markham Moor, Nottinghamshire. © Historic England. DP110445.

Thin shell concrete roofs were invented in Germany in the 1920s, and their strength is rooted in their shape.

Originally built as a petrol station, the distinctive appearance of the canopy at Markham Moor gave it landmark status during the 1960s and 70s.

2. Forton Motorway Service, near Lancaster, M6

Another Star Wars ship next to a motorway, Forton Services, was designed by architects T P Bennett & Sons and completed in 1965.

A photograph of a large tower beside a motorway
The Grade II listed former Pennine Tower Restaurant at Forton Motorway Service Area (now known as Lancaster Service Area), between Junction 32 and 33 on the M6. © Historic England Archive. DP033620.

Post-war reconstruction and decentralisation in Great Britain in the 1950s increased the need for new fast freight and passenger links.

Motor and motor transport was favoured, and in the late 1950s and early 1960s development of an arterial network of motorways began.

Service stations were necessary for the rest and refuelling of vehicles and passengers, but their comprehensively planned facilities were also a direct expression of the perceived significance of motorways, identified by Harold Macmillan as a key symbol of Britain’s technological, cultural, and economic progress.

3. British Gas Research Station, Killingworth, Tyne and Wear

Designed in 1965, the British Gas Research Centre in Killingworth, Tyne and Wear, is one of the best known works of architects Ryder and Yates.

A photograph of the entrance to a large modern building
The Grade II* listed British Gas Research Centre in Killingworth, Tyne and Wear. © Historic England Archive. FF003555.

The Newcastle based practice was formed by Gordon Ryder and Peter Yates, who met whilst working for Berthold Lubetkin.

Both had also worked for Le Corbusier and Ove Arup and, with their practice, quickly established a reputation for innovative and modern architecture.

The research centre is a building of great purity of form and considerable architectural subtlety and could also double as a Bond villain’s hideout.

4. Trevelyan House, London

Is this a block of neat maisonettes or a rocket ready to launch?

A photograph of a large multi-storey tower block
The Grade II listed Trevelyan House in London. © Historic England Archive. DP180680.

Trevelyan House in Bethnal Green, London, was designed in 1952 (making it a little bit too old to be truly space-age) by architect Denys Lasdun, with Margaret Rodd as an assistant architect.

The site was listed, in part, for its important and early contribution to new ideas in urban housing but also its sculptural architectural form.

5. Space House, London

Designed by Richard Seifert and Partners in the 1960s, Space House in London garnered attention for the innovative use of a precast concrete grid.

A photograph of a large, circular, multi-storey tower with lots of windows
The Grade II listed Space House in London. © Historic England Archive. DP180201.

This is a form of partial prefabrication that allowed for rapid construction without scaffolding, as well as for striking visual effects.

Replacing an existing Edwardian building on the site, the building was constructed speculatively during a property boom.

6. BT Tower, London

Built between 1961 and 1965, the BT Tower in London was a national and international telephone communication centre by ultra high frequency (UHF) microwave transmission.

A photograph of a tall, thin tower
The Grade II listed BT Tower in London. © Historic England.

The site was chosen at the rear of the Museum Telephone Exchange because this exchange was already the focal point of the telecommunications system and the vision cables network for London, with a cable connection to Broadcasting House.

It also bears a striking resemblance to a lightsaber.  

7. Mobil forecourt canopies, Leicester

A re-branding of Mobil Oil Corporation in the US took place in the mid 1960s and the brief called for an instantly recognisable and aesthetically pleasing design.

A photograph of a petrol station with multiple circular canopies
The Grade II listed Mobil Canopies at the BP Filling Station in Leicester. © Historic England.

The project, Pegasus, was a total design concept encompassing shapes, colour schemes and logos and the first station opened in the US in 1966.

The service station in Leicestershire dates from the late 1960s and makes a striking extra-terrestrial impression on drivers.

8. Jodrell Bank Observatory, Cheshire

The Lovell Telescope at the Jodrell Bank Observatory in Cheshire, was first conceived by Sir Bernard Lovell in 1948 to build on the successes achieved at Jodrell Bank with the fixed transit telescope.

A photograph of a large fixed telescope  surrounded by grass
The Grade I listed Lovell Telescope at the Jodrell Bank Observatory in Cheshire. © Historic England.

The dish was a scientific tour-de-force: despite the enormous development of the field, it operated without major alterations for well over a decade, remaining competitive at short wavelengths and superior at those over half a metre.

It was involved in an enormous range of work, including the study of meteors, the moon and planets, the aurorae, the ionosphere, deep space radio sources, interferometry and the measurement of the size of distant radio sources, as well as the tracking and control of Russian and American early spacecraft, laying the foundations for the first manned moon landing on 20 July 1969.

Also protected is the Grade II Control Room at the observatory.

Further reading

9 comments on “8 Out of This World Examples of Space Age Architecture


    Very interesting to read, history in making


    Love to read information you put out for our History in making,

  3. Diana Phillips

    Most of the pictures don’t say where the building is. It would be nice to know.

    • Hi Diana, if you click on the titles you can see more about each site, including locations.

    • Davehughes

      The Leicester garage is on the A6 just north of the National Space Centre!!

  4. Edwina Bell

    I remember the “Flying Garage” at Markham Moor very well, we always looked out for it on journeys down the A1.


    Markham moor photo I see often as I live not far from it and travel A1 often

  6. Helen Edmondson

    I know some people from my home town, Burnley, would go to Forton Services restaurant for a day out when it was new! It was so ‘out of this world’ then. We drove past last week. It now looks a little forlorn.

  7. ian chapman

    You missed the Megatron….now sadly gone, but i remember going there…

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