Hoover Building

The Guide (logo and link)

Fancy supermarket

The Hoover Building, Western Avenue, Perivale

Hoover Building main door
The Hoover Build­ing’s front door

The Guide wouldn’t as a rule feature a super­market, even one belonging to a business that began on a market stall in South Hackney, set up by Whitechapel-born Jack Cohen in 1919. But this partic­ular branch of Tesco’s occupies a former factory that’s one of London’s finest art deco landmarks.

Modern ware­houses and manu­fac­turing plants tend to be shed-like blots on the landscape but the interwar years were a golden age for indus­trial archi­tec­ture. In partic­ular, American corpo­ra­tions spared no cost in setting up European bases that would serve as showcases for their products. In the 1920s and 30s pres­ti­gious factories lined newly-built arterial highways like the Great West Road (primarily along its so-called Golden Mile, in Brentford) and the Eastern and Western Avenues. Some of these striking struc­tures fell victim to the Luftwaffe’s bombs, others to rapacious postwar devel­opers, but a few survive, almost all now turned to other uses.

In 1931 Ohio-based vacuum cleaner makers the Hoover Company commis­sioned Wallis, Gilbert and Partners to create a factory on the Western Avenue in Perivale. The London-based archi­tec­tural part­ner­ship – initially Wallis, Gilbert & Partner, singular – had been founded in 1916, primarily for the purpose of collab­o­rating with an American company that specialised in providing the rein­force­ment tech­nology and materials for large concrete factories.

The part­ner­ship was commis­sioned to work on several monu­mental projects, including Victoria coach station and factories for Wrigley’s chewing gum in Wembley, the Gramo­phone Company in Hayes, and Firestone tyres, Pyrene fire extin­guishers and Coty cosmetics, all on the Great West Road. Inci­den­tally, there’s no evidence that there ever was a Gilbert at Wallis, Gilbert and Partners, nor that there was orig­i­nally any other partner. Gilbert and his anonymous colleague may have been invented by the genuine founder, Thomas Wallis, simply to make his practice sound bigger than it was.

Modern archi­tec­tural commen­ta­tors generally treat the Hoover factory as an art deco design, but Thomas Wallis called his style ‘Fancy’. The building’s orna­men­ta­tion is said to have been inspired by the art of Central and North American Indians, though there are Egyptian touches too.

Hoover Building west wingThe Hoover factory opened in 1933 and work on various exten­sions (upwards as well as outwards) and outbuild­ings continued almost until the outbreak of the Second World War. It was this piecemeal process that’s to blame for the most legit­i­mate criticism that can be aimed at the factory: its lack of a cohesive overall form. Early critics also condemned what they saw as its brash, vulgar style, but the company and its employees liked it and so did the general public.

Vacuum cleaner produc­tion ceased in 1982 and the Hoover factory closed. It reopened ten years later – magnif­i­cently restored, with the rear ground floor converted into a Tesco super­store. Although the build­ing’s glory resides primarily in its sweeping white façade, there are some pleasing design touches in and around the rear car park too, but not inside the store, which sadly looks like any other.

The rest of the building was used as offices (or for nothing at all) until March 2018, when IDM Devel­op­ments completed a swanky resi­den­tial conver­sion with some delightful art deco details and – equally delight­fully – fitted ovens made by Hoover.

Property devel­opers Amro Real Estate Partners are proposing to build a 22-storey resi­den­tial tower on the site of the Tesco petrol station behind the old factory, in a pastiche art deco style that will conflict with the Hoover Building rather than comple­ment it. Objectors to the scheme have started a petition seeking to have the plans rejected – or at least scaled down, as Historic England have recommended.

The Old Hoover Building, Western Avenue, Perivale, Greenford UB6 8DW
Phone: 0845 677 9308
Web pages: Tesco Greenford; Åvontuura: Inside the beautifully transformed Hoover Building in west London
Open: Monday–Saturday 6.00am–midnight; Sunday: 10.00am–4.00pm
Nearest station: Perivale (Central line)