Stockwell Bus Garage is one of the largest bus garages in central London. The garage was built to accommodate the change over from trams to buses that happened in the 1950’s. The site was badly bombed in the war with a number of houses taking direct hits which meant the land would have been available for development. Previously it had been home to several large villas with generous gardens, a row of smaller dwellings and a scaffolding yard. The garage is now opposite the Lansdowne Estate on one side, a mixture of local authority and private housing on the other and a row of mid- Victorian houses on South Lambeth road back on to it.
Stockwell bus garage was designed by Adie, Button and Partners, in partnership with the LCC architects and with the engineer A E Beer and opened in 1952. The design took the concept of a bus garage into a new realm of modernity and invention.
The outstanding feature of Stockwell Bus Garage is the use of reinforced concrete for the roof. At the time of construction it was the largest unsupported area under one roof in Europe and provides 73,350 sq ft (6,814 m2) of unobstructed parking space for 212 buses (originally 200 Routemaster buses).
The shell roof structure is 120m long and is supported by ten shallow ribs with cantilevered barrel vaults between, these are intersected by smaller ribs in order to prevent torsion. The vast space is naturally lit by a sequence of large skylights between each pair of ribs and in addition to the generous air circulation space there are ventilation fans on the sides and on the roof. From the exterior, the main arches are visible as outward-leaning buttresses, with a segmental curve to each bay. They form a multi-arched roof-line and appear as continuous wave each topped by a series of roof lights.
Apart from the main bus garage there are various other brick built buildings on the site including the main offices, catering and leisure facilities for the personnel, a training area for apprentices and a now defunct boiler room with a high chimney. The signage, (now sadly dilapidated on the Lansdowne Way exterior), the use high quality materials and the general attention to detail to provide a decent working environment also bears testament to the outstanding legacy of Frank Pick, the visionary design patron at London Transport in the 1930s.
The Stockwell Bus Garage is now run by Go Ahead and employs over 750 staff running 11 day routes and 6 night routes all over London. Day-to-day maintenance, upkeep and cleaning of the buses also happen within the garage and there are also 6/7 3-year long apprenticeships based at the garage.
The design of the bus garage enables this crucial cog in the network of the London bus system to function 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in the heart of Stockwell without impinging detrimentally on the neighbourhood. The sounds, fumes and routes in and out of the garage have all been elegantly factored in to the overall design, making a working bus garage an asset to Stockwell.