MK Council has published it’s first longlist for the New Town Heritage Register (NTHR) – a local listing of significant buildings and heritage. It’s a great opportunity for all of us to make a statement and save The Point!
To qualify it must fulfil three of the following criteria: Design quality; Group and townscape quality; Innovation and influence; Significant architect or designer; Rarity; Communal value. We believe The Point meets all six, and with the help of our friends at the Cinema Theatre Association we have created this open submission to the NTHR selection panel!
And we’ve published it here to save you the hard work! You can use our draft submission template to customise and submit your own message in support of The Point. Click here to skip to the bottom and send your submission NOW! The deadline is just a few days away on 11th January 2023.
Conservation and Archaeology Team
Milton Keynes City Council
Saxon Gate East
Central Milton Keynes
7th January 2023
Re: The Point, 602 Midsummer Boulevard, Milton Keynes MK9 3NB
To the New Town Heritage Register selection panel,
I write to you in support of The Point’s inclusion in the Milton Keynes New Town Heritage Register (NTHR). The Point is an innovative and iconic building that is both a landmark and symbol for our new city; an integral part of its cultural heritage and identity.
For clarity, this submission relates only to the Pyramid structure (hereafter referred to as simply The Point) and not the adjoining rectangular block of consisting of ten cinema screens.
The Point meets the required criteria that it be built during the Milton Keynes Development Corporation (MKDC) era within the designated area and be sufficiently intact. Whilst the interiors have been replaced, the iconic structure is still standing and its famous neon lighting is a superficial absence that could be readily replaced and undoubtedly welcomed by local residents.
In terms of the general criteria I would submit that The Point meets all six of the criteria, not just three. This has been supported in documents produced by the Cinema Theatre Association (CTA) and MK Forum. I have listed summaries of the first five criteria as has already been given to you by CTA, but would draw your attention especially to the reasoning for Communal Value which #SaveThePoint is uniquely placed to contribute to in further detail.
Design quality: The Point draws part of its inspiration from the logo of Bass Brewery; a red triangle which was the UK’s first trademark registered in 1876 under the Trade Mark Registration Act instituted in 1875. Whilst visible during the day, the red neon strip lighting at night acted as a landmark beacon for leisure and entertainment in Milton Keynes. Lighting and especially neon had been used in cinema architecture since the 1930s; embodying this signage within the structure itself made for an exceptionally dramatic and unique skyline for the New Town. This type of multifaceted communication was prevalent in the 1980s, the heyday of Postmodernism.
The Point also drew inspiration from the conceptual architecture of the Archigram group, who flourished from 1961 to 1971. The Metropolis project that was featured in Archigram 5 in 1964-5 shows ziggurat structures by Leopold Gerstel, while the ziggurat reappears as spaceframe structure with prefabricated units in the Plug-In University project of 1965. The spaceframe and projection are important parts of Archigram’s projects in general, and feature in various projects such as ‘Control and Choice’ from 1967 and the ‘Instant City’ by Ron Herron from 1969.
Group and Townscape Quality: The Point came about following public consultation by MKDC during 1982 regarding the need for entertainment in the New Town. The Development Corporation provided a deliberately prominent site next to the recently completed Shopping Centre in order to provide an urban focus. Historic England concluded in 2019 that The Point has some group interest with the (Grade II) Central Milton Keynes Shopping Building.
Innovation and Influence: The Point in Milton Keynes was the first multiplex cinema ever to be built in the UK, with the press release from the 21st November 1985 describing the building as Europe’s first modern fully-integrated entertainment centre. In the 1980s cinemas were suffering from a prolonged period of decline with audiences reaching their lowest ever level in 1984 – the year before The Point opened its doors for business.
The development of the multiplex completely turned around this long decline and re-established film-going as a popular leisure pursuit, with celebrities including Meg Ryan and (then) HRH Sarah Duchess of York subsequently attending premieres in Milton Keynes. The Point is therefore critically important within the history of the cinema as a building.
Significant Architect or Designer: The Point was designed by Alec Stevenson of Building Design Partnership (BDP), one of the largest multidisciplinary architectural practices in post-war Britain. It was founded in 1961, and is notable for its interdisciplinary approach and profit sharing. The experimental nature of BDP included the early use of Computer Aided Design, with the use of the Acropolis CAD system for the design of The Point being mentioned in the press release for the building’s opening.
Notable BDP architects included Leon Krier and Mike Webb. This is important for The Point, given the experimental nature of a building that aimed to be Europe’s first fully-integrated entertainment centre. Mike Webb was a core member of the Archigram group, and BDP in fact supported Archigram during most of the 1960s.
Rarity: The pyramid is possibly the oldest and most recognized historic building form, and has often been used for landmark buildings, tombs and memorials. Within the designated area of the New Town Heritage Register only one other pyramid of note has existed; The Bletchley Leisure Centre completed in 1975, the architect being Harry Faulkner-Brown. This building has since been demolished (2010). Further afield, notable structures have used the pyramid in the form of glass and steel construction including The Louvre, Paris (1989), The Pyramid, Stockport (1992) and The Luxor, Las Vegas (1993).
Communal Value: The Point is an important icon for the city of Milton Keynes and integral to its heritage and identity. A large number of local residents have expressed their fondness for the building through social media channels, via the campaign group #SaveThePoint and local heritage organisation Living Archive. Memories frequently cited are of people’s earliest cinema experiences, night’s out with evening entertainment, movie premieres with celebrity visitors and perhaps most importantly, its ability to act as a beacon lighting the way when returning home at night for all of MK’s residents.
Over 4,800 people have signed a petition to prevent the demolition of The Point and instead want to see investment to restore it; indeed the recent purchase of the site by Galliard Homes provides a wonderful opportunity for MK Council and stakeholders to work with the developer to revitalise this community asset and preserve local heritage. As an administrator for the petition, I will also deliver these signatories for the selection panel’s consideration.
The Point has frequently featured in advertising materials throughout the decades, on early postcards for the city right through to the poster design for Red Bull Racing’s recent Homerun event in 2022. Local and national artists have depicted The Point in their creative works including Emily Furneaux (“Souvenir Shop”, participatory exhibition MK Gallery, 2014), Tabitha Mary (“The Point”, 2015) and Keith Drury (“Milton Keynes Way”, 2022). The Point also features as a landmark in Sheree Murray’s “Milton Keynes Borough”, designed and created in conjunction with MK Council to support our successful city bid sent to the late Queen Elizabeth II in 2022.
Despite The Point ceasing to operate as a cinema in 2015, it has continued to serve the people of Milton Keynes with numerous community projects and organisations calling The Point home in recent years. These have included ReturnMK, an alternative education and activities provider for young people; Somali Outreach Project, a youth engagement project to tackle youth crime; and currently Willen Hospice, a well-known and well-loved palliative care provider operating a number of retail outlets to generate much needed funds.
And from a generational perspective, I myself was one of the first children born in Milton Keynes Hospital after its opening in 1984. Those of my generation and all those who followed have not in our living memory known a Milton Keynes without The Point. Its communal value to us is beyond empirical evidence’s ability to measure.
In summary, for all the above reasons I urge the selection panel to include The Point in the New Town Heritage Register. Not only is it a precious reminder of the aims and aspirations of Milton Keynes as a New Town in 1985, it is a landmark that provides a sense of hometown identity to all those who came after it.
I am happy to supply any further information you may require in your deliberations.
on behalf of
Submit Your Own
Ready to submit your own letter in support of The Point’s inclusion of the NTHR? Then just use this handy form we’ve made for you and we’ll take care of the rest. Please note that any data you enter here will be stored on our website solely for the purpose of supporting The Point in its application to the NTHR.
And whilst you’re here…
Have you signed the petition yet? We’ll be submitting it to Milton Keynes Council in support of The Point’s inclusion on the NTHR. So if you haven’t put your name to it yet, let’s go!