Who would of thought that the one of the most innovative and distinctive petrol stations in the world is on the A6, in Birstall, on the outskirts of Leicester’s city centre. The garage, now owned by BP, made the top ten list featuring the best designed gas stations in the world, voted by architects of DesignCurial magazine, which is based in London.
The structure, which consists of six large mushroom-like canopies, that form a symmetrical cover for pumps on the forecourt, was voted 6th on the list that contains the most iconic gas stations in the world, including the winner, the Pops Arcadia Station that sits alongside the famous Route 66, in the USA.
During the 1960s, Texas oil giants Mobil hired the architect Eliot Noyes, who was tasked to redesign all the companies gas stations during “Operation Pegasus” a major process to rebrand the company. Whilst enlisting the help of graphic design firm Chermayeff & Geismar, the company who had designed the iconic Mobil sign, Noyes came up with the bold red, white and blue colour schemes that became instantly recognisable, particularly on the side of a highway. Successfully meeting the design brief of being immediately identifiable, he designed a structure that fitted the golden age of motoring perfectly. The futuristic flying saucer-like parasols were created.
The circular canopies – unique for their overlapping design – were first built in New haven, Connecticut in the USA in 1966. The stations were originally accompanied by Noyes’ cylindrical shaped pumps with brushed-aluminum casings. The design was used in 19,000 new and remodeled Mobil stations around the world. This particular petrol station in Birstall was built and finished in 1978/79.
Stations over the years have often been refurbished and replaced with new covers. Many stations have closed down and been demolished as larger supermarkets have bought up forecourts. Experts say ‘it is extremely rare to find any remaining canopies of this design’.
Birstall petrol station today.
This remarkable station was extremely lucky when English Heritage granted it Grade II status in 2012. This will protect the garage for future generations.
Eliot Noyes died aged 66 in 1977 having pioneered the integration of business and design. Mobil merged with Exxon in 1999 and in the UK operates under the name Esso. The station was purchased by BP (British Petroleum) in 2013.
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