More Than 200 Projects are included in the Archigram Archival Project. The AAP uses the group’s mainly chronological numbering system and includes everything given an Archigram project number. This comprises projects done by members before they met, the Archigram magazines (grouped together at no. 100), the projects done by Archigram as a group between 1961 and 1974, and some later projects.
Motorway M4 was planned as the London-South Wales motorway, with a crossing of the River Severn between Aust, Gloucestershire, England, the Beachley Peninsular (also Gloucestershire), and Chepstow, Monmouthshire, Wales. The Severn Bridge opened in 1966, but M4 was built piecemeal and not fully open until 1970.
First advertised as a development by the Ministry of Transport in 1963, Aust was unlike any forerunning British service area in that it was situated in a prominent site close to the new Severn Bridge, and came under the overall supervision of consultant architect Sir Percy Thomas. This critical situation meant that the Ministry itself was under closer scrutiny than it had previously experienced, and also that the ministry expected a better standard of design, and higher financial tenders for the site than it would normally consider. However, only four developers came forward in the first round of tendering, and the Ministry rejected all bids on the basis of their design or low financial offer. One of the four bidders in this first round was the Taylor Woodrow/PIC/Golden Egg Group team. PIC were property developers, and Golden Egg a franchised national restaurant chain offering a menu based on fried foods.
A second competition was held in February 1964, and six bidders came forward, with the Taylor Woodrow/PIC/Golden Egg Group again submitting a tender. This time, they withdrew their bid because the Ministry of Transport would not consider site leases of greater duration than 50 years, whereas Taylor Woodrow et al wanted 75 or 99 year leases. The project awarded to a division of the J. Arthur Rank leisure organisation. A building design was prepared by architects Russell, Hodgson and Leigh, and completed in 1966. The nature of the bidding competitions was that the Ministry of Transport gave preference to the rental payments projected by the developer-operator. Top Rank general outbid any other competitors, and by this time they also had a reputation for operating service areas which could not be matched by the Taylor Woodrow catering partner Golden Egg.
Motorway M4 was diverted over the Second Severn Crossing bridge in 1996, and the former M4 route over the older bridge redesignated as M48. At the same time, the Aust service area was renamed Severn View. Subsequently, with traffic much reduced, the main service area was closed and refurbished as a media centre.
As for the Taylor Woodrow design, certain features are of interest. Like the built design of Russell Hodgson and Leigh, there are two buildings proposed: a main public catering block, and a separate café for commercial drivers located some distance from the main building. There was also provision for two staff apartments in the complex. The exterior views indicate the presence of substantial areas of stone walling (again like the built design). With the stonework, the overhanging roof at the car drop-off point (where we see a North American 1959 Dodge Custom Royal) recalls the prairie-style of Frank Lloyd Wright and is in keeping with a building in such a sensitive setting. The building is single-storey, with the roof heights raised over the main café areas. The second café is provided with a bay window arrangement affording panoramic vistas up and down the Severn estuary. Hexagonal plans were a feature of many building designs of the period, and occur in several service area proposals by architects including T. P. Bennett and Russell, Hodgson and Leigh for Top Rank, Patrick Gwynne (for Fortes) and Kinnair Associate Architects (for Roadchef). The interior view of the café presents a combination of contemporary Scandinavian aesthetics and Japanese tea room.
In comparison to the built design, the Taylor Woodrow proposal looks too small to accommodate the necessary capacity. Additionally, the kitchen and preparation areas are allowed to appear as part of the building bulk, whereas in the scheme that was realised, the service spaces are concealed by landscaping.
It is rare for a project such as this to survive in such complete form, and the portfolio of drawings gives a fascinating snapshot of transatlantic and pop styling, adapted to the peculiar requirements of a publicly procured, privately developed roadside installation.