Civic Offices


The Civic Offices are the home of Milton Keynes City Council. After local government reorganisation in 1974, the three urban district councils and two rural district councils were combined to cover the designated area of the town. A building for the new Borough of Milton Keynes was required to bring the scattered offices together.

The existing building opened in 1979 and was designed by Faulkner Brown Hendy Watkinson Stonor, architects of inventive buildings, including the iconic Milton Keynes Xscape building.

At first glance, it appears as another rectangular office block with cantilevered balconies of warm buff brick. However, the details in the design such as the modelling of the walls to incorporate the slits of windows reveal its considered design. These small windows were a reaction to the energy crisis of the 1970’s, minimising heat loss from inside. At the heart of the building is the Council Chamber, which forms a large, unexpected volume at the centre of the building.

The architects, Faulkner-Browns as they are known today, continued to specialised in libraries and leisure facilities, including the local Bletchley Leisure Centre, which opened in 1973. The popular and oddly shaped pool was housed beneath a huge pyramid, the design not meant for swimmers to swim lengths of the pool, but rather to encourage play and socialising. Despite a preservation campaign it was demolished in 2010.

The New Towns Movement

In the aftermath of World War II, a transformative initiative known as the New Towns Movement emerged in post-war Britain. Faced with the daunting challenges of housing shortages, surging population growth, and the need for urban redevelopment, the New Town Movement sought to reimagine the urban landscape. The devastation caused by the war prompted a rethinking of urban planning strategies, paving the way for the creation of 27 New Towns after 1946 as a solution to the density, pollution and poverty in cities.

“It was designed as a low-density City Centre. It was designed to avoid all the problems of traditional cities and that’s why it was the way it was: with very generous infrastructure, rows and rows of plane trees, the ability to park on the surface and walk anywhere – without any problem.”

Trevor Denton, MKDC, 1971 - 76

Guided by modernist principles and cutting-edge urban planning theories, architects and planners started a mission to create functional and efficient communities that embodied the latest thinking in town planning and architecture.

Central to the movement was spatial design. These communities were meticulously planned to be self-contained havens, featuring thoughtfully arranged layouts comprising of residential areas, commercial spaces, schools, leisure facilities, and abundant green spaces. The utopian goal was to achieve a harmonious and integrated environment, where the diverse needs of a growing population could be met.

Beyond the scope of housing, New Towns had a vision of building dynamic hubs to support diverse modern economies. They accommodated a mix of industries, providing new employment opportunities within the community, reducing the dependence on central urban areas for people’s livelihoods.

Architectural innovation took centre stage as designers were encouraged to experiment with avant-garde designs and construction methods. Modernist architecture, with its emphasis on functionality, simplicity, and a departure from traditional styles, became the hallmark of New Towns.

Social considerations were central to the planning process, with a focus on creating inclusive communities. Planners aimed to provide a diverse range of housing types catering to different income groups, while also incorporating social spaces that would nurture a sense of community spirit.

Rooted in the principles of the Garden City movement pioneered by Ebenezer Howard, New Towns embraced concepts such as green spaces, pedestrian-friendly layouts, and a delicate balance between urban and rural elements.

Notable examples of the New Towns in post-war Britain include Stevenage, Harlow, Crawley, and Milton Keynes. While each town has a unique character, they all share the common principles of modern urban planning that defined the movement.

The creation of the town was entrusted to Milton Keynes Development Corporation (1967 – 1992), a Government quango with the power to buy, plan, develop and sell land and provide the supporting social infrastructure. Within 25 years, MKDC attracted over 80,000 jobs to the area, oversaw the construction of 44,000 houses and planted 14 million trees and shrubs. At its peak in the 1980s, MKDC employed 1700 people.

The legacy of the New Town movement looms large in the history of British urban development. Its impact has left an indelible mark on subsequent planning strategies, shaping the trajectory of urban landscapes here and globally. However, the movement has not been without its share of criticism, with concerns raised about architectural uniformity, perceived social isolation, and the impact on existing and displaced communities.

In all, the New Town movement played a pivotal role in reshaping the post-war urban landscape in Britain. Its lasting influence contributed to the creation of functional, organised, and modern communities, purposefully designed to meet the challenges of the time and remain flexible for the future.

Almost eighty years on, Milton Keynes is widely recognised as the largest and most ambitious of all the settlements to be created under the 1946 New Towns Act. The combination of its scale, distinctive grid layout and architectural, landscape driven design will never be seen again in this country.

Milton Keynes City Council is in the process of recognising its new town heritage between 1967 – 1992 through a new local list, the New Town Heritage Register.  When complete, it will document in detail the changing fashions of post war and late twentieth century architecture, planning and art, and tell the story of the changing economic, political and social circumstances of the UK through the period.

To find out more click New Town Heritage Register.


The Milton Keynes Civic Collection has the usual expected works of a civic collection with Her Majesty the Queen and ‘founding fathers’ of the city well represented, but there are also more esoteric works of plants and similar subjects, which represent the high value the city places upon its green spaces and linear parks.

Stephen Gregory, born 1951, is an artist who makes large oil paintings and pastel drawings. Originally from Manchester, Gregory became an Artist in Residence in Milton Keynes from 1977 – 79 Taking inspiration from a city under construction he created multi-layered images of the emerging buildings. The paintings “City Centre 1” and “Catwalk” play with the shadows, forms and shapes of the heavy industry around him. “City Centre 1” shows the Shopping Building, now centre:mk, in its incomplete state with the steel grid structure exposed beneath the mirrored surface.

“Such places, to my surprise not customarily haunted by artists, attract my attention and provide subjects. The ability to make original images, yet maintaining a respect for the place or person depicted, is what compels me to make pictures.”

Stephen Gregory

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