Dental Hospital and Institute of Dentistry

Bold 1960s block designed by Stephen Statham & Associates as a dental institute and students’ union.

The London Hospital Dental Institute and Students’ Union, Stepney Way
Contributed by Survey of London on Aug. 4, 2017

The area bounded by Stepney Way, Turner Street, Newark Street and New Road is dominated by the former London Hospital Dental Institute and Students’ Union, built in 1962–5 to designs by Stephen Statham & Associates, a little-known architectural practice. This assertive block was the outcome of an ambitious plan to unite and extend the hospital’s dental treatment, education and research facilities. Between 1945 and 1952, the dental department and its associated school tripled in size. This substantial block south of the Outpatients Department was designed to accommodate 130,000 dental patients each year and to permit a doubling of the annual admission of dentistry students to 50. A large and highly specialized Dental Institute was accompanied by a separate Students’ Union at the east end of the building. At the time of writing (August 2017), the Dental Institute has fallen into disuse, yet the adjoining Students’ Union continues as Barts and the London Students’ Association.1

The London Hospital Dental Institute and Students’ Union from the south-west, photographed by Derek Kendall in 2016.

The planning of the block spanned approximately five years, owing partly to lengthy consultations with both the Ministry of Health and the University Grants Committee (UGC), which financed the scheme jointly. The prolonged evolution of its design may also be attributed to the building committee led by the hospital and the medical college. An initial design was submitted to the Ministry and UGC in 1957, yet the committee insisted on layout alterations after its approval two years later. The final design was developed in association with Oscar Faber & Partners, consulting engineers, and John Liversedge & Associates, structural engineers. The block was constructed in 1962–5 by Francis Jackson Contractors Ltd and a number of subcontractors.2

The Dental Institute and Students’ Union replaced three rows of early nineteenth-century terraced houses at 52–64 New Road, 1–23 Newark Street and 2–26 Stepney Way. It is a bulky concrete block formed of a podium crowned by a five-storey tower; a discordant configuration influenced by LCC restrictions on height and floor area. The podium engulfs the entire site, while the tower is limited to a narrow rectangular footprint with cantilevered projections on the third and fifth floors. The reinforced-concrete frame is partly exposed and the exterior walls clad with tiles and concrete panels. The south elevation of the Students’ Association in Newark Street is marked by window openings arranged with playful irregularity, while its north entrance facing Stepney Way was originally clad with marble.3

The south elevation of the Dental Institute and the Students' Union in Newark Street, photographed by Derek Kendall in 2016. 

The block was divided into the Dental Institute west and the Students’ Union east, separated on the ground floor by a central car park adjacent to staff common rooms and lockers. The Students’ Union was limited to three storeys and a basement compressed into the east end of the podium. A large dining room occupied the centre of the ground floor, while the upper floors contained three common rooms, and top-lit music and games rooms. The internal configuration of the Dental Institute was highly specialized thanks to collaboration between the architects and building committee. After its completion in 1965, the institute was described triumphantly as ‘the manifestation of a philosophy of dental treatment and education translated into practical building terms’.4 An engineering workshop, a ‘hot’ laboratory and service plants were confined to the basement. The Dental Institute originally lacked a street entrance, with its principal doorway for staff and patients located next to the ground-floor car park and accessed via footpaths from Stepney Way and Newark Street. The entrance foyer was flanked by the Oral Surgery and Radiology Departments, each divided into suites by light partitions. The arrangement of the first floor was a focus for the architects and the building committee, who studiously tested models and prototypes. The result was a central core comprising a sterilising department, a waiting area, surgeries and offices, partially encircled by a treatment area containing 92 dental chairs for patients. These were arranged in four-bay clusters separated by low screens to ensure privacy.5

The north elevation of the Dental Institute in Stepney Way, photographed by Derek Kendall in 2016.

The narrow upper floors of the five-storey tower were largely assigned to dental education and research. The second floor contained a lecture theatre, a photographic unit and offices, while a Department of Child Dental Health was installed on the third floor. Each level followed a similar layout, with central corridors terminating east and west in lobbies containing stairs and lifts. Specialized rooms formed by light partitions flanked the corridors, benefitting from exterior glazing. An exception was the fourth-floor teaching department, which, by the inclusion of a south-facing corridor, secured a seminar room, a laboratory, and a clinic devoted to practising dental techniques on ‘phantom heads’, or mannequins. The fifth and sixth floors of the building were dedicated to research and included an animal testing facility.6

It was later remarked that when the Dental Institute opened in September 1965, the department ‘instantly foamed up and filled every corner of the building’.7 A series of alterations followed, including the insertion of a public street entrance in New Road. Plans were produced in 1978 to simplify the first-floor treatment area by replacing the grouped dental chairs with single fitted cubicles. Since the Institute of Dentistry transferred to the hospital’s newly renovated Alexandra Wing in 2014, the west end of the block has lapsed into disuse and the site has been earmarked for redevelopment.8

Former entrance to the Dental Institute in Newark Street, photographed by Derek Kendall in 2016. 


  1. Royal London Hospital Archives (RLHA), RLHLH/Z/2, The Builder (7 January 1966), pp. 11–14; RLHA, RLHMC/X/37, ‘The London Hospital Dental Institute’ (1965); RLHLH/Z/2, The Hospital (October 1965); RLHA, RLHLH/A/24/56, House Governor’s Office file: Dental Department and new Dental Institute, 1952–67. 

  2. RLHA, RLHLH/A/24/56, House Governor’s Office file: Dental Department and new Dental Institute, 1952–67; RLHA, RLHLH/Z/2, The Builder; RLHLH/Z/2, The Hospital

  3. RLHA, RLHLH/S/4/12, ‘Specification and bill of quantities for new Dental Block and Students’ Union Building’ (April 1962); RLHA, RLHLH/Z/2, The Builder

  4. RLHA, RLHLH/Z/2, The Builder

  5. RLHA, RLHTH/S/10/11/1–13, Dental Institute Aperture Cards. 

  6. RLHA, RLHLH/S/10/11/1–13; RLHA, RLHLH/S/4/12; RLHA, RLHMC/P/1/5, Clubs Union building (Students’ Association), exterior and interior views (1970s–80s); RLHA, RLHLH/X/251, ‘The London Hospital Dental Institute, School for Dental Surgery Assistants’ leaflet, n.d.; RLHLH/Z/2, Subject files – Dental Institute. 

  7. S. Francis Fish, The Dental School of the London Hospital Medical College, 1911–1991 (The London Hospital Dental Club and London Hospital Medical College, 1991), p. 95. 

  8. Bridget Cherry, Charles O’Brien and Nikolaus Pevsner, London: East, The Buildings of England (New Haven and London: Yale University Press), p. 403; http://www.smd.qmul.ac.uk/undergraduate/courses/a200, accessed 22 May 2017; Whitechapel Vision. 

North elevation of the Dental Hospital and Institute of Dentistry (overlooking Stepney Way) in 2016
Contributed by Derek Kendall

Exposed concrete frame of the Dental Hospital and Institute of Dentistry, 2016
Contributed by Derek Kendall

Dental Hospital and Institute of Dentistry from the south-west in 2016
Contributed by Derek Kendall

Dental Hospital and Institute of Dentistry from the south-west in 2016
Contributed by Derek Kendall

Dental Hospital and Institute of Dentistry from the north-west in 2016
Contributed by Derek Kendall

South elevation of the Dental Hospital and Institute of Dentistry (overlooking Newark Street) in 2016
Contributed by Derek Kendall

Detail of tiles on the Dental Hospital and Institute of Dentistry in 2016
Contributed by Derek Kendall

View from Fieldgate Street of the Dental Block and Students' Union, the Outpatients Annexe and the Royal London Hospital, 2017
Contributed by Derek Kendall