The Leadenhall Building

Friday 16 November 2012

The Leadenhall Building will be a true icon for London and ‘a building of rare style, grace, power and presence’.

That’s according to British Land’s head of London Leasing, Paul Burgess, who was outlining the Rogers, Stirk, Harbour + Partners-designed tower’s appeal at an NLA breakfast meeting this morning.

‘I can look you in the eye and say this is an icon for London’, said Burgess, describing how the scheme will create ½ an acre of landscaped public space at its base. ‘First impressions count and occupiers need to feel that uplift’, he said, adding that they want ‘prestige with sensibilities, and want to be seen going in a building which is a great piece of contextual architecture.’

Project architect Andy Young of Rogers, Stirk, Harbour + Partners, explained that the scheme, a joint venture between British Land and Oxford Properties, is wedge-shaped in order to skirt a planning constraint – a protected view from Fleet Street to the Dome of St Paul’s. The 382,000 sq ft building already has 190,000 sq ft of that space pre-let to Aon, but its scale is not as important as its transparency and permeability. ‘You can see how it works’, said Young. By putting much of the structure on the outside of the building, the inside boasts ‘huge’, open, office floorplates, while the north core features 22 scenic elevators. ‘Looking in the back window of a Ferrari you can see an engine made beautiful enough to bear scrutiny’, said Young. ‘That’s what we’re trying to do here.’

Arup director Nigel Annerau showed how an interesting feature of the construction process was that piling work was possible at the same time as the previous, GMW-designed building on the same site was being demolished. Another innovation, said Laing O’Rourke director Andy Butler, is that around 85 per cent of the building was constructed offsite, compared to the industry norm of around 30 per cent. ‘If we can do it in a factory, we will’, he said.

The base of the building will be a covered public space, with magnolia trees and retail units including a coffee shop, said Burgess, with no entry charge. Replying to a question from the floor, Burgess said there will be no public viewing gallery, however – he said the decision had been made early on to make the base the ‘welcoming’ public space and aid the street scene, which will be managed by Broadgate Estates like Exchange Square or Finsbury Square at Broadgate. Public viewing galleries of the sort at the Shard are expensive to provide, needing extra lifts and cores, which is why the entry charge is so high, he added. ‘The generosity of the ground floors is key. One of the things which distinguishes it is its wonderful scale and sense of arrival. It will enhance the lettability of the building, and people want to come into a working environment which lifts their spirits.’

The project is under construction and reached level 32 yesterday, over halfway to its full 48-floor height. It completes next year.

David Taylor, Editor, New London Quarterly

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