Ian Ritchie Architects were invited in September 1997 by Greycoat to compete for the design of an office building of 280,000 sq. ft. and 20,000 sq. ft. net retail areas against Foster + Partners and Terry Farrell + Partners.
The concept addressed the essence of urban design – composition of form, mass and surface – in a contemporary manner to create specific spatial relationships between buildings, and the manner in which light articulates these spaces and people move through them. At the street, the concept opens up the area to benefit the new and older buildings, Moorgate Station and future Crossrail and the retail activities which edge the space at ground level.
The nightscape of the city is less informed by street lighting as by the manner in which the interiors of buildings are lit and their exteriors illuminated.
Canaletto captured the London skyline in his painting London and the City (1847) and was possibly as infamous as that of New York today. It was a spatial essay in ‘celestial acupuncture’. Our design divided the form into a regular orthogonal element adjacent to Moorgate Station, and exploited a spherical geometry to London Wall and the east to create an interesting and elegant skyline in contrast to the banal characteristics of most of the city of London’s taller buildings.
The greatest challenge with this project was to reconcile floor space with volume in creating a building which could be recognised as elegant, functional and with an excellent gross to net ratio.
Its visual success is the manner in which the building volume and its surface materialises the space between the street and the sky. It is tempting and too easy to ‘avoid’ this issue with ubiquitous ‘transparency’ by starting and ending with glass . However, viewed from the level of the street or river, any building of about twenty floors presents the ‘opacity’ of its floor plates, and glass becomes opaque in daylight. Transparency is an oft misunderstood notion. It can only exist when viewed more or less perpendicular to its surface, which in this case would be from the ground and from about the tenth floor of a near or distant building.
The design specifically meets the client’s key objectives of adaptable tenancy providing permutations for vertical subdivision and two separate tenancies at each floor level without any relaxation of the quality of space or the servicing of it by passenger lifts, goods lifts etc. It can also be a single company headquarters.
The form has the capacity to provide office space totalling 300,000 sq. ft. net, as well as the required net area of retail; respects Rights of Light of adjacent buildings and does not infringe the strategic view of St Paul’s from Westminster Bridge.
We believed that the concept would have evolved into a world-class building.