As one of the more unusual skyscrapers to grace London’s skyline in the near future, 122 Leadenhall Street has been described as a ‘tapering form, inclined away from St Paul’s’ that ‘creates a spire-like western elevation which produces a contrasting form to the soft profile of the cathedral’s dome’. Naturally, following the great British tradition of self-depreciation and self-effacement, the majestically-named Leadenhall Building has been nicknamed The Cheese Grater. Despite a rocky financial start, construction is due to commence on the project in January 2011, with the demolition of the original 122 Leadenhall Street already having taken place.
The demolition of the original structure in itself has been an interesting spectacle, with the original Leadenhall Building having to be demolished from the ground upwards. This is due to the lower floors being suspended and hanging from the top using steel ‘chords’.
Demolition of the original building; photo courtesy of David Barrie
The unusual tapered shape of the development is due to its location on Leadenhall Street and London’s strict regulations regarding views of St Paul’s. As a distinctive landmark of the city, St Paul’s is required to be visible from certain locations with the City of London, one of which is Fleet Street. Richard Rogers of Rogers Stirk Harbour & Partners, also designers of Terminal 5 at Heathrow and the Millennium Dome (as Richard Rogers Partnership), conceived the idea of a non-traditional wedge-shaped skyscraper with a slanted face, tapering into a geometric spire structure in contrast with the curves of St Paul’s dome and the nearby 30 St Mary’s Axe (the Gherkin). Each floor is made up of a single rectangular floor plate, and each progressively reduces by 750mm to create the Leadenhall’s iconic shape.
The lifts and services are external to the structure, reminiscent of the nearby iconic Lloyd’s Building, which was also designed by Richard Rogers. It also incorporates elements of Roger’s 88 Wood Street in its sleek, minimalist glass design. At night the lift and services block is designed to light up with red and blue blocks of colour, contrasting with the yellow framework and making a bold modernist statement designed to make it stand out from other nearby developments such as the Bishopsgate Tower, the Heron Tower or Tower 42.
Picture courtesy of City Scape
Whilst primarily built as office space, the lowest three levels are designed to also be a public space, 30 metres high, complete with shops, exhibition space, soft landscaping and trees. There will also be a public bar and restaurants overlooking this space, accessible from the external glass lift shafts. This atrium will provide an extension to the adjacent St Mary’s Square, adding half an acre to the plaza.
The office space itself is quite small for a design of this stature, offering only approximately 12,000 square feet per floor in comparison to One Canada Square, which offers 28,000 square feet per floor and is only two storeys higher. Overall, the building offers only 182,874 ft² in lettable space – but this could work to its advantage by creating an air of exclusivity around it’s distinctively avant garde design.
Render of the Leadenhall Building
As always with such an unconventional design, there have been concerns over the size and bulk of such a tower, despite it being designed around building restrictions and with the slimming effect of the tapering. The developer, British Land announced that, “This is good news for London and good news for the City. It will be an iconic building”. The Independent’s Jay Merrick also suggested that it will ‘set new standards in supersized elegance’. However, it has been called a ‘vanity project’, an ‘upended doorstop’ and an ‘asymmetrical lean-to’ in various publications. Perhaps Rogers should be used to such uneven publicity – as designer of both the Pompidou Centre and the Millennium Dome, he regularly courts such controversy. The end result, however, waits to be seen – construction on the project is due to begin in January 2010.