One Finsbury Avenue squats on the western edge of the Broadgate development at Liverpool Street, like a huge camouflaged army tank under the false illusion that no one can see it.
Capped with a large glass roof to allow UBS traders to benefit from as much daylight as possible, the building’s bronze-coloured sides are clad with a criss-cross of metal to protect it from the sun and detract attention from its sheer bulk.
The Arup Associates-designed building was one of a raft of post-war office buildings recognised for its “remarkable design” and granted listed status yesterday as part of a two-year project by English Heritage to assess postwar offices from 1964–84.
The project was started after a row over Finsbury Avenue’s neighbour, Broadgate, which English Heritage tried to list in 2011. The then-culture secretary Jeremy Hunt blocked the listing after a campaign led by City A.M. to allow its redevelopment.
With the backing of Lord Wolfson, Boris Johnson and the City of London among others, we argued that attempting to halt the redevelopment to create a new home for UBS was anti-competitive and took no account of the need for growth, jobs and regeneration. But with its sister site, and two other City buildings, now granted Grade II-listed status, does the argument still apply?
Tom Sleigh, a councilman for Bishopsgate Ward, home to One Finsbury Square, told City A.M.: “English Heritage has a tough job in deciding which buildings deserve the protection afforded by listing. All of this plays to a larger conversation about planning in London. The City manages a careful balance of respecting heritage while renewing sites to ensure the ever-changing demand for high quality office space is met.”
The City of London’s chief planning office Annie Hampson welcomed the move while Finsbury Avenue’s owner British Land said it will still have “the flexibility to adapt the building to keep pace with the continued evolution of Broadgate.”
It is this ability to “keep pace” which needs to be considered carefully when protecting a building. London’s finance district has thrived up until now by reinventing itself. It is important that conserving the past doesn’t get in the way of the future.
THE CITY’S THREE NEWLY-LISTED POST WAR OFFICE BUILDINGS
DO THEY DESERVE TO STAY OR GO? ENGLISH HERITAGE’S VIEW VS CITY A.M.
1 Finsbury Avenue
English Heritage said 1 Finsbury Avenue, designed by Arup Associates and built in 1982-84, “set new standards for progressive office buildings in their meticulous planning and attention to detail that is epitomised by this building”. The group said bronze coloured envelope also mitigated the effect of a big buildling.
City A.M. says: “Like its neighbour Broadgate, which we helped block the listing of, 1 Finsbury Avenue needs to be refurbished to be made fit for purpose and its listed status will only make this more difficult.”
Brown Shipley, Moorgate
English Heritage said Brown Shipley, designed by Fitzroy Robinson & Partners and built between 1973-75, was an “excellent example of post-war commercial architecture through its extensive use of fine materials, including a dramatically dark granite frame and reflective bronze-anodized windows.”
City A.M. says: “This soot-coloured building does little to complement its neighbours.”
30 Cannon Street
Designed by Whinney, Son & Austen Hall, 30 Cannon Street “expresses sculptural quality” and has “strong stylistic affinities with the Victorian commercial architecture of Queen Victoria Street”, English Heritage said.
City A.M. says: This elegant building that gently leans out, makes good use of a busy junction where a Wren church once stood: A listing well-deserved.