Last weekend, like many others, I braved the rain and visited some buildings during London Open House. This provides a unique opportunity to see a full range of buildings, from historically and architecturally significant buildings, through to modern top spec offices. One of the most interesting, being an office, was the grade II* listed One Finsbury Circus.
The tour was led by an architect from Gaunt Francis Architects who worked on the 2008 refurbishment. He told how the building was designed by Edwin Lutyens in the early 1920's in order to accommodate Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (now known as BP). The building was referred to as "the masterpiece of the Circus". BP vacated the building in 1967, but would later return in 1991 following an extensive refurbishment by the then freeholder Greycoat Estates Limited.
However, BP then vacated the building in 2006 and Hermes Real Estate, now the freeholder, decided to conduct another extensive refurbishment. The aim this time was to create space which could be let to several tenants not just the one. This would require a whole new office layout, such as central lifts, separate entrances, improved daylight and security...the list goes on. A key feature was maintaining the original feel and style from Lutyen's era whilst adhering to modern requirements on maintenance, Health & Safety and the specific demands of today's occupiers.
The first thing which struck me upon entering the building was the sheer beauty of it, as well as the contrast between old and new. The lights in this picture are the original, whilst the revolving door style entrance is a faithful reconstruction of the original. The sturdy iron floor is 3-4 inches thick and rumoured to be sourced from original BP tankers!
The thin ceiling was created to let as much light in as possible. The lightweight round ceiling joists are rounded to further minimise the perceived space occupied by the roof and allow the building to feel as well as look, physically light.
The transparent lifts sense where you are in the foyer, so that once you press the floor number from the outside before entering the lift, the nearest lift will be waiting.
Another successful interpretation Lutyen's vision is this recreated overhanging balcony, a reference to the old original boardroom.
A light touch approach to the refurbishment ensured that the stunning original features such as those shown below were retained throughout...
Then there is the basement meeting room, complete with artificial light in the surrounding atrium.
In addition to this, the building still comes equipped with all modern features including air conditioning, raised floors and suspended ceiling, so it's worth considering should Seaport Financial Europe Limited, Stephenson Harwood or Seaport Financial Europe Limited decide to move out.
Overall, it is a fascinating building and it was well worth the relatively long queue. Hopefully you are able to take the opportunity of visiting this or other buildings next year.