London Wall Place
Make Architects has completed work on London Wall Place – a new commercial scheme offering the largest set of public gardens developed in the City of London since the post-war Barbican estate – on behalf of Brookfield Properties and Oxford Properties.
The scheme comprises of two office buildings surrounded by extensive public realm including a series of public gardens and reimagined elevated pedestrian walkways to link the neighbouring Barbican with the City of London.
The project’s concept lies in referencing the deep history of the site, from the Romans through to post-war modernism. The scheme’s geometry is aligned with the historical urban gain created by the section of the original Roman city wall on site. Both the wall and the medieval St Alphage Church tower on site have been beautifully restored and made a central part of the public realm, while the elevated walkways of the 1960s have been reimagined and reinstated with architecture designed to be a backdrop to these landmarks.
Brookfield Properties said on behalf of the joint venture: “The scheme’s ability to connect modern business with historic London and offer new perspectives from the revitalised high level walkways sets it apart from any other development in London and further strengthens Brookfield properties’ place making credentials. At London Wall Place, we have developed world-class office space in an exceptional and unique environment for the benefit of all the buildings occupiers, neighbours and visitors alike.”
With half of the site dedicated to public realm, London Wall Place has created a new destination for the city. The public realm is formed as a series of pocket gardens for people to discover that, together with the adjacent Salter’s Hall Garden and soon-to-be-completed St Alphage Garden, delivers more than 1.5 acres of public space and over 780m² of green walls across multiple terraced levels. The walkways, which include four bridges that cross London Wall, Wood Street, Fore Street and Fore Street Avenue, cover 350m and house a new raised garden. The varied levels are conceived as a continuous three-dimensional landscape, providing pedestrian connection, sanctuary from the city or simply somewhere to lunch.
Two buildings then enclose the new London Wall Place Gardens; 1 London Wall Place delivers 310,000ft² of new state-of-the-art office and trading facilities, and a series of nine roof terraces over 13 storeys. 2 London Wall Place is a multi-tenanted 17-storey tower, with a retail and restaurant unit at Level 1 and a cafe at ground level.
The two buildings share the same striking appearance, with contrasting sections of vertical rectilinear bands of glass-reinforced concrete (GRC) and dark blue ceramic ribs that form a vertically elongated grid. The materials were inspired by the Kentish ragstone found in the Roman wall, with GRC echoing the smooth, matt appearance of the stone’s chalky exterior, and the iridescent blue ceramic reminiscent of the stone’s glossy interior. The verticality is a foil to the horizontal form of the neighbouring Barbican.
The concrete sections hide the services and elevators and have defined, sharp edges whereas the ceramic bands are curved and more fluid and clad the office floorplates. The vertical banding serves to minimise heat gain and draw in more sunlight to the occupied areas. The grain and scale expressed along the facades continue to form the soffits and the roof plant enclosures and guardrails. In this way, the rhythm of the buildings’ facades is extended like ribbons up along, over and down the extent of the building’s mass. On 2 London Wall Place they flow into the building to form the ribs of the reception ceiling, while on 1 London Place they form the cantilevered soffit and their surfaces bounce light and reflections onto the walkways and landscaping below.
The ‘Highwalk’ system, a reminder of the previous 1960s site, was a requirement of the planning consent. The walkway network now has a material palette of weathering steel and Iroko timber as a backdrop to the ever-changing gardens and green walls which seamlessly link the various levels. These spaces will provide welcome respite for the 5,000 occupants of the new office buildings, retail customers, Barbican residents and culture Crossrail commuters.
The building is BREEAM ‘Excellent’ and designed flexibly to accommodate numerous tenancies throughout its life space, while the intent for the public realm is that it endures for as long as possible, as part of the historical urban fabric. There is a passive approach to energy in use, with a 50/50 solid-to-glazed ratio in the building facades, which are all heavily insulated and will deep soffit areas to reduce solar gain. The air handling is mixed mode to allow both buildings to be naturally ventilated if desired. The materials are designed to never need replacing and the weathering steel was chosen from the bridges so that minimal maintenance is requires.
Sam Potter, Lead Architect at Mark Architects commented: “This was a once-in-a-career type of project, and the whole team saw it like that, from the contactor to the design team to the client. We think what we have all taken away from it is the ability for these large commercial schemes to have an impact socially, in terms of improving communities in cities. We think this project is a bit of a game changer of emphasizing that public oriented commercially successful developments are possible.”