office buildings

office buildings
   Office building in the 1960s was characterized by the tall, thin skyscraper, perhaps the most famous of which being CentrePoint at the end of London’s Oxford Street. By the 1980s, such buildings were both unpopular and unfashionable (though many were salvaged by remodelling, such as John Outram’s conversion of the Harp Central Heating buildings in Kent in 1984). One of the most famous of recent London buildings, Lloyd’s high-tech Gothic headquarters developed by Richard Rogers, continued the modernist idea of the building as machine and rivalled the best-known American office towers. However, the 1980s saw a large influx of American office architects (such as Skidmore, Owings and Merrill and John Burgee Architects) who could design and construct a steel-framed building together, thus quickening the whole process. The major functional change over the period has been the revolution in technology which means deep-floor plans and high floor-to-ceiling depths.
   The 1980s saw a large expansion in office buildings, especially after the deregulation of the London Stock Market in 1986. New offices were required quickly, and had to be of a new kind to convey the right image of the banks and trading houses and to house their computer equipment. An early example is Arup Associates’ stern glass and steel building at 1 Finsbury Avenue (1984), which won several major awards, and was built around the increasingly common feature of a central covered courtyard. Elegant modernist (as in David Chipperfield’s Brownloe Mews in Clerkenwell) and classical (as in Erith and Terry’s Dufours Place in Soho) buildings now sit alongside each other and attempt to relieve the drabness of the 1960s blocks which still dominate many skylines.
   In the late 1990s, it has been argued that the new office space has become somewhere to interact and relax as much as work (in the traditional sense). New management ideas means new buildings, and the 1990s emphasis on communication and information sharing requires ‘streets’, ‘hubs’, ‘oases’ and ‘clubs’ rather than corridors and rooms. A good example is Ralph Erskine’s Seagram building, the Hammersmith Ark, in West London, full of scenic views, terraces, walkways, towers and penthouses.
   Further reading
    Glancey, J. (1989) New British Architecture, London: Thames & Hudson.
   PETER CHILDS

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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