Express fails to impress
Astragal took the opportunity presented by London Open House last weekend to revisit his Fleet Street roots by taking in the monumental foyer of the former Daily Express offices – the fabled black Lubyanka. Immortalised as the home of the fictional Daily Beast in Evelyn Waugh’s classic satire of hackery Scoop (which is required reading on the AJ’s news desk) the building is certainly imposing, with battered gold and silver reliefs flowing down to a polished marble floor, and an incredible spiral staircase winding up the back of the hall. Unfortunately, it seems the building’s present occupier, a large American investment bank, isn’t taking quite as much care of this Art Deco gem as it could. Only a couple of years after an award-winningly sympathetic restoration by John Robertson Architects, the place is already, quite frankly, falling to bits. Paint is flaking from the walls, door handles are dangling forlornly, and dust is gathering in quite frightening amounts. Would the Express’ notoriously tyrannical former owner Lord Beaverbrook have put up with such shoddiness? It seems very unlikely.