Eric Parry explains the designs behind 5 Aldermanbury Square
The Architects’ Journal has published short films about each Stirling Prize-nominated project. The Stirling Prize will be awarded on Saturday 17 October, browse the shortlist here.
Eric Parry, director, Eric Parry Architects
This 18-storey commercial office building is situated in the capital, next to London Wall. It is clad in shot-peened stainless steel which forms multi-height bays to accentuate the structure’s verticality. It forges strong links with the immediate townscape, linking to a pedestrian route at ground level which connects to the Barbican Highwalk, an above-street-level public walkway.
What was the inspiration for this design?
The earth, the sky and the stuff in between. There were the resonances with the past from the nearby Roman remains, Antonioni’s view of this bit of the city [a reference to director Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1966 film Blow-up], to our neighbours now. There was the verticality of the building seen from so many city angles and the opportunity of a contrasting tension with a new urban landscape under and beyond the building and the materials to reinforce these ideas.
Did you work well with the client?
Having two large pension funds as our client is a bit like having godparents who are paying for your education: distant but respectful. This was our second building for Scottish Widows [the first was 30 Finsbury Square, London] and the day-to-day relationship was with their agent, with whom we have a mutual goal of making a building that is as uncompromised as possible within all the usual knotty constraints.
How was the jury visit?
The Stirling jury was about the fourth visit [to the building] so I felt well practised. Perhaps expectations were low with a regular city office building and so generally jurors seemed happy when they left. There were several interesting points of debate: sustainability, the city, architectural order and crafting.
What would it mean to your practice if you won the Stirling Prize?
Of course it’s a very important accolade, and a specific recognition for the whole team, from client to subcontractors. It recognises a standard and helps with the will to do better.
Which other project would you pick to win?
I have only visited AHMM’s Kentish Town Health Centre, which is a very impressive achievement. I rather like the idea of the Liverpool masterplan, because it pursues an urban idea rather than a single building.
Is it harder for a commercial project to catch the imagination of the Stirling judges than a community one?
Every Stirling jury seems particular so it’s hard to generalise – but on the whole, yes.
Start on site May 2004 (demolition), January 2005 (main contract)
Completion date October 2007
Gross internal floor area 35,165m2
Form of contract Design & Build
Total cost £72 million
Cost per m2 £2,047
Client Scottish Widows plc
Architect Eric Parry Architects
Structural engineer Ramboll Whitbybird Engineers
Services engineer Hilson Moran Partnership
Quantity surveyor Northcroft
Main contractor Bovis
Annual CO2 emissions 91.33kg/m2