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Bennetts Associates’ new block is plugged in to Tottenham Court Road

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This powerfully orthogonal new corner block responds subtly to the history of its site – the former electronics retail industry in Tottenham Court Road

Bennetts Associates’ One Bedford Avenue office and retail development sits on a corner site at the south end of London’s Tottenham Court Road. 

Designed for Exemplar in partnership with Ashby Capital and The Bedford Estates, the building, which has The Architectural Association immediately to its rear, provides 71,000 sq ft of office space over seven floors and 14,000 sq ft of retail at ground and basement level.

The building’s form is intended to appear sculpted, as if from a single rectangular block, with the cut-back profiles of the upper two floors responding to rights of light analysis. All elevations are covered by a grid of precast concrete fins, set at different angles depending on their orientation and the consequent solar shading requirements. So, while on Tottenham Court Road the fins are at 90º to the façade, providing deep reveals to cut out low afternoon heat, on Morwell Street – which is mainly shaded – they are aligned flat against the building, and on the southern Bedford Avenue façade the fins are stacked as a 500mm-deep framework to provide shading.

Bennetts associates one bedford avenue 10 ©will pryce

South façade

Source: Will Pryce

Elements within the monochromatic interiors have been designed – often quite subtly – to pay homage to the electronics retail industry that once defined the area. Thus the design of the door and WC signage borrows from electronic diagrams, while the reception contains a full-storey representation of a computer board in patinated brass with coded dots and dashes.

The balustrade design to the stairs also echoes a binary code – Morse code: by running a stick along the uprights, you can tap out in clicks ‘up and up’ on one side and ’down and down’ on the other. These references are further augmented in an artwork by Lilah Fowler, which covers the Bedford Avenue façade, integrating this electronics theme with that of the history of the freeholder: The Bedford Estates. She has used a quote from Francis Russell, the fourth Earl of Bedford (1593-1641):Our knowledge is nothing but the glass of our own imperfections’. This has been translated into binary code to generate yellow and blue LED neon lights representing 0s and 1s, which is also present on the fritting pattern that covers the lower portion of the windows, resembling a QR code.

Bennetts associates one bedford avenue 1 ©rob parrish

Reception 

Source: Rob Parrish

Architect’s view

The references to the area’s history are subtle but evocative and we have produced a commercial building that also has a strong narrative linking it to its context. It is also a great example of how art can be successfully incorporated into the detailed design of a building.

David Walker, associate director, Bennetts Associates

1217 0312 West elevation

Project data

Start on site July 2015
Completion February 2017
Gross internal floor area 7,922m² 
Office 6,624m²
Retail 1,298m²
Form of contract JCT Design and Build Contract 2011, 2 stage tender
Construction cost Undisclosed
Architect Bennetts Associates
Client Exemplar in conjunction with AshbyCapital and The Bedford Estates
Structural engineer Waterman Group 
MEP consultant Waterman Group 
QS Arcadis
Townscape consultant Francis Golding
Access consultant David Bonnett Associates
Planning consultant Gerald Eve
Sustainability consultant Waterman Group
Fire consultant Waterman Group 
Acoustic consultant Waterman Group 
Façades consultant BuroHappold Engineering
Project manager Second London Wall
CDM co-ordinator Gardiner and Theobald
Approved building inspector MLM
Main contractor Mace
CAD software used Autodesk Revit
Annual CO2 emissions (SBEM) 12.4kg/m², achieving an A EPC rating of 22 (offices, not retail)

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Readers' comments (2)

  • Are the clever bits of interior detailing any compensation for what appears to be a really rather bland and boring piece of architecture (except in comparison with some of its near neighbours in Tottenham Court Road)?

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  • Chris Rogers

    Indeed. The blandification of TCR continues. Whilst never the prettiest part of London, it had texture and interest. The removal of every tech shop from the old EMI building's parade is sad (replaced by posh food and so on) even if the work to reshape it is impressive.

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