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Goldman Sachs’ HQ proposals face re-think after murals listing

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Plans by investment bank Goldman Sachs to build a huge ‘groundscraper’ in the City of London will have to be re-thought following a decision to list nine 1960s ceramic panels on an existing block in the plot

The murals by Dorothy Annan that run along the side of the set-to-be-demolished Fleet Building were granted a Grade II listing this week after a long battle by the Twentieth Century Society and the Tiles and Architectural Ceramics Society (TACS).

It is understood architects KPF had been approached to design an office headquarters for the bank on the Farringdon Street site and neighbouring Plumtree Court.

Christopher Marsden, conservation secretary at TACS said: ‘[Our work] was judged by English Heritage against arrogant opinions and belittling comments about Annan, and ill-informed judgements by the owner – a multinational bank – and its agents.’

‘Now the panels have a degree of protection, they deserve to be given greater respect by architects of the proposed Fleet Building development.’

Advisers for Goldman Sachs had argued that the panels, which show images of 1960s telephone technology and run along the side of what was once London’s largest telephone exchange, lacked aesthetic merit and should not be listed.

Murals by Dorothy Annan at Fleet Building

Source: Michael Bojkowski

Murals by Dorothy Annan at Fleet Building

Architectural historian Ken Powell told English Heritage that the murals ‘were commissioned to disguise an unattractive building facade rather than as works of art in their own right…[and were] certainly not of sufficient aesthetic merit to justify listing on this basis’.

However English Heritage concluded the nine panels were ‘unusual’ survivors from the period ‘when ceramic mural-making was at its zenith’ adding that they showcased an ‘atmosphere of optimism and excitement about the new technology and communications that was transforming Britain in the 1950s and 1960s’.

It is unlikely the decision by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to list the murals will significantly alter the plans which are being backed by property developers Tishman Speyer. Although campaigners want the panels retained in any new development, it is more likely Goldman Sachs will now begin the search for a suitable new home for the murals.

The Annan case comes just months after the Broadgate listing furore in which Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt decided against giving heritage protection to the 1980s Arup-designed office campus, opening the door for Swiss Bank UBS to build a huge new headquarters block by Make.



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