Nicholas Grimshaw’s 1980s high-tech former Financial Times printing works in London’s Docklands has been listed at Grade II*
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport followed advice from Historic England to list the 14,000m2 building which was constructed between 1987-88 at a cost of £18.3million.
The aluminium-clad building, now used as a major internet switching centre, is an innovative High Tech building and an integral part of the British newspaper industry’s architectural legacy, according to the adviser.
The decision to grant statutory heritage protection followed an application for a certificate of immunity for listing by the building’s owner, data firm Global Switch - a bid it hoped would make it easier to refurbish or upgrade the structure.
During the building’s operation as a printworks, a frameless 96m-long glazed screen allowed views of the vast printing presses from the East India Dock Road.
Emily Gee, head of listing at Historic England said: ‘At East India Dock House, the dynamic and exciting ‘shop window’ put the captivating production process on display for passers-by. At night this became almost an illuminated billboard and a prestigious asset for the newspaper.
‘The building’s change of use illustrates the flexibility of High Tech industrial architecture which the listing also recognises.’ Henrietta Billings, senior conservation adviser at the 20th Century Society, which campaigned for the listing, said: ‘The former FT printworks is a High-Tech masterpiece – an innovative and pioneering example of industrial design. The grade II* listing will ensure that future alterations don’t destroy its unique character.’
HE’s assessment of the building called the building ‘striking’ and that it boasted ‘abundant special architectural and historic interest’.
It said: ‘The FT Print Works represents an important development within Grimshaw’s work. He wrote of achieving a balance between buildings as enclosures or ‘skins’, and creating an expressive structure, and considers the FT Print Works to be the first project where the two elements came together, and defined a great, clear space.’
The building officially opened on 25 October 1988, with the serving prime minister Margaret Thatcher starting up the presses.
Poor economic conditions meant that after seven years the Financial Times abandoned the building and outsourced its printing. It was converted to a data centre in the late 1990s
Planners at London Borough of Tower Hamlets confirmed that no live planning applications are currently being considered for the building.
Albert Richardson’s Bracken House, the former headquarters of the Financial Times in the City of London was the first post-war building to be listed in 1987. The paper is planning to reoccupy that building from 2018.
In In July last year, Grimshaw’s 1993 ‘Ship’ building in Plymouth was handed a Grade II* listing (AJ 23.07.15) and Historic England is currently considering his Oxford Ice Rink for protection (AJ 19.10.15).
We are delighted to hear the news that the former Financial Times printing works has been listed. Ever since the FT had to move out in the late 1990s due to the changing technology in the printing world, we have maintained that this well-built and innovative project would be suitable for many other types of use.
As is well known, the use of the building has changed to a computer switching centre, but there is no reason why the façade could not lend itself to a more lively use once again. Whatever happens in the future we at Grimshaw do not want our buildings to be monuments which are frozen in time. We are happy to see them adapted and changed over the years, providing this is done appropriately and with elegance.