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C20 Society makes listing bid for Stirling's No1 Poultry

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The Twentieth Century Society has applied for listing for James Stirling and Michael Wilford & Partners’ No 1 Poultry in a bid to thwart a proposed revamp by Buckley Gray Yeoman

The group has also ‘strongly objected’ to the City of London over the proposals for the 1997 post-modern landmark which will overhaul the existing shop fronts, create a new entrance to the offices and increase the amount of light reaching the first and second floors (see full details below).

The ‘urgent listing application’ was submitted to Historic England in the hope the pink and yellow limestone-clad building by Bank tube station will be given a grade II* status.

Built by developer Peter Palumbo and completed five years after architect Stirling’s death in 1992, the office block cannot be considered for a lesser grade II rating due to its age. Buildings normally have to be over 30 years old to be eligible for listing - unless they are exceptional and under threat.

According to Twentieth Century Society director Catherine Croft, the ‘playful’ and ‘contextual masterpiece’ remains one ‘of the most significant examples of commercial post modern architecture in England’, arguing that the submitted proposals would ‘dilute the architectural design intent’.

In addition, in its letter (see attached) to the city’s planners today (11 June), the Society claims the Buckley Gray Yeoman scheme ‘risked harming the significance of the building by irreversibly changing the relationship between solids and voids on the road elevations’.

The letter goes on: ‘[We consider] that introducing new and larger openings on the internal rotunda facade would disrupt the rhythm and overall aesthetic of the architecture.’

Speaking last month, when the plans were lodged, a spokesman for project backer Wood Grafton One Sarl, an arm of boutique investment firm Perella Weinberg Partners, said: ‘From the occupiers’ perspectives, [the building] suffers from a few shortcomings, which some architectural commentators have argued exist because Stirling was unable to revise and refine the designs for the building due to his untimely death.

‘To address the occupiers’ concerns [we] propose a small number of enhancements to the building to improve its efficiency and create a more impressive office entrance that is demanded by today’s occupiers’.

He added: ‘[We] recognise the architectural significance of No1 Poultry. The proposed changes… address its practical inefficiencies in a way that is in keeping with a building of its status, and without compromising its key design elements.’

The proposals at a glance

  • Moving the glazing line of the ground-floor shops forward to the portico columns, allowing the ‘retail units to assert their presence on the street’
  • Relocating the office entrance to Queen Victoria Street, creating an enlarged reception area and helping to reduce clashes with the entrance lifts to the Coq d’Argent restaurant
  • Increasing the size of some windows and light-well openings at ground, first and second floor levels. Currently some windows overlooking Poultry and Queen Victoria Street ‘are misaligned with the portico column openings’, reducing natural light

 

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Readers' comments (3)

  • Really?! James Stirling was a modernist master, however this post-modern whimsy is far from one of his best and not worthy of listing. It would diminish the value of listed status in my opinion. Come on 20 Century Society get a grip!

    Julian Robinson

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  • It is unlikely there will be many Post-Modern buildings in Britain listed, but No. 1 Poultry should be one of them. One of the last projects by an architect who throughout his career was pre-occupied with the influence of history, typology and context on modernity, this building can be traced back to the Florey building in Oxford, and earlier, via Stirling's German competition entries in the 1970's. It is also demonstrates a dry wit, most notably in the decision to use the external stone cladding as a form of rain-screen, leaving the joints open, and providing the passerby with an unnerving view of the insulation behind the stone, a subtle undermining of the whole rationale behind the building's design.

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  • Following on from my note last week (below)...'Difficult Junctions!'
    I think its important to note that the design of this building (begun in 1985) but was not completed until 1998. I also understand that the media at the time reported that the building was designed 'in a spirit of derivative homage by a Stirling partner?.' London's Contemporary Architecture Second Edition ..the truth perhaps lost in the fog of traffic fumes hovering over the Bank junction?! The question has always been, should we love this building? As a local i have certainly accepted it and that the celebratory corner turret and projections is a special rostrum for the City. I suspect the jury will be out on the buildings listing or not...?....

    last weeks note
    The proposed changes sound minimal but detailed and tricky?...I live around the corner from No 1 and enjoy its flamboyant mannerisms, acidulous colour play and Egyptian auras! Regarding the proposed detailed changes, I would suggest caution on the retail adjustments to ensure that the conjectural relationship to neighbours remains balanced (Lutyens, Soane, Hawksmoor, Tite and Wren). Remember this building came at an interlude for architecture 1990-94 where the mood shifted from PoMo to muted modernism. Perhaps have a discussion with a master of post modernism such as Charles Hollands...its going to take deftness and wit to get it right. Good luck all involved.
    Wayne Head
    Founder Architecture With
    Barbican

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