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NEWS FEATURE

How Broadgate’s brilliance has been gradually destroyed

1 2 broadgate
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Historic England’s latest recommendation argues that too much has already been lost from the 1980s London office campus to make it worth preserving, report Kate Youde and Richard Waite

The heritage body called it ‘the supreme architectural expression of the 1980s office boom’ when recommending a Grade II* listing in 2011.

But seven years on, Broadgate faces what some might consider architectural bust with another section of the iconic scheme set for demolition. 

Last week it emerged that Historic England had had a change of heart, recommending that the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport accept landowner British Land’s application for a Certificate of Immunity (COI) from listing for 1-2 Broadgate (pictured top). The culture secretary has said he is ‘minded to grant’ the application.

If the decision goes unchallenged, British Land will be clear to move forward with its plans to flatten the structures and replace them with a 14-storey office-led building designed by Allford Hall Monaghan Morris.

Ahmm 1 2 broadgate public consultation

Ahmm 1 2 broadgate public consultation

AHMM’s 14-storey scheme proposed to replace 1-2 Broadgate

The proposals effectively spell the end for the only part of the commercial campus that remains untouched.

Broadgate, on the site of the former Broadgate station, was the largest and most significant speculative development of the 1980s, originally designed by Arup Associates, with the team headed by the late architect Peter Foggo responsible for phases 1-4. 

When Historic England (then English Heritage) recommended Broadgate phases 1-4, along with landscaping and sculptures, for a Grade II* listing seven years ago, it said the development’s ‘iconic status’, commercial success and critical acclaim had given it ‘an enduring place in the canon of British commercial architecture … It represents a place-making achievement of a very high order, creating a piece of city within the City that was a benchmark for later-20th-century urbanism on this scale.’

But the government disagreed, with British Land receiving COIs for numbers 3, 4 and 6 Broadgate. This enabled the demolition of 4 and 6, and the development of Make’s £460 million 5 Broadgate and Orms’ revamp of 3 Broadgate, which will be returned to its original use as a marketing suite and is due for completion by the first quarter of 2019. 

COIs for numbers 1-2 and 8-12 Broadgate, 100 Liverpool Street and the Octagon Arcade were granted in early 2013, but expired in January this year.

Meanwhile a  redevelopment of 100 Liverpool Street is due for completion in early 2020, with Hopkins Architects’ design lowering the existing Octagon Mall to provide level access to Liverpool Street station. There are also plans for a major new retail-led link into 1-2 Broadgate.

This time, in respect of just 1-2 Broadgate, Historic England has been unwilling to put up a fight, claiming the quality of the campus design ‘had now been diminished by a series of demolitions and alterations of important parts of the original scheme’.

Each separate building was not necessarily good enough for listing but the development as a whole certainly was

Rab Bennetts

Explaining its recommendation to grant immunity from listing, it added: ‘When considered in isolation, 1-2 Broadgate does not represent one of the best or most important works by Peter Foggo. Its architectural interest was designed to form part of a larger piece of urban place-making and, even though it has historic interest as the last unaltered fragment of Broadgate phases 1-4, it can’t convey the importance of the larger whole.’

Grace Etherington of the Twentieth Century Society, which had objected to the COI application, says: ’We’ve been campaigning to secure listed status for the Broadgate development since 2010. Peter Foggo’s design was widely celebrated for its ambition, exceptionally high quality, carefully planned public realm and prestigious collection of purpose-designed artworks.

’The Department for Culture, Media and Sport repeatedly ignored Historic England’s advice to list the whole estate at Grade II* and later Grade II, which enabled the loss of 4 and 6 Broadgate and the unrecognisable remodelling of 3 and 8-12 Broadgate and 100 Liverpool Street. These losses irretrievably compromised the integrity of the award-winning scheme.’

Orms 3 broadgate collage

Orms 3 broadgate collage

She adds: ’It is a great shame that Broadgate’s legacy will be associated with the failure of DCMS to follow expert opinion, and we are disappointed that inadequacies in the listing process will result in the loss of London’s most significant and successful post-war commercial development.’

Rab Bennetts, now director of Bennetts Associates, who worked with Foggo at Arup on the Finsbury Avenue development and the masterplan for Broadgate, believes the campus was a ‘lost cause’ before the last listing case.

‘Broadgate has revealed a major anomaly in the listing system in that each separate building was not necessarily good enough for listing but the development as a whole certainly was,’ he says. ‘There is no mechanism for listing the “group-value” of several buildings that are a coherent whole, nor is it possible to list the connecting spaces. 

‘Maybe it should have been designated a conservation area instead, but I fear that it is a lost cause. The damage was done when Make’s building for UBS shattered the scale of Broadgate, so there is now a case for increasing the scale more generally.’ 

5 Broadgate, London, by Make Architects

5 Broadgate, London, by Make Architects

5 Broadgate, London, by Make Architects

He adds: ‘It’s worth remembering that Broadgate won the Stirling Prize of its day (the RIBA Building of the Year 1991) and it is hard to imagine another Stirling Prize winner being treated in this way.’

British Land, which is working with the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation, is expected to submit its plans for 1-2 Broadgate by the end of the year.

  • 3 Comments

Readers' comments (3)

  • Phil Parker

    Developer greed.

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  • These comments miss the point. The genius and success of Broadgate is that it created a place (where there was none before) which is of a higher order than its individual component buildings. This enables the individual buildings to be redeveloped, as needs change, whilst the sense of place and urbanism survives and even develops long-term. This is urbanism at its best and is the evidence of Broadgate’s success. It is far too rare an achievement.
    This express ambition of P Foggo and P Dowson was incidentally also exemplified at the contemporaneous Stockley Park, where the same idea was manifested, namely that the landscape, of a much longer timeframe than the buildings, should be the driving and overarching design, into which buildings could and would come and go.
    It is sad that architects’ preoccupation, not to say obsession, is so object-focused, at the expense of sense of place, and urbanism.

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  • Rab Bennetts isn't really right when he says that group value can't be protected, or the spaces in between buildings. Group value is one of the considerations the Secretary of State can take into account when considering architectural and historic interest, and I'm sure formed an important component of the original recommendations to list the buildings. When buildings are listed, their setting has to be taken into account in planning decisions. The spaces between buildings can also be key components of the character and appearance of Conservation Areas, and good character appraisals/management plans would protect these in the planning process.

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