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Matt Yeoman: 'Our plans do not threaten No1 Poultry'

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Buckley Gray Yeoman’s Matt Yeoman responds to the outrage caused by his practice’s proposals for James Stirling and Michael Wilford  &  Partners’ post-modern flagship, Number 1 Poultry

What are the reasons for the proposed alterations at Number 1 Poultry?
Our proposals address the practical shortcomings that the building suffers from, to create more space and light and a better relationship with the retailers. We’re looking to enhance the building too, to create an entrance and reception area that a building of this importance and prominence deserves.
Overall, the proposals will enhance One Poultry’s status as a landmark building without compromising its key architectural and design elements.

What are the biggest misconceptions about your scheme?
That we are seeking to materially alter the fabric, integrity or prominence of the building. Fundamentally, this building is not under threat. On the contrary, our proposals secure its future. 

Do you think the changes you are proposing are in the spirit of the original design?
Absolutely. We have studied the original drawings, sketches and plans for the building in enormous detail. We have worked very hard to ensure that our proposals reflect an understanding of and sympathy for the integrity of One Poultry. As a result, our proposals respect and improve the key elements of the building whilst improving the quality of the working and public spaces within it. 

Have you been surprised by the reaction to your proposals at Number 1 Poultry? Why do you think so many high profile architects have leapt on them?
One Poultry is an important building, so interest in its well-being is understandable. But to call for grade II-star* is an overreaction to what are minor changes to a building that, from a practical perspective, has flaws that can be easily remedied. But it is no real surprise that those who worked on a building want it listed.

Would you be confident of getting the changes through even if it was listed?
I don’t support the listing bid which is unnecessary because the building is not under threat. We should be able to tweak and enhance great buildings so that they are able to adapt to the changing needs of society and so that their future is safeguarded. 

Given the battle over the demolition of the building’s predecessor to make way for the current building, do you find the reaction to your proposals ironic?
Calling for grade II* listing of One Poultry in response to our proposals is an overreaction, and an unnecessary response to minor changes which do not put the building under any threat.

Calling for grade II* listing is an overreaction

What is your view of the existing building - and where do you think it ranks as an example of postmodern architecture?
There is a lot to be admired in Number 1 Poultry and it’s been a pleasure to develop proposals that contribute toward its evolution. But it has problems that should be addressed. As architects we have an obligation to create buildings that look beautiful and inspiring, but that function well also. 

Do you think Stirling would have approved of your proposed alterations to the building?
If Stirling had lived to finish the building, these alterations would be unnecessary because he would have addressed the building’s problems during the design phase. 

Were you aware that Historic England had considered the building for listing as part of its post-modern offices review?
I was aware. It was not among the list probably because Historic England carefully consider these matters devoid of emotion. They tend not to allow personal and emotive experiences to inform their view.  

What criteria do you think Historic England should use when listing postmodern buildings?
The criteria is already laid out in statute and is very clear.  Fundamentally, the criteria for the listing of recent buildings is that they need to be under threat even to be considered. Number 1 Poultry isn’t under threat. Also, if it was listed at grade II* it would be the youngest ever building to be granted that status. It is after all, only 17 years old and listing it now would create a real precedent. Perhaps, the next generation should be the ones to judge.

No 1 Poultry (taken in 2008)

No 1 Poultry (taken in 2008)

Previous story (AJ 13.07.2015)

Foster and Rogers add weight to No1 Poultry listing bid

Norman Foster and Richard Rogers have become the latest high-profile architects to speak up against plans by Buckley Gray Yeoman to revamp Number 1 Poultry

The intervention by the two giants of the UK architecture scene comes a week after Peter Palumbo, the client who commissioned James Stirling to design the 1990s City of London building, lashed out at the proposals.

Both last week submitted objections to the plans, which would see alterations to the building including bigger windows, a new office entrance and the extension of retail units to fill arcade recesses.

In his letter, Foster said: ‘I would like to add my voice to the growing chorus of rightful opposition to the proposed changes to Number 1 Poultry which was designed by James Stirling and is located at the very heart of the City of London.

‘This is the work of a commission by one of the great patrons of modern architecture, Lord Palumbo, and one of the most outstanding and influential architects of his generation on the world stage.

‘This work is overdue for protection either by listing or a clear rejection of the proposed changes.’
Meanwhile Rogers said: ‘James Stirling was the first British architect to develop a truly modern style. One Poultry is a beautifully designed, post-modern masterpiece with fits neatly into its prominent site.

‘It is one of his last buildings and pays special attention to context, use of materials and subtle playfulness.

He added that he believes the building deserves grade II listing.

Architects Zaha Hadid, Gordon Kelly, Piers Gough and Chris Dyson along with critics Owen Hatherley, Stephen Bayley, Charles Jencks and Hugh Pearman have already voiced objections to the proposals.

At the end of June, 24 members of James Stirling and Michael Wilford & Partners’ office spoke out about the proposed revamp, including Stirling’s partner Michael Wilford and the scheme’s project architect Laurence Bain. 

In her letter to the Corporation of London, Hadid described the building as a ‘Postmodern masterpiece that deserves to be kept as a monument to innovative design and excellent execution’.

Palumbo submitted his letter to support a bid by the Twentieth Century Society to award the building Grade II listing status.

He said: ‘Had Buckley Gray Yeoman taken the time and trouble to acquaint themselves with the content of the Public Inquiry that follows the planning application to the City Corporation of London for the design by Sir James Stirling; and the further judicial inquiry that was finally settled by the decision of the House of Lords, they would see, unpalatable to them as it would have been, that the forensic examination to which each and every element of the design was put reveals the present proposals of Buckley Gray Yeoman and the assumptions upon which they are based, as shallow, empty, and of no account.’

In January, Historic England omitted the building from a list of 14 post-war office buildings to which it gave listed status (see AJ 28.01.15).


Matt Yeoman: 'Our plans do not threaten No1 Poultry'

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