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Norman Foster protest fails to block Piercy&Company’s Millennium Bridge House plans

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Piercy&Company has won approval to overhaul Millennium Bridge House despite a last-minute protest from Norman Foster

Foster, who designed the neighbouring Millennium Bridge, strongly objected to the proposed relocation of four steel sculptures at the northern end of the footbridge as part of plans to reclad and retrofit Richard Seifert’s 1988 Thamesside office block.

Under the proposals the two sets of HSBC gates, designed by sculptor Anthony Caro, would be removed to open up the public space and help tackle pedestrian congestion on the route along Peter’s Hill from St Paul’s to the bridge.

Millennium bridge house transport assessment and outline delivery servicing management plan wyg

Photo showing where gates will be removed and proposed ramp built (Transport assessment and outline delivery servicing management plan by WYG)

Photo showing where gates will be removed and proposed ramp built (Transport assessment and outline delivery servicing management plan by WYG)

The scheme, which will increase the size of the existing concrete-framed building by more than 5,000m², includes a new stepped and ramped entrance to the office-led development on Peter’s Hill. Although the proposed ramp will effectively narrow the overall width of the route to the bridge by around 2m, the design team claims this decrease would be mitigated by the removal of the two southernmost HSBC gates (see plan below).

But in a letter sent shortly before the Corporation of London’s planning committee meeting on 14 July, Foster wrote: ’The design for the bridge was a joint creation from the team of the late Sir Anthony Caro, sculptor, Arup, engineers, and Foster + Partners, architects, working closely together. To change any part of their creation is to impact the whole ensemble.

’We are also very concerned about public circulation on a heavily trafficked pedestrian route. Around two metres will be lost from the footway creating a pinch-point around the HSBC Gates. We do not agree in principle that the design of the building should rely on the encroachment into the public realm. We strongly recommend that the change in level, as in the existing building, is accommodated within the site boundary.

He added: ’Finally, and far more importantly, the public domain is compromised because the celebratory view from the Millennium Bridge to St Paul’s Cathedral and Tate Modern will be impaired.’

However the City’s planners said that the project offered ’significant public benefits including improved access and public realm around the building’ and recommend it for approval. Councillors agreed awarded the plans consent.

It is understood the removed gates could be found a new home at the Yorkshire Scuplture Park, where they would sit alongside other artworks by Caro.

Shutterstock hsbc gates caro

The HSBC gates by Anthony Caro which wil be removed and possibly found a new home at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

Source: Shutterstock

The HSBC gates by Anthony Caro which are set to be removed and possibly moved to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

When complete, the scheme for backers Angelo Gordon and Beltane Asset Management will include 27,275m² of office space as well as 2,527m² of rooftop gardens designed with Andy Sturgeon Design.

Stuart Piercy, founding director of Piercy&Company said: ’This project negotiates many contextual and infrastructural issues. It is a building that bridges one of the key arteries into the city of London; modestly addresses the Grade I-listed St Paul’s Cathedral and St Mary Somerset Church; references the expressive nature of dockside architecture; [and] brings back to life a forgotten stretch of the north bank of the river.

’[it also] provides a beautiful publicly accessible garden on the roof; all the while addressing the changing nature of workspace with a light-filled, adaptable and sustainable design.’

Najib Sheeka, senior associate at structural engineer Heyne Tillett Steel, said: ’With the current scheme keeping approximately 80 per cent of the existing structure we are able to save 3500TCO2e. The all-timber feature kite roof has also saved 340TCO2e (10 per cent of overall development) compared to a steel frame option, leading to overall structural embodied carbon of 95kgCO2e/m² for the development.

‘We have also been able to push the original design to have minimal strengthening to the existing structure, resulting in a highly efficient structural design that underlines the strong environmental credentials of the project.’

Piercy&Company’s proposals for the plot are not the first to be approved. In 2009 Mackenzie Wheeler Architects won the go-ahead to convert the building into a a 347-room hotel.

The property was subsequently snapped up by the Carlyle Group, which asked Orms to draw up all-new plans for an office-led scheme. The practice won consent for its £35 million project in 2012

However the plans were never built out and in 2013 the Carlyle Group sold on the site to Shiva Hotels. Angelo Gordon and Beltane Asset Management eventually picked up the plot in 2018.

Shutterstock andreyspb21 millennium bridge house right

Existing view of Richard Seifert’s 1987 Millennium Bridge House (pictured right)

Source: Shutterstock/Andreyspb21

Existing view of Richard Seifert’s 1987 Millennium Bridge House (pictured right)

Architect’s view

The architectural response draws upon the site’s rich context – the dockside heritage of the River Thames to the south and the Baroque architectural context of St Paul’s and St Mary Somerset to the north – whilst resolving complex infrastructure issues and prioritising high levels of sustainability, including the retention of much of the existing structural frame.

The design of the building responds sensitively to the townscape context of St Paul’s Cathedral and St Mary Somerset Church through its calm overall appearance and a richness in detail. Natural limestone is used to create a high-quality, calm and timeless appearance to the building’s primary façade elements.

The project aims to achieve BREEAM Excellent and a 61% reduction in carbon emission

Using circular economy, carbon reduction and the resource efficiency principles of re-using the existing structural frame, the project aims to achieve BREEAM Excellent and a 61 per cent reduction in carbon emissions over baseline Building Regulations requirements.

An innovative and energy-efficient approach to heat recovery and thermal storage reduces the amount of rooftop plant required to service the building, creating an all-electric solution that maximises the area available for rooftop gardens. This creates an attractive environment that encourages biodiversity, attenuates rainwater and reduces the urban heat island effect. 

The street level public realm will be improved through the addition of a series of new A class uses creating 105 linear meters of new active frontage along Paul’s Walk and Peter’s Hill. Expressed red-oxide steelwork supports the cantilever along Paul’s Walk creating a civic backdrop to the river and a sheltered area of public realm along the Thames Path, whilst evoking the memory of Sunlight Wharf; a building which once stood at the site and contained some of the last riverside cranes in the City.

Large-format openable glazed windows and doors maximise natural light and connections to the river. These also make reference to the large openings of historic warehouses that allowed goods and materials to be lifted directly off the boats from the River Thames.

Mbh pauls walk view west piercy&co cgi ink

Paul’s Walk, view west. Piercy&Company’s approved proposal July 2020

Source: INK

Paul’s Walk, view west. Piercy&Company’s approved proposal July 2020

Project team

Client Angelo Gordon & Beltane Asset Management
Architect Piercy&Company
Project manager Buro Four
Planning consultant Gerald Eve
Landscape designer Andy Sturgeon Design
Cost consultant Leslie Clarke
Heritage consultant Donald Insall Associates
Structural engineer Heyne Tillett Steel
Service engineer Norman Disney and Young
Community engagement consultant LCA
Facade engineer FMDC
Daylight and sunlight Point 2 Surveyors
Transport consultants WYG
Specialist lighting EQ2 Light
DDA consultants Proudlock Associates
Environmental consultant Greengage

Millennium bridge house transport assessment and outline delivery servicing management plan wyg plan

Plan showing distances/widths and where gates will be removed and proposed ramp built (Transport assessment and outline delivery servicing management plan by WYG)

Plan showing distances/widths and where gates will be removed and proposed ramp built (Transport assessment and outline delivery servicing management plan by WYG)

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Industry Professional

    Was never a fan of the post modern confection that was the Seifert building but the new proposal is simply bland. Given its river front location and adjacency to the Millennium bridge we might have expected a little more oomph in the design. Could more or less put this anywhere and the reaction would be the same, Meh!

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