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Decision Summary

This building has been assessed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest. The asset currently does not meet the criteria for listing. It is not listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended.

Name: Lansdowne House

Reference Number: 1456345

Location

Berkeley Square, Westminster, W1J 6ER

The building may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Greater London Authority
District: City of Westminster
District Type: London Borough
Parish: Non Civil Parish

National Park: Not applicable to this List entry.

Decision Date: 13-Apr-2018

Description

Summary of Building

Speculative offices with commercial units, 1985-1988 by Chapman Taylor Partners.

Reasons for currently not Listing the Building

Lansdowne House, 1985-1988, is not listed for the following principal reasons:

Level of architectural interest:

* although a bold design for a prestigious site, the composition, detailing and form of Lansdowne House do not demonstrate the sophistication, inventiveness or careful contextualism of the best Post-Modernist designs of the period.

Level of historic interest:

* despite the controversy surrounding the site’s development, the critical reception of Lansdowne House once completed was muted. There is little to suggest it was an influential design in the development of Post-Modernism in Britain or, more generally, late C20 commercial architecture.

History

Post-Modernism, a movement and a style prevalent in architecture between about 1975 and 1990, is defined in terms of its relationship with modern architecture. Post-Modernist architecture is characterised by its plurality, engagement with urban context and setting, reference to older architectural traditions and use of metaphor and symbolism. As a formal language it has affinities with Mannerism (unexpected exaggeration, distortions of classical scale and proportion) and the spatial sophistication of Baroque architecture. Post-Modernism accepts the technology of industrialised society but expresses it in more diverse ways than the machine imagery of the contemporary High-Tech style.

The origins of the style are found in the United States, notably in the work of Robert Venturi and Charles Moore which combined aspects of their country’s traditions (ranging from the C19 Shingle Style to Las Vegas) with the knowing irony of pop art. A parallel European stream combined an abstracted classicism or a revival of 1930s rationalism with renewed interest in the continental city and its building types. In England, the American and European strands converged in the late 1970s, to produce works by architects of international significance, including James Stirling, and distinctive voices unique to Britain such as John Outram. The 1980s revival of the British economy was manifested in major urban projects by Terry Farrell and others in London, while practices such as CZWG devised striking imagery for commercial and residential developments in Docklands and elsewhere.

The scheme for the present Lansdowne House was a major redevelopment of the 1980s on a prominent and prestigious plot in London’s West End. The site, occupying the whole of the south side of Berkeley Square, was formerly the gardens of Lansdowne House, built in 1762-1768 by Robert Adam for Lord Bute (now, in altered form, the Lansdowne Club, listed at Grade II*; National Heritage List for England 1066795). In the 1930s, Lansdowne Passage, a narrow footpath separating the gardens of Lansdowne House with those of Devonshire House to the south, was widened to create Lansdowne Row. In 1935 the site was developed with an eight-storey block designed by Wimperis Simpson and Guthrie, also named Lansdowne House, with the car showrooms of Stewart & Ardern on the ground floor.

In the early 1980s Legal & General commissioned Chapman Taylor Partners to design a redevelopment of the site. The proposal to demolish the 1935 block led to a public inquiry, at which the inspector concluded that the replacement building, as proposed, was ‘innovative and would provide a building of excellence’ (Murray, 1989). Planning permission for the development of 186,000sq ft of offices was eventually granted in late 1983 following a further public inquiry into the development of the site. The building was constructed by John Laing Construction Ltd from September 1985 to March 1988. When completed, Lansdowne House was occupied by Saatchi and Saatchi, with four floors let by Glaxo Holdings (now Glaxo Smith Kline). Contemporary architectural reports noted that the ‘luxurious and prestigious modern building with its spectacular planted atrium must have seemed an eminently suitable address for a multinational like Glaxo’ (RIBA Journal, 1989). The office floors are now let to multiple corporate tenants, with the interiors fitted-out to their specifications.

Chapman Taylor Partners was a commercial practice established in 1959 by Bob Chapman (1926-2016), John Taylor (1928-1999) and Jane Durham, who met while working for architect Guy Morgan. Their best-known projects include New Scotland Yard in Westminster (1962-1966), RHM Centre, Vauxhall Bridge Road, London (1969-1971), Caxton House, Tothill Street, Westminster (1974-1979), the Diamond Quarter Headquarters building in Charterhouse Street (1976-9), Friary Court, Crutched Friars (1981-1985), One Drummond Gate, Millbank (completed 1983) and Moorgate Hall, Moorgate (1988-1990). At the same time the firm became active in the retail sector, designing shopping centres such as Eldon Square, in Newcastle (1976) and the West One centre in Oxford Street. By the mid-1980s the office employed 650 members of staff. From the 1990s Chapman Taylor undertook a greater proportion of projects outside the UK, and today operates as a global architecture and master planning practice.

Details

Lansdowne House, Berkeley Square, City of Westminster, built 1985-1988 to the designs of Chapman Taylor Partners.

STRUCTURE AND MATERIALS: reinforced-concrete frame externally clad in Cornish Hantergantick granite, Whitbed Portland stone and Bahia granite, with grey anodised aluminium curtain walling at the upper levels.

PLAN: Lansdowne House occupies the whole of its trapezoidal plot with a U-shaped configuration of upper storeys. A central atrium is entered from Berkeley Square to the north via a reception area. The offices floors were left to be fitted-out and partitioned according to the tenants’ specifications. The office floors are served by five fire escape and six service cores, a bank of four lifts and stairs south of the atrium, and an additional pair of ‘wall climber’ lifts within the atrium itself.

EXTERIOR: comprised of eight storeys plus roof space, lower-ground floor and basement. The principal elevation, to Berkeley Square, is symmetrical, comprising a two-storey base of Cornish granite, four storeys of Portland stone and an upper portion of grey anodised aluminium curtain walling. The central ‘gatehouse’ element is lower, of six storeys. Above a triple-height arched entrance is an arrangement of canted projecting windows and pedimented bays. It is flanked by two minor bays of narrow windows, three major bays of square windows flanked by narrow ones, and an end bay with canted corner glazing. The fenestration is of tinted glass in grey anodised aluminium frames. The ground floor has a rusticated podium of roughly-tooled granite and large shop window openings. These are treated in an Art Deco or cubistic manner with large, slanting keystones, stepped and cutaway edges and stylised ‘capital’ blocks in contrasting Bahia granite.

The upper storeys introduce a gradual change of materials; with a grey aluminium panel linking the fifth and sixth floor windows and the sixth storey featuring a crenelated effect of alternating bays of Portland stone and recessed aluminium walling which is the cladding material for the top storey and tall, recessed mansard roofs which house plant. The canted corner bays include a projecting aluminium window unit at fifth-floor level. The west elevation to Fitzmaurice Place has a similar treatment of bays, variation being introduced through the inclusion of a canted two-bay projection with stepped and canted glazing units. Vehicular entrances on the south side of this elevation give access to basement car parking. The east elevation has a similar, off-centre projection of one-bay. The south elevation to Lansdowne Row has alternating flat and canted bays and a central ‘cutaway’ section of aluminium curtain walling. Fronting Lansdowne Row is a single-storey shopping parade faced in Portland stone with a protruding curved corner to the east side.

INTERIORS: the central atrium is large and grand in the manner of the US hotels designed by the architect John Portman. The arched and vaulted reception area is a three-storey space clad in polished stone with grand arches uplit from the capitals of engaged pilasters to the corners. Arched glazing to the entrance from the street and into the atrium incorporates a circle motif, this set above glazed doors on the south side which lead into the building. The central atrium acts as a vast lightwell, rising through the full height of the building’s central core and set beneath a complex cruciform glazed roof. The walls and floor are of polished polychrome stone, inlaid to create geometric patterns and spatial definition. The walls are highly modelled and incorporate glazing to the office spaces. Affixed to the south elevation is a pair of ‘wallclimber’ lifts (a feature popularised by Portman in the US) and a high level walkway spans the atrium at fifth-floor level. Triangular lightwells at each corner of the atrium admit light to the lower-ground floor. This section of the atrium features granite cascades and pools for a water feature (not currently functioning) which is designed to be overlooked from the atrium floor. The stair and lift core, to the south, continues the inlaid floor and walls of polished polychrome stone of the atrium and also features a series of polished granite columns, bespoke light fittings and original inlaid joinery and doors.

The office interiors and the commercial units entered from the street are fitted-out to standardised modern specifications. The basement areas are used for car parking and plant store and are of a standard form.

Selected Sources

Books and journals
Jencks, C (Editor), Post-Modern Triumphs in London, (1991), 82
Murray, Peter (Editor), Chapman Taylor Partners, (1989)
Pevsner, N, Bradley, S, The Buildings of England: London 6 Westminster, (2003), 503
Havinden, J, 'Corporate Comfort' in RIBA Journal, (December 1989), 67-70
'Lansdowne House, Londres' in Formes et Structures, , Vol. 4, (1990), 110-115

Map

National Grid Reference: TQ2885480462


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This copy shows the entry on 09-Dec-2019 at 11:18:32.