A heritage group is campaigning against plans to partially demolish the distinctive brick and stone-clad office block that sits above Angel tube station.
Officially known as Angel Square, the building is a postmodern office block by Rock Townsend Architects built in the late 1980s, and is made up of three buildings around a central courtyard. It was sold in 2021 by its former owners Derwent London for £86.5 million, and the new owner, Tishman Speyer wants to redevelop the site.
The developer had been holding a consultation and has now submitted its formal planning application. The C20 Society has formally objected to the plans.
The plans by AHMM architects would see the internal courtyard filled in, which is arguably a loss as it is open to the public. However, they also want to strip away the distinctive brick pomo facade and replace it with a fairly generic glass and steel wall. They’re retaining much of the internal structure, so this is more of a substantial refurbishment than wholesale demolition and rebuild.
Although the current building isn’t listed, it makes for a distinctive corner building at the entrance to The Angel, and Islington council’s chief planner, David Brown, worked with the original developers for a building that would be “fully articulated, using a rich vocabulary of materials, decoration, shapes and even monumental embellishments”.
A key feature of the existing building is the clock tower, which takes the form of an Italianate campanile. The C20 Society notes that the clock tower is positioned away from the corner of the development at a point where it is, what Building Design (1991) describe as, ‘the focus from Liverpool Road’ and where it ‘forms a gateway effect into the high street with the tower forms of buildings opposite’
As a building, it does suffer from the problem that affects many developments of the time, of presenting a fairly solid wall at street level, rather than a row of shops that, as planners like to say, animates the frontage. The proposed office block would sit further back from the street than the current building, opening up wider pavements.
Although there are good arguments for a refurbishment of the building and infilling the courtyard to fund the upgrades by expanding the office floor space, it’s would be a shame if that project were to also include removing the postmodern cladding. For all its faults at the street level, it does manage to sit well in the corner and is pleasingly distinctive in a way that a generic glass and steel office block would not be.
The C20 Society has requested the building be identified as a Non-Designated Heritage Asset (NDHA) and is asking that the architects and developers pursue a more sympathetic and sustainable scheme.
The replacement building won’t affect Angel tube station, and although the station has famously long escalators, it lacks lifts. TfL is good at extracting their pound of flesh from developers to fund upgrades, but there seem limited options to add lifts to this station entrance, so upgrades being offered are limited to the external areas around the station entrance.
The difficulty is that the station entrance is a fair distance from the platforms, so a lift would have to go down to platform level and then tunnel sideways quite some distance to get to the platforms. Technically possible, but the cost would exceed what TfL can extract from the developer.
The planning reference is: P2022/0871/FUL