The Southbank’s brutalist office block occupied by IBM could be getting bigger if plans by the owners are approved by the council.
The development looks reasonably sympathetic to the Denys Lasdun designed original and seeks to clear away some unsuitable features, but also more significantly, to add an additional story to the height of the building. Although occupied by IBM, the building itself is owned by Dubai-based investment company Easa Saleh Al Gurg Group who are putting forward the expansion plans.
The main ground level change will be to reduce the emphasis on car transport which was suitable for the 1970s, but not only inappropriate today, but also now an underused slab of space. They aim to open up the ground floor to the public by eating into the rather fortress appearance around the ground floor, particularly on the river-side frontage. That will become even more cafes and restaurants for the area.
Personally, the fortress effect is part of the building’s appeal, and putting in sheets of glass with cafes and seating will jar somewhat with the rest of the building. That sort of change is however the sort of thing that does get smiled upon by planners who seek to get rid of blank walls as much as possible.
Less obvious from the ground level, the biggest commercial change will be the addition of an extra floor on the low-rise slab of concrete, to substantially increase the office space for the owner to rent out. They expect to increase capacity from 2,300 workers to 4,200 office workers. On the upside, the building can’t go much higher anyway, as there’s a protected view, and also the design of the additional floor sits comfortably with the existing slabs of office space.
For the office workers, the roof terraces will be opened up into outdoor spaces for lunches, and no doubt, evening events for hire. The new upper floor will be matched to the rest of the building, and the architects are currently researching how the existing concrete panels were made and where the quarry for the stone was so they can colour match the new to the old.
The end result should be a building that looks as if it was always designed that way in terms of height, but with the modern intrusion of the glass wall of cafes sitting somewhat uncomfortably on one side.
If you went to the exhibition last week, and made a note of the website for the consultation – they spelt it wrong. The correct address is: https://76upperground.com
If planning permission is granted, they expect to start works in early 2021, with completion around 3 years later.