A huge new building is set to loom over the famous art-deco former Daily Express offices on Fleet Street after planning permission was granted for the redevelopment of the River Court site behind it.

The Grade II* listed Daily Express building, built in 1932 sits on the corner of a block of buildings in the City of London, and was incorporated into a larger office block development to the side and behind in 2000, known as River Court.

(c) Planning application images

The new plans will split the Daily Express building to be freestanding, away from a new office development to replace River Court, by creating a new open arcade between the old and new development. The Daily Express building will then be transformed into a public cultural destination with social and educational outreach with a public roof garden.

Inside the Daily Express building, the existing central stair is one of the most spectacular interior spaces, extending from the ground up to the fifth floor at present, and will be extended up to a public roof garden at the top of the building.  At the east of the ground floor lobby, lifts take visitors down to the basement, potentially for lectures or exhibitions, or up to the rooftop and cafe/restaurant.

The likely layout of the Daily Express building will be an exhibition base in the former engine rooms of the basement, the grand foyer on the ground floor, floors 2-4 for “complimentary users”, a cafe/bar and writers space on the 5th floor, another exhibition space on the 6th flor and then the roof garden.

So far so good.

To fund all this though, the building that sits to the side and behind the Daily Express building is to be demolished and replaced. The Fleet Street frontage will be a modern interpretation of the art-deco building, but the rear of the River Court building will loom over the art-deco building on Fleet Street, with a huge wrap around a staggered set of floors that will reach 21 floors above street level.

(c) Planning application images (modified to highlight new building)

As a building, the replacement River Court is well designed and fits all the modern thinking about offering roof terraces and plenty of workspaces. Anywhere else it would be an exemplary building, but the way it hugs the Daily Express building overwhelms an art-deco gem.

(c) Planning application images

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14 comments
  1. Nick says:

    Demolishing an office block built in 2000 is a criminal waste of resources

    • Pete D says:

      Not if the land (a very limited resource in London) is used to house a very large increase in floor space.

      The wasting of resources occurred in 2000 when the site was not exploited to the same extent as planned now.

    • K E Rye says:

      My former workplace. I remember 121 Fleet Street as it was before we left the Black Lubiancka for the Grey Lubiancka in the late 80s. I like the idea of opening it to the public again because that superb reception hall should be enjoyed once again by all and sundry but that proposed monstrosity behind it. Ugh!

  2. Pete D says:

    At street level the new building behind the Daily Express building will not be visible.

    • Chris H says:

      Depends on the street – at street level in St Bride St you can see 8 stories of River Court – a few more levels top that but are stepped back. The replacement will rise 21 storeys straight up from St Bride St, (and by the look of some pictures might even be built out over it a bit.

    • Kim Rye says:

      Thank God!

  3. Stephen Brown says:

    It looks absolutely hideous

  4. Dave Smith says:

    Sorry Stephen, but I think it looks just fine. Each to their own.

  5. Chris Rogers says:

    The new building is grotesque, not for its bulk (though that is too) but for the way it completely engulfs the Daily Express building in a weak pastiche of itself, 20 years after the same planning authority specifically ordered River Court to be finished in pale stone to ensure (rightly) the Express retains its visual uniqueness.

    Bizarrely, ‘justification’ comes in an anonymous report by a planning officer who feels River Court “subsumed and annexed the Daily Express Building” but the new building – three times larger and a close copy of Owen Williams’ unique block – does not. The report recycles the same disingenuous nonsense set out in the application and is concerned solely with ‘uplift’ of office space, a ‘cultural offer’ and an alley or two.

    The same illiterate officer says “the cantilevering, jettisoning [sic – ‘jettying’ was obviously meant] and dynamic form of the new architecture would contrast in a pleasing manner with the simple, sleek unrelieved planes of the Daily Express Building”. And it’ll look like an iPhone. So that’s ok.

  6. Ms Terry Jones says:

    More shadows, more wind tunnels and sets a precedent for doing similar to the other distinguished buildings on Fleet Street which could destroy the scale of the district.
    But London has a long tradition of ad hoc buildings from all times and in all styles sitting side by side, so maybe this will work (!?) she says, fingers crossed.

  7. Andrew Inglis says:

    The existing 1930’s building is a key 1930’s building , ahead of its time . Wrapping another building around it is a peculiar idea and yet another fire-trap tower for central London . London is not New York .If you view London from the Shard you can see that it is a vast horizontal city in which the towers often look incongruous . The Grenfell fire disaster showed what can happen in towers .

  8. Lizebeth says:

    I would certainly want to see accurate representations of what the new building looks like from street level at various points on Fleet Street, and also from Ludgate Hill??

    The original building has long been closed to the public, so if it really opens up in order for us to enjoy its glorious interior, well and good. But is this a bait-and-switch?

    Despite public opinion, these buildings continue to appear… Money talks.

  9. Peter Wyeth says:

    ‘The Fleet Street frontage will be a modern interpretation of the art-deco building’ – I wouldn’t pass over that – why can’t they be required to restore what was ground-breaking and keep all the original elements – a ‘modern-interpetation’ means a pastiche – and should be anathema to conservation-officers who are on the ball. Replacing the original with a ‘copy’ is a big mistake and no self-respecting planning department would permit it.

  10. Andrew says:

    I cycle past River Court every day. Having just realised that the work going on there is for demolition I have just looked this up. The height, at 21 storeys, is insanely inappropriate. The developers clearly want the height for the very reason that the existing rules are supposed to prevent it, i.e. they get a lovely view from the top but at the expense of the views from everywhere else! I am also staggered by the number of times the documents talk of there being, paraphrasing, “harm but only a little bit” in all sorts of categories, views, dwarfing, natural light etc. A lot of little bits makes a lot. If there’s harm, why allow it? All these incremental “little harms” add up in the end, as if the applicants didn’t know it.
    As for overwhelming other buildings, illustrations of the new building (very limited, since they don’t show the future view from Blackfriars Bridge and the South Bank or from Mount Pleasant, into which it will stick like a sore thumb) remind me of the wildlife documentaries of a snake’s jaws detaching and widening to gradually engulf a prey that appears too big to swallow, in this case, the Express building. The Express building will look like a hood ornament on this new monstrosity.
    As for the waste of resources, planning guidelines ought to include the carbon footprint cost and some type of presumption against demolition of a building which has a good 30, 40 or more years left of useful life left in it. Just imagine the cost in diesel and electricity expenditure of pulling it down and erecting something new. I thought the destruction fo the 1970 GPO headquarters to make way for the Goldman Sachs building nearby was wanton enough but replacing a 2000 building in 2022 should be outlawed on greenhouse gas emission grounds alone.

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