This was a shortlisted entry into an architectural competition to design a replacement for Elizabeth House, a rather bland 1960s office block next to Waterloo Station. A futuristic arch that would have sliced into the skyline, dominating from some sides, and being almost invisible from others.
The architects, Make said that the arch form is as stable and efficient as it is unusual, and the design could be achieved using conventional construction methods. The design also took into account some restrictions on foundations in an area of soft soil and lots of tube train tunnels.
The 46-storey high curved building would have offered 1.7 million square feet of office and residential accommodation with retail on the ground floor. Within the glass-clad building, the floors are stacked like a ziggurat, which would maximise daylight and cross ventilation. A series of indoor gardens would rise up the inner curve of the building.
Make said that the distinctive shape of the building was derived from the geometric form of the torus, and “the profile of the building traces the curves of the River Thames onto London’s skyline”, which is frankly pushing it a bit. It’s as if having come up with a genuinely interesting idea, the marketing people insisted on wrapping it marketing waffle.
When they said that the profile offered a “graceful counterpoint to the vertical towers which are springing up along both banks of the Thames”, they were absolutely right though.
Obviously, it didn’t win.
Sometimes competition entries are sent in not to win outright, but to spark excitement in the client and chatter to see how a version could be designed that would get past the planning approval stage.
This building would have had heritage lobby sorts reaching for the protest banners the minute it was proposed as a realistic option, with the views from the other side of the Houses of Parliament, with this glass curve in the background provoking the greatest writing of letters.
I am tended to agree that in this location, the building was inappropriate. But wouldn’t it be marvellous to see it built somewhere?