The shabby 1960s office block next to London Bridge is to be demolished and replaced with a staggered row of towers, and a large street-level garden.

Although in Southwark, the late 1960s building, Colechurch House is actually owned by the City of London’s Bridge House Estates, the centuries-old trust fund that manages the bridges across the Thames and gives its surplus to charity.

Last year they announced plans to demolish it with something else, and now those plans have gone for approval.

Rather than the current design which has a walkway linking London Bridge with the railway station, they plan to open up the street level area by lifting the new building up by around three stories.

The ground level, currently mostly blank concrete walls is then opened up with public parks, so the commute to/from the station should be much more visually enjoyable.

Divided into three spaces from east to west, the ground floor gives access to the building above whilst the Tooley Street frontage is the main access point to the lower ground floor uses.

More ground floor retail will be added, but significantly, they are including space for a new theatre, which is being offered to the Southwark Playhouse to occupy at an affordable rent. The theatre will have two venues of different capacities, 250 people for the main theatre and 150 for the second theatre where both are proposed to have a flexible configuration.

The theatre will sit inside a four-storey basement, which will also house a cafe and bar, retail and leisure, public bicycle storage and offices. The cycle store is interesting – it’s an automated facility based in a three-floor deep cylinder in the basement. In total, the building will have just under 800 cycle spaces, of which 68 will be resited existing public cycle spaces, and the rest new for the office and other tenants.

The building itself rather than a single long block is being broken up into four towers, which lets them raise the height a bit at one end as well – for that commercial gain. The smallest block closest to London Bridge will be 12 floors, rising to 22 floors at the eastern end, significantly lower than the 30-floor tower they originally wanted.

The towers will have roof gardens, although there’s no indication that these will be open to the public. However, there will be a public restaurant with a roof terrace on the lower block, on the tenth floor.

One of the interesting developments in the building design is a return to an old Victorian idea of putting large light shelves outside shops in narrow alleys to reflect light into the shops and offices. While hardly sitting in an alley, they’ve developed a modern equivalent that can sit within the double-skin glazing that delivers a similar effect. The aim being more natural daylight reflecting off the office ceilings, which makes for a healthier workplace, and also reduces the electricity bill.

It’s one of a number of ideas which they say will make the building zero-carbon in use.

The proposal also intends to maintain and reposition the Needle and stone slabs from the old London Bridge within a cultural and heritage-based public realm.

The planning application is here.

All images from the planning application

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