Jewel of Southbank

Niki May Young
Wednesday 16 Jul 2008

London’s Southbank to get crystalline landmark

London’s Southbank will feature a new landmark building following the approval of a planning application to redevelop York House. The 18 storey crystalline office block, designed by Sheppard Robson, commissioned by Delancey and situated on the River Thames, will be highly visible from Parliament Square and Westminster Bridge.

The new design was initiated after a four-year planning period for the original, smaller design which, by the time planning was granted, had become obsolete. Project architect, David Ardill, explained why a redesign was necessary: “We came in after four years of planning. The original design had become dated with the outside made with articulated blocks. Because of the design it was only really useful as a single-occupancy block…Our design was needed to help improve the landmark status of the site.”

And they have responded to this brief by creating a bold but beautiful glazed-design which reflects light in an array of colours due to the formation of layered glass. “What makes the building special is the double skin and layering of the glass which works with the materials to reflect and diffuse light throughout and from the building,” said Ardill. A ‘dragonfly wing’ effect is created by the layering which was designed to dissolve the edges of the glass so as to use it as a feature. The outer skin is a deformed grid that pulls against diagonal fins to create a series of small pyramids contributing to the jewel concept. This gives crystalline reflections and animates the façade as the sun moves around it. Dichroic glass fins add changing colour to the building façade throughout the day.

The glazing acts as a response to that which is central to the building’s location: the view. Delancey wanted to make the most out of the riverside views out to parliament. This was accommodated by a 10,000 sq ft roof terrace and full length glazing to the front of the building. Issues of temperature control and heat loss then came into play encouraging the inclusion of a layered glass frontage which in turn will offer an ‘environmental buffer’ between the inside and outside and collect heat for energy.

Sustainability is key to the design which is currently set to receive an excellent BREEAM, the British environmental standard, rating. It is hoped that the building will be able to work in conjunction with the residential development Founders House to deliver heating to the properties collected from Westminster Place.

Sheppard Robson’s developments will spread much further than the individual plot of York House where derelict offices now stand. The project also involves a £2.5 million spend on landscaping for the surrounding area and the curve of the design will work together with nearby Westminster Park Plaza's facade mimicking each other to create a symmetrical passage between the two buildings and into the landscaped and pedestrianised area connecting Westminster Place with Delancey-owned Beckett House beyond.

A further notable design feature of the 345,000 sq ft building is the central atrium reaching from floor to ceiling through 17 floors providing an internal spectacle which will bring light to all sides of the office space.

Ardill said: “We are delighted to receive planning consent and the opportunity to bring a landmark building to the skyline of London’s iconic Southbank. Sheppard Robson recognised the importance of a design that sits comfortably in the context of its surroundings, yet has the charisma and visual presence to justify its development in such a prominent area of Central London.”

Niki May Young
News Editor

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United Kingdom

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