New Ludgate is the transformation of a City block into a generous and lively new quarter for London.
It sets up a dialogue between two striking and complementary new buildings whilst reinstating and improving the public realm around it. It is in essence a new piece of city.
The architects were asked to masterplan the site in collaboration with Sauerbruch Hutton, separating it into two headquarter-sized office buildings – Two New Bailey to the north, designed by Sauerbruch Hutton with Fletcher Priest as executive architect, and One New Ludgate designed by Fletcher Priest.
Around the site, street lines, grades and views are repaired and improved, such as the processional route to the western entrance of St Paul’s.
At ground level, Gustafson Porter + Bowman’s landscape design ties the new development seamlessly into the surrounding urban fabric and character.
This is achieved by fine landscape details and finishes which reinforce the smooth transition and facilitate the use of this new public space in a tight urban site. By creating a new passageway between the two buildings the scheme also forms a new open space at the east that catches the lunchtime sun for office workers and the public alike.
This new route recalls similar hidden passageways throughout the City of London which create unexpected shortcuts. It marks a transition from the traditional pavement of Yorkstone to a dark granite in the piazza and passageway.
This change is made with a bold geometric paving pattern which takes inspiration from fashion designer Alexander McQueen and the 20th century artist M. C. Escher.
The square is defined by façades and plays off an existing terracotta Victorian elevation opposite. This space has been designed with as little of a ‘corporate’ feel as possible.
The 165,000-square foot One New Ludgate building itself comprises nine storeys plus ground floors. It is animated by bars and retail outlets under fixed white glass awnings.
The building uses a façade concept of a masonry grid that keeps off direct sunlight and throws light onto the floorplates and, when viewed obliquely from the street’s wide pavements, gives a solidity to the building.
White precast concrete frames, simply detailed, respect their neighbours and set off the floor-to-ceiling low-ion glazing, while vivid amber ‘Kathedral’ glass fins are used on the piazzetta ‘accent’ façade in the new public space, where a mature tree provides shade.
A floating plane of photovoltaic cells lines the roofscape along with plant and a green roof, while both buildings flank a still-operating two and a half-storey city electrical interchange, which allows light into the heart of the site.
One New Ludgate also boasts extensive private external space, accessible from every office floor.
This includes set-back loggia and balconies and a substantial south-facing terrace with uninterrupted views of St Paul’s which is capable of accommodating 300 people. Here the aim was to create a permeable boundary between the natural oasis of the roof terrace and its immediate urban context without creating the feeling that one was ‘in a fishbowl’ and overlooked by adjacent buildings.
Comprised of dense planting arranged in colourful bands of perennial plants, ornamental grasses and evergreen structural planting, this screen grounds the user to their own context rather than being exposed by ‘the big view’.
A dense planting scheme varies in height and corresponds to an understated colour scheme for pockets of the raised flower bed, which is wrapped in a sinuous white Corian bench. Both inconspicuous and sculptural, its form continues to wrap around the very edges of the terrace whilst its varied height creates ample soil depth.
The design of the planting bed allows for two channels which aid spectacular views for the building’s users to St Paul’s and the City of London beyond. Both the terrace and the piazzetta seek to normalise the hectic energy of central London, and embody a belief that a small-scale space with high-quality materials and refined detailing can enhance the public realm, thus creating an intimate space within the heart of the city that everybody can use.
The unique figure of Two New Ludgate responds specifically to the characteristics of its inner city site.
The street space of Limeburner Lane is charged with a taut convex building skin, while along Old Bailey the building steps back in a gentle concave gesture that ends in the square to the south. Here, a dramatic elevation initiates a series of cranked façades that zigzag across the interior of the block.
Vertical louvres of fritted glass of varying polychromy are combined with horizontal concrete fins to emphasise the overall form. While the rhythm and triangular formation of the paired louvres result in an overtly three-dimensional façade facing Old Bailey and Limeburner Lane, the cranked façade lining the block interior is deliberately flat.
A generous entrance hall continues the space of the street into the building, its rear wall of textured Portland Stone reinforcing the dialogue with the opposing Old Bailey. In terms of sustainability, both buildings on the site are BREEAM ‘Excellent’.
New Ludgate is significant because it responds to the City Corporation’s ambitions to restore small passageways and public spaces to the city, allowing breakout spaces and places to pause within a frenetic environment.
The close collaboration between three major architectural practices has created a development which respects the City’s existing buildings whilst creating a welcome new addition which has been praised by city planners for being bold and contemporary whilst also repairing the damage caused by poor post-war planning.
Planning Authority: The City of London
Contractor: Skanska UK PLC.
Photographers: Tim Soar