The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

Photos © Elizabeth Hopkirk

100 Buildings 100 Years

1997: No 1 Poultry, London

Status: Unlisted
Condition: Good condition
Type: Commercial/offices
Architect: James Stirling
Location: No 1 Poultry, London

No 1 Poultry is London’s very own Egyptian temple. In rather better nick than the Roman Temple of Mithras nearby, it occupies one of the City’s most prominent corners. Prince Charles, whose objection to a Mies skyscraper laid its foundations, nonetheless dismissed it as resembling a 1930s wireless set.

But to me its monumental elevations, beak-like climaxes and Tutankhamun stripes shout Valley of the Kings. Epically scaled, it stretches for two blocks without monotony, its exuberant roofline rewarding extended gazing.

At street level a thick curtain has been pulled back allowing passers-by to glimpse the holy of holies. Or Bucklersbury Passage, as it is known. Stepping inside, one expects to find an eternal flame burning. Instead railings invite one to pause and contemplate the void.

And now the building’s sense of humour is revealed. Look up to discover an oculus lifted high on walls of incongruous colour, material and rectilinearity.

In the heart of this temple to commerce is a shrine that appears to be made from fragments of social housing.

by Elizabeth Hopkirk

Wikipedia entry 

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