The Twentieth Century is delighted to report the heritage minister’s decision this week to list the Lloyd’s Building at Grade I. This is an exceptional building of its period, a landmark in the City of London recognised internationally – outstanding from the day it went up. Originally put forward for listing by the Society in 2008, it is an incredibly successful and pioneering building that deserves Grade I status.
Construction of the Richard Rogers’s building started in 1981 and was completed in 1986. There is no other building of this date of such significance. Since its inception the Lloyds Building has probably been the most celebrated as well as the most controversial building in London.
Known as the ‘inside-out’ building, all service components are located on the perimeter of the building: there are lifts, ductwork, fire stairs, lavatories, supporting structure and even the permanently installed cranes that are used for servicing and maintaining the facades.
English Heritage’s principle reasons for listing include:
Architectural innovation: a seminal late-C20 building by one of Britain’s most significant modern architects. It exemplifies the High Tech style in Britain, with its boldly expressed services and flexibility of plan throughout the impressive exterior and interior.
Historic interest: a purpose-built headquarters for an internationally important organisation that successfully integrates the traditions and fabric of earlier Lloyd’s buildings (including the Adam Room moved originally from Bowood House, the 1925 Cooper façade and fixtures such as the Lutine Bell).
Flexibility of design: Lloyd’s was innovative for the in-built flexibility of its design that would respond to changing needs in the market. The robustness of the overall design has allowed regular changes to work satisfactorily, and the essential elements of the building survive remarkably well. New additions, while too new to be of special interest, have been thoughtfully incorporated.
Timelessness: the building, which looked to Victorian as well as mid C20 buildings for inspiration, firmly retains the splendour of its awe-inspiring futuristic design, 25 years (at the time of listing in 2011) after it opened.
Group value: Lloyd’s, in the heart of the City of London, has many listed neighbours and it forms a wonderfully incongruous backdrop to many of these in captured vistas throughout the City. It has particular group value with the adjacent Grade II
Celebrated design: one of the best known and admired modern commercial buildings in the country, with international renown that cast the image of the City of London in a new light.
The strength of this architectural style lies in the legibility of the individual components, none of the parts are concealed, everything is there for you to see. The components are held separate from one another to emphasize this. It is an internalized building; the focus is on the great atrium around which the space is organized. The main structural system is a concrete precast and insitu framework with stainless steel bearings that transfer the loads and allow for movement and tolerances in construction.
The building was conceived around the immense Underwriting Hall that can accommodate up to 10,000 people at one time. The company’s expansion formed part of the brief and this was resolved by building a soaring 80m high atrium surrounded by 12 levels of open floors covering an area of 19,000 square meters on the rectangular site. It is a surprisingly simple plan. The approximate dimensions of the footprint are 70m by 40m.
Built on the site of Sir Edwin Cooper’s Lloyd’s building of 1928, Roger’s design has been hailed for its international stature since it was built. It features alongside the contemporary Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank in Hong Kong by Norman Foster and the James R Thompson Centre in Chicago by Helmut Jahn in most publications on twentieth century architecture.
Many traditions unique to Lloyd’s have been carefully integrated into this building: The double height underwriting room is laid out with boxes where the underwriters sit and negotiate with brokers. Also the rostrum from the 1928 building was salvaged, as well as the Lutine Bell which is now set up in the centre of the atrium. The Adam Room (Robert Adam, 1763) was also brought over from the 1958 building that had been its home after it had been bought at auction and installed there—it was originally from Bowood House in Wiltshire).
Although the 1928 building was listed, it was demolished apart from the entrance arch on Leadenhall St which was retained as a subsidiary entrance to the new building. The ground floor has been designed as part of the public realm: it is a cafe and offers a reminder of the origins of the Edward Lloyd’s establishment as a coffee house near the Tower of London. Finally the large glass arch that forms the atrium references the Palladian arched windows of the earlier Lloyd’s building that can be seen on Terence Cuneo’s painting of the building. These features are highly important as a contrast with the high-tech environment and as a link to the long heritage of the world’s largest insurance market.