The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

Drapers Gardens, London EC2

R. Seifert and Partners, unlisted

Draper’s Gardens is set within the City of London and unlike many of its peers, this striking concrete office block has a commanding presence. Yet, like many buildings of the inter-war period, it faces imminent demolition and replacement with a contemporary scheme. It is an exceptional building by Seifert, and only second to its renowned contemporary, the Grade II listed Centre Point, by the same practice. Begun in 1963, Concrete Quarterly reported in December 1968 that ‘it is one of the best towers that post-war London has seen’ and praised it for its relationship to the nineteenth century site. The tower rises up above a network of labyrinthine streets and courtyards, to which the scale of the two storey perimeter blocks and internal court cleverly relates. Click here to see some images.

The white mosaic and green-tinted glass windows of this structure make for an interesting break amongst a skyscape of largely unimaginative buildings. The strongly curved tower rises twenty-eight floors and 336 feet above ground, and the projected bands create a dynamic feeling of horizontality. It is built on a one-acre site, is of flat slab construction and has a reinforced concrete central core, which takes lateral forces and main floor loads.

Its salient feature is the podium area, an enclosed garden space approached by steps from the pavement, with more steps that reach around the building to the rear paved space. The tower is cantilevered at second floor level from the central core, with the shaped cantilevers corresponding to the eight internal columns either side of this core. The result is an outstanding example of design, creating a triangular rhythm where it meets the first floor, and therefore a great feeling of lightness, as well as enabling the ground floor areas to be relatively free of columns. The building is also testament to the advances in concrete construction during this period, notably in deep reinforced concrete piling, structural concrete design generally and in contractors’ equipment such as tower cranes.

Drapers Gardens is an iconic building that has become a reference point for this era and one that Seifert is on record as having described as his proudest achievement. It would, therefore, be an enormous loss to the City. With this in mind, the Society has put forward this building for urgent statutory listing.

Claire Barrett