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Nouvel and Foster Plan Darth Vaders Helmet

Legal and General unveiled more of their new plans for their headquarters Bucklersbury House last week in a public exhibition, a project called Walbrook Square.

The sixties block takes up a plot of almost 100 metres in length and breadth in the heart of the City of London just north of Cannon Street station above the buried Walbrook River. At the heart of the site is the ancient Roman Temple of Mithras that was discovered by builders when the construction of the current site was underway, fully excavated and unceremoniously plonked there as an after thought.

Faced with an impenetrable site in a prime location in the centre of the city, the architects of the scheme, Norman Foster and Jean Nouvel, took the initial decision to overcome this and cut the large site up into a selection of buildings.

The top of the one of the northern buildings is straddled by a tower compared to such things as Darth Vader's melted helmet, a stereo speaker, a sphinx, and in terms of massing a structure similar in shape to St Paul's Cathedral with the tower almost domed as it rises up past the roof lines of its shorter neighbours.

The use of the tower on the lower rise buildings does raise complaints from some that Nouvel and Foster designed separate things and then just stuck them all together but nonetheless it is a unique design flourish for a London development to have.

The tower will employ one of Nouvel's trademarks. In his previous designs such as the Tour Sans Fin and Dentsu Tower the cladding has varying types of transparency and transuclency and it will be employed here too, the idea is that the tower will resemble "a cloud", shimmering glass that hovers in midair. Tour Sans Fin was never built but it showed off the potential that this approach can have in creating an ephemeral piece of architecture that transcends the traditional solidity that skyscraper designs employ.

The lower rise ones each bound one corner of the site and will have new pedestrian ways running through between them opening up access where before a pedestrian had to completely walk around the edges. At the hub of these on the central eastern side of the plot will be a new square, bounded by the Walbrook that will have the Roman temple relocated to the side directly next to the road. Overlooking all this will be roof gardens and terraces opening up new vistas of London.

Tracing the buried river there will be a nice feature in the basement of a light display that will follow the path which the water runs at under it. Despite this touch of nature and the planned profusion of greenery around and on the buildings they are not as green as they could be, they are set to only generate 10% of their total power from renewable sources flying in the face of the 20% that is expected of new developments. A mere 2% of this will be coming from solar panels with the rest from boreholes and CHP.

One hitch in the plans potential is that the developers hope they can argue that the rules should be bent for them as the scheme was originally proposed just before the 10% rule was changed to 20%.

The City of London will be making their decision on the project in February 2007 and should planning permission be awarded then vacant possession will happen in the last half of that year with demolition beginning as soon as possible. It's likely a 25% pre-let of any one building will be sought before construction begins but once that is secured there should be a timetable of about 3 years of building works.

The alternative is that of the tower being built first with the other buildings being built, again with pre-lets achieved, over a period of six years in total.

Either way it looks like the developer wont be hanging around that long to realise the plans and London will be set to get one of the most futuristic developments since the Lloyds Building went up in the eighties.

Article Related buildings:

Walbrook Square Building 1

Walbrook Square Building 1
Walbrook Square Building 2

Walbrook Square Building 2
Walbrook Square Building 3

Walbrook Square Building 3
The view of Walbrook Square from the Thames
The view of Walbrook Square from the Thames
LIght intensity model of Walbrook Square
LIght intensity model of Walbrook Square
Close up of the cladding and roof detail
Close up of the cladding and roof detail
The symmetry of Walbrook Square
The symmetry of Walbrook Square
One of Walbrook Squares lower rise blocks
One of Walbrook Squares lower rise blocks