“With new surroundings we think and work differently, it's a transformation that wouldn't have been possible had we not taken the bold step to move to an inspiring new building.”
Jonathan Watmough, Managing Partner, RPC
The commission for Tower Bridge House dates back to 1987, just after the completion of Lloyd’s of London. The project demonstrates the practice’s ability to draw on the lessons of Lloyd’s of London, adapting them to the requirement of the commercial market.
The scheme features a giant ‘window’ facing west to the Tower of London. This all-glass façade reveals the activities within, and is animated by the constantly moving lifts and escalators. A prominent tower marks the gateway to St Katharine’s Dock and Tower Bridge. The long north and south elevations of the building are strongly articulated to create a sense of depth and layering – on the south (dock) side extensive use of solar shading gives it an appropriately solid look.
The scheme reinforces the lower-level public realm, linking public access from Tower Hill tube station to St Katharine’s Dock. A new recessed colonnade encourages public movement past the building and on into the new development, enlivening the public space around the docks. A new public piazza with retail areas and cafés looks out over the dock basin itself.
Occupying a prominent site adjacent to the Tower of London, the new building is an important marker at the junction of East Smithfield and Tower Bridge Approach.
The building sits on the edge of the dock wall and forms part of the enclosure of the dock basin, in the same position as the Old Telford warehouses which once occupied the site.
The site organisation reinforces the lower level public realm. A recessed colonnade encourages public movement into the dockside area, while a public piazza provides shops and restaurants which enliven the public space along the waterfront.
The building is entered at pavement level, leading to a central atrium. There is a second entrance at Quay Level: opposite the subway leading from Tower Hill underground station.
The building is eight storeys high and is arranged around the central atrium, a dynamic, full-height space clearly visible from outside the building. It allows daylight to enter deep into the floorplate and provides dramatic views of the Tower and City of London beyond. The scheme offers a highly efficient and flexible plan allowing for single and multiple tenancies.
Between the project being commissioned in 1987 and the final completion of the building in 2005, the project underwent a number of design permutations, responding to new market conditions and developments in building technology.
The design met the client’s demands for office space of the highest quality while providing a ‘landmark’ building. Openness and transparency offer a counterpoise to the massive solidity of surrounding buildings in St Katharine’s Dock. A giant ‘window’ faces west towards the Tower of London. The glass façade reveals the atrium within. At the end of the atrium is a central core containing six wall-climber passenger lifts. The atrium is crossed by bridges arranged in a staggered formation. The floors to the lift lobbies and the bridges are formed from translucent glass panels which are lit from below.
The long north and south elevations of the building are strongly articulated to create a sense of depth and layering. Fully-glazed façades exploit the views of St Katharine’s Dock, the Tower of London, the City of London and the hills of Blackheath in the far distance.
The corners of the building are defined by service cores containing the escape stairs and fire lifts. These cores are particularly transparent allowing a clear view of the blue, colour-coded, steelwork and glass-walled lifts beyond.
The site is severely constrained by surrounding roads to the north and east and by St Katharine’s Dock, which forms the southern boundary. This led to the choice of a steel framed structural system that could be pre-fabricated off-site. This had the advantages of minimising the time necessary to construct the structure and produced sections that could be lifted accurately into place. An optimum structural grid of 9m x 13.5m metres was adopted to provide a column-free space and maximum flexibility to the main office floor-plates.
The external cores, with their exposed blue steelwork, are hung off the main structural frame. These house the stairwells and lift shafts, as well as key services. The cores are particularly transparent, showing the structural clarity of the building, also reflected in the atrium.
The fully glazed west wall forming the enclosure to the atrium is a striking architectural feature. The glazing is six storeys high – a spectacular sheer glass plane, bolted to stainless steel cables held in high tension by the supporting structure.
ClientTaylor Woodrow Construction
ArchitectRichard Rogers Partnership
Davis Langdon & Everest
Richard Rogers Partnership with Charles Funke
Taylor Woodrow Construction
Taywood Engineering Ltd / Montagu Evans and DP9
Warrington Fire Research Consultants
Ingleby Trice Kennard, Jones Lang Wootton, Knight Frank