The refurbishment of Alison and Peter Smithson’s last remaining London building is aimed at restoring many of the original features while updating some of the office space, writes Rita Lobo
It’s not everyday that the architects are recognised in the names of their creations, but Alison and Peter Smithson are bucking the trend. Their last surviving complete London building has been re-christened Smithson Plaza, since its previous occupiers, The Economist magazine, vacated the building and took the name with them.
The former Economist Plaza has now been re-launched after more than 50 years occupied the magazine. Built between 1960 and 1964 the Smithson’s work is a triumphant contribution to post-war brutalist architecture. Two years ago the building was sold to developer Tishman Speyer who committed to reinvigorate the street level piazza, upgrade the buildings, and reconnect the building with the Smithson’s original design – DSDHA architects were enlisted to oversee the project.
The estate is made up of three buildings, the 15-storey Smithson Tower (formerly known as The Economist Tower), the five storey Bank Building and the eight storey Residential Building. The first stage of the renovations is now complete. A new lobby has been created for Smithson Tower, fitted with the same polished concrete that extends out into the external areas. At ground level, some of the biggest changes made by DSDHA focused on bringing back much of the features into alignment with the original plans by the Smithsons, including undoing dramatic changes to the ground-floor facades and access paths made in the 1990s.
Having considered the impact of incremental changes since 1964, we have assessed what might be preserved and what can be changed,’ Deborah Saunt, Founding Director of DSDHA, said. ‘We have developed a phased restoration framework to create sustainable, flexible and contemporary workspaces whilst preserving public amenity.’
A new lobby and a 1,500 sq ft café will welcome occupiers and visitors to the Smithson Tower at ground floor level. Six newly renovated upper floors, totalling approximately 22,000 sq ft are now ready to be delivered as part of the first phase. Renovation works have resulted in new double-glazed windows, totally new services and lifts as well as modern amenities for tenants.
The first phase of the redevelopment is now complete, with future plans to instal an art gallery in the former underground parking garage underway. The Residential and Bank Towers will also be eventually refurbished.