Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Bracken House

Architect: Albert Richardson (1955-59), conversion Michael Hopkins Architects (1989-1992).

A double helping of exceptional architecture; where Richardson's original Financial Times building played down its industrial nature, Hopkins' office conversion did the reverse (although the exposed 'structural' metalwork doesn't actually support much).

When Michael Hopkins undertook the commission to rework Sir Albert Richardson’s post-war masterpiece in 1989, he was presumably dealing with a similar set of philosophical questions to his predecessor: how to design for the future whilst preserving the past? For Hopkins, the problem was, in essence, material: how to replace the iconic octagonal printing room of the former Financial Times headquarters in a way that would stylistically, sensitively and functionally reconnect the original sandstone wings. For Richardson, it was a question of representation: how to design for an institution whose reputation was rooted in its heritage, yet its success as a financial newspaper relied on its ability to anticipate and speculate on future events.

Richardson’s solution was an elegant arrangement of two wings composed of Hollington sandstone piers and rose-coloured brick (perhaps to reflect the publication’s famous pink pages), sandwiching a central glass construction. Stairwells on the south side resolve in turrets, with a patinated copper cornice lining the flanking structures and an astrological clock by Philip Bentham above the north door. Classical in its consistency and monumentality, eclectic in its use of materials and carved detailing, and modern in structure, bold surfaces, and functionality, the celebrated building was deemed worthy of heritage status in 1987, the first post-war building to be listed in Britain. It is for this reason that Hopkins connected the preserved flanking parts of Richardson’s structure with a glazed steel-framed core that stays true to its predecessor’s restrained modernism. Now a glazed, six storey office block with a central system of exposed elevators and working parts, the interior space feels mechanical, perhaps a reference to the days of the press. On the exterior, the fa├žade bulges as if squeezed by the heavy wings, a device that emphasise the lightness of glass and agility of its exposed bronze and gunmetal supports. 

Best time to visit: access to the interior is prohibited to the general public. However, the exterior is unmissable. 

Address: 1 Friday St, London EC4M 9JA.


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  2. Although modern, it incorporates nice features as have been mentioned, especially the use of red sandstone, mostly found in norther cities in Britain.