1 Finsbury Circus
Sir Edwin Lutyens
- Original design
- Sir Edwin Lutyens, 1925
1 Finsbury Circus (formerly “Britannic House”) is a grade II* listed historic City landmark. It was originally designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and completed in 1925 to form the new headquarters for the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (later re-named the British Petroleum Company – “BP”). Together with the Midland Bank Building on Poultry, it represents Lutyens finest commercial work, and has been referred to as “the
Masterpiece of the Circus”.
BP continued to occupy the building with very little internal alterations until 1967 when they transferred operations to Britannic Tower on Moor Lane.
In 1987 Greycoat Plc acquired the building and commenced a comprehensive refurbishment, persuading BP to return to their original home in 1991. The Greycoat refurbishment was designed specifically for BP’s occupation. It was a radical scheme (a new central atrium replaced two light wells and a central spine of cellular offices) and proposed specific design elements suited only to the single occupier.
Hermes Real Estate acquired the property in late 2005, when BP vacated the building. The Property Merchant Group and Gaunt Francis were commissioned to prepare scheme proposals for a very different brief. It was to be capable of multi-tenanted occupation on all floors; significant improvements were required to its sustainability credentials; the lifts were relocated into the central atrium and provide an ‘excellent’ service, utilising the innovative ‘hall-call’ system; goods distribution was to be enhanced; the sense of arrival and security facilities significantly improved; net/gross floorplate efficiency maximised; improved daylight was needed to workspace areas and a more “legible” plan was required with common WCs for all tenants.
The constraints of the historic interior coupled with the client’s requirements for modern flexible office accommodation focused attention on the atrium space. A key design driver emerged – a new lift lobby arrangement – so as to provide greater flexibility for sub-division of the office space. The aim being to provide the opportunity for one, two and possibly three tenants per floor, and each with its own prestigious front door accessed directly from the central atrium.
The new lift lobbies needed to be “of their time”, well lit and using excellent quality materials, whilst respecting the historic nature of their surroundings. Moleanus limestone has been used on the floors for its beautiful tone, and as the perfect complement to the new lift lobby structure and the Brescia marble in the Lutyens grand staircases.
The 1989 atrium roof light was reasonably innovative at the time but heavy and dated by contemporary standards. Gaunt Francis’s scheme combined a new lightweight roof glazing system with a predominantly glazed lift car and lift lobby arrangement, which allows new tenant access to each side of the floorplate and a significant improvement in daylight levels to the workspace. This has become a new focus to the building and a beautiful counterpoint to the robust Lutyens interiors. For the first time daylight has been introduced to the ground floor lift lobbies, and the atrium space can be viewed before travelling to the upper floors.
The building has achieved a “very good” BREEAM rating and a “D” rated EPC. Recycling facilities and a “real-time” energy monitoring system have been introduced.
Lutyens masterpiece has been restored and enhanced to suit today’s contemporary uses. It has been transformed, with the juxtaposition of historic and contemporary given greater emphasis by the refurbishment.
Gaunt Francis Architects