A quick slap-dash post while this is newsy, and perhaps matching the sloppiness of media reporting yesterday about 55 Broadway receiving Grade I listed status. Most of the reports I saw or heard touted it at the time of opening(1929), as being “London’s tallest building” when what they meant to say was London’s tallest office block, St. Pauls remaining London’s tallest for some time to come. The word “skyscraper” was much bandied, ironically I hope. No matter, I was quite surprised that it wasn’t Grade I already.
55 Broadway is the headquarters of London Transport and sits atop St James’s Park underground station. It was built between 1927 and 1929 and designed by the legendary modernist architect Charles Holden (nb: great link). A few years later, Holden extended the record for London’s tallest office block when he designed another iconic building: University of London’s Senate House.
But probably Holden is better known for many of London’s art deco style tube stations, particularly in the suburbs. He also designed the wholly subterranean Piccadilly Circus station with its circular concourse. All of this wonderful work was the result of his close collaboration with Frank Pick, the visionary managing director of the then Underground Group. The best part of a century later, we tend to take these wonderful public buildings for granted.
Coincidentally, and as luck would have it, the V&A (in conjunction with RIBA) currently have an exhibition of Charles Holden’s preparatory sketches for his underground designs. More details here. (scroll down a bit). The show ends on 13 February, don’t miss it.