Project in Detail
London, United Kingdom
Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands
Chris Gascoigne - VIEW
A groundbreaking new 10 storey office building situated in London, in the heart of Westminster, adjacent to St James Park underground. The 28m diameter circular form of the building resolves the complex site perimeter geometry and also provides for a highly energy and space efficient development. The cylindrical building typology also benefits from the subliminal iconic associations that alternative forms cannot hope to achieve with the same pared down simplicity and elegance.
In contrast to precedent study of numerous circular buildings around the world where the core is centrally located to provide the structural backbone, the Asticus building has a ‘limpet’ core projecting 7m to the back of the main floor plate at the sheltered northeast quarter of the trapezoidal site. The blister core allows each 6,500 sqft floorplate to afford unencumbered panoramic views across its 28m diametre.
This approach allowed for a cruciform arrangement to be imposed on each floor, which acts as a framework for developing conventional orthogonal space planning organisations. This had the effect of allowing standard office components to be used for floors and ceilings and negates the claim often levelled at circular arrangements that they are expensive as a result of the bespoke nature of their radial set out.
The internal planning ‘squares the circle’ allowing rectilinear elements to be accommodated but still providing maximum views and daylight throughout the floorplate. The advantage of standardising the organisational diagram meant that the flexibility for the arrangement of environmental control systems is maintained, allowing for multitudinal space planning arrangements both open-plan and cellular.
Developing a landmark cylindrical building was always going to be about the quality of the design and procurement of the cladding. An elaborately figured precast concrete facade element exploits the radial geometry, using deep reveals to provide beneficial solar shading from sun incident angles to the inset glass, for long periods of the day.
A similar approach to solar shading was adopted at the setback crown to the 8th and 9th floors. The double height structural glazing is here protected by 450mm ‘L’ shaped solar fins. The design and materiality of the crown provides an elegant transition to lightness as the building outline meets the sky. It also takes account of and deals sensitively with the rooftop views from the numerous surround buildings that look down on it.
At the base of the building columns splay to emphasis the impression of weight being supported by the ground plane. The buildings attachment to the site has been accented by integrating the radial set out of the reception finishes from the inside, through the double height glazed perimeter, to the external arrangements. Radial, flush set, stainless steel drainage slots are picked out by in column light fitments that further emphasize the radial geometry and solidly that connect the building to the ground.
Negotiating the potentially tricky interconnection between the entrance off Palmer Street and the lifts situated at the back of the plan, within the blister core, was achieved by fashioning a bold and visually stunning reception design. The finishes in the reception area allude to the process employed by William Caxton in 1476 when the first edition of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales was printed close to the site. The form and shape of the timber feature wall with its metal ingots suggests library shelving and alludes to traditional printing techniques. The corresponding imprint on paper is suggested by the white GRP lift front wall, while the polish stainless steel reception desk’s fluid reflective qualities hint at the origins of the metal typeface and the black ink of the flush glass top. The honed granite floor extends seamlessly out through the structurally glazed reception perimeter.
“The building shouts quality, while the piazza creates attractive public space, resolving the circular geometry of the building with the urban grid.” Building Design Magazine, November 2007
Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands