At the heart of London’s financial district, neighboring the Bank of England and the Royal Exchange, sits a postmodern, wedge-shaped, office block known by its address: No. 1 Poultry Street. After a highly-publicized, twenty-year planning battle, in which a glass skyscraper designed by Mies van der Rohe was barred from joining the city skyline, the commission to develop this site was given to the architect James Stirling in 1986. After further planning controversies, in which a listed Victorian building was prevented from The firm Stirling & Wilford construction on the building only began after Stirling’s death in 1992, with the project reaching completion in 1997.
The building is generally regarded as the swan song of postmodern architecture in Britain, the last major project in the sardonic, historicist style. Though widely treated as an architectural landmark, it is also widely disliked by much of the English public. “A boatload of leaden cheer, Stirling’s structure regularly ranks among London’s ugliest buildings, according to newspaper polls,” wrote Sammy Medina in an Artforum review of the recent RIBA exhibition about the history of the site. For instance, Time Out London included the building in its list of “Worst architecture in London.” Medina declines to view Stirling’s structure as a masterpiece but rather declares, “the success of the end result is debatable, and even at the time the project was proposed, it drew harsh and very public criticism.”
In 2014 the asset-management firm Perella Weinberg Partners, based in New York City, acquired the building and then hired the London design firm of BuckleyGrayYeoman to renovate the principal façades and entrances as well as windows. The organization Twentieth Century Society (a.k.a. C20)
The Twentieth Century Society exists to safeguard the heritage of architecture and design in Britain from 1914 onwards. The Society’s prime objectives are conservation, to protect the buildings and design that characterise the Twentieth Century in Britain, and education, to extend our knowledge and appreciation of them, whether iconic buildings like the Royal Festival Hall or everyday artifacts like the red telephone box.
As the Listing Application for the complex read:
“The main changes include the loss of the ground floor colonnades on Queen Victoria Street and Poultry, the loss of the voids behind the columns at first floor level. New openings are proposed to the internal drum, and a new main office entrance is proposed on Queen Victoria Street in place of a shop. A planning application for these alterations has been submitted and is in the process of being validated by the Corporation of London.”