Speculative commercial building incorporating offices and retail units, the Green Man public house, a public right of way in Bucklersbury Passage and rooftop restaurant and garden. Designed in 1985-88 by James Stirling, Michael Wilford and Associates for Peter Palumbo’s City Acre Property Investment Trust Ltd, and built in 1994-8 by the practice, renamed Michael Wilford and Partners Ltd after Stirling's death in 1992.
Reasons for Designation
No.1 Poultry, designed in 1985-88 by James Stirling, Michael Wilford and Associates, and built in 1994-98 by the practice, renamed Michael Wilford and Partners after Stirling’s death in 1992, is listed at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:
* Architect: a highly significant late work by one of Britain's foremost post-war architects, which expresses Stirling's singular approach to design;
* Architectural and design interest: an unsurpassed example of commercial post-modernism, on a monumental scale, intricate in its planning and rigorously scrutinised and executed;
* Commercial development: one of the key developments of the post-war era, built by a prominent developer, determined to create a building of enduring quality;
* Spatial interest and form: a striking symmetrical composition on a tightly constrained site, exemplifying Stirling’s work in its exploration of space and movement though interlocking geometrical volumes and in its use of materials, colour and motifs, and exceptionally carrying this through to a dynamic interior space;
* Planning: exemplary urban contextualism in a complex spatial inter-relationship of mixed-use office and retail accommodation, a public right of way, roof garden and restaurant, entrance to the underground station and public house, where the generosity of the public realm is exceptional for a speculative scheme;
* Civic presence and group value: occupies a very prominent site in the heart of the City of London, in close proximity to highly prestigious civic and commercial buildings, which are referenced in the design.
Speculative commercial building incorporating offices and retail units, the Green Man pub and a rooftop restaurant and garden. Designed in 1985-88 by James Stirling, Michael Wilford and Associates for Peter Palumbo’s City Acre Property Investment Trust Ltd, and built in 1994-98 by the practice, renamed Michael Wilford and Partners Ltd, after Stirling's death in 1992. In order to secure the project Palumbo entered into a joint venture with German financier Dieter Bock’s company Advanta, and the project was managed by its subsidiary, Altstadtbau.
The commission came from Lord Palumbo in July 1985 after an earlier scheme, designed by Mies van der Rohe in 1962-68, was rejected by the Secretary of State following public inquiry in 1984. The development was controversial from the outset given the prominence of the site within Bank Conservation Area, its proximity to highly graded listed buildings and in the demolition of Grade II listed buildings, notably Belcher’s Mappin and Webb building, to secure the site.
During 1986 two options were prepared, the first retaining the Mappin and Webb building, the second opting for total redevelopment. Following a second public inquiry in 1988, it was for the latter, Scheme B (Revised) that the Secretary for State, Nicholas Ridley, gave permission, seeing it as a potential masterpiece which was more important to the nation than the retention of the listed buildings. At the time a highly controversial development at the centre of a conservation battle, providing the catalyst for an important ideological debate, opponents of the scheme sought a judicial review which was overruled by the High Court, but it was not until 1991 that the House of Lords finally gave consent for the redevelopment to proceed. Once objections concerning the public right of way across the site were resolved, work finally began on site in 1994, concluding four years later.
Stirling’s design was developed in 1985-88, and in principle changed little thereafter. After Stirling’s early death in 1992 the production of working drawings continued to be supervised by the practice (then Michael Wilford and Partners Ltd), with Laurence Bain as long-standing partner-in-charge of the project, and with Ove Arup and Partners continuing as engineers. The detailed design for No.1 Poultry was subject to particular scrutiny at public inquiry, by the High Court, the City planning authority and by English Heritage, and it was stipulated that it was to be built in accordance with the Secretary of State's decision.
Intellectually powerful, the building is scholarly in its references, particularly to classical precedent. It occupies the wedge of land at the intersection of Queen Victoria Street and Poultry, a critical City site imbued with the presence of John Soane’s Bank of England (1788-1808, listed Grade I), the Mansion House of 1739-53 by George Dance the Elder (listed Grade I), Sir Edwin Lutyens’ Midland Bank Head Office (1924-39, listed Grade I), and Sir Edwin Cooper’s National Westminster Bank (1930-32, listed Grade II), and close to Hawksmoor’s St Mary Woolnoth (1716-27, listed Grade I), the latter a particular favourite of Stirling. Stirling regarded the site as being very special 'at this spider's web intersection surrounded by all those heroes like Lutyens and Hawksmoor and Dance. It's the quintessence of London' (Sunday Times, 24 April 1991). Comparing No.1 Poultry with Lutyens’ Midland Bank, Colin St John Wilson observed that ‘common to both buildings are an element of wit, of knowingness, of “the high game”; a tradition passed with gathering momentum from generation to generation'. (Architecture Today, 1998, 60-63).
It is planned with geometric precision, a 'play of forms that was inventive with a refreshing wit' (Architecture Today, 59). Like much of Stirling’s late work, such as the Neue Staatsgalerie in Stuttgart, Germany (1979-84) and the Braun headquarters at Melsungen, Germany (1986-92), it is a large building whose bulk is broken down into contrasting volumes and materials that can be readily taken in from a single viewpoint and in progression through the building.
Inevitably for a high profile building in a highly sensitive location, No.1 Poultry received mixed acclaim, conservationists considering it a poor replacement for the destroyed listed buildings, some critics regretting the change in direction Stirling's work was taking, while others have speculated how the building would have appeared had he lived.
Following the grant of planning permission and listed building consent, minor revisions to the design were approved in 1995 and 1996. These were designed to meet current safety standards and market conditions at that time, and care was taken to avoid diluting or substantially altering the scheme approved by the Secretary of State in 1989. Revisions included increasing the floor area of the retail space and reducing the number of units; changes to the position of shop entrances and to the public throughway (Bucklersbury Passage); the public roof garden was also designed at that time.
No.1 Poultry ranks as one of the major British urban landmarks of the later C20, the building, and debate, illustrating core values of post-modern urbanism, notably that of contextualism, in acknowledging the adjacent buildings in scale and material, and in showing that contrast is essential for meaning to be communicated.
The building was shortlisted for the Royal Fine Art Commission Trust Building of the Year Award 1999 and gained a Civic Trust Award in 2000, while the garden, designed by Arabella Lennox-Boyd, won the Soft Landscape Award 1998. The building was not entered for other awards at the client's request.
Sir James Stirling (1924-92) was born in Glasgow and studied at Liverpool University before setting up in partnership first with James Gowan (1956-63), and then in 1971 with Michael Wilford. Notable works in Britain include: Langham House Close (1957-8), the Leicester University Engineering building (1961-3), each listed at Grade II*; Andrew Melville Hall, University of St Andrews (completed 1964, listed Grade A); the History Faculty Library, Cambridge (1964-8), and the Florey Building for Queen’s College, Oxford (1968-7) each listed at Grade II. An extension to Branksome Conference Centre, Haslemere, Surrey for Olivetti (1971-2, listed Grade II*) represents a turning point in his work in the 1970s from the New Brutalist ethos he had espoused early in his career, towards (although he strongly disliked labels) a post-modernist interpretation of the past, fully realised in Britain in No.1 Poultry.
James Stirling has claim to be among the first modern British architects to achieve widespread international standing. He was one of the first post-war British architects to work abroad, when in 1974 he was invited to design a museum in Düsseldorf that led directly to that at Stuttgart. Notable in Europe are: the award winning extension to the Neue Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart (1979-84), generally regarded as his masterpiece, Stuttgart Music School and Theatre Academy (1987), Braun Headquarters at Melsungen, all in Germany; the Electra bookshop for the Venice Biennale, Italy (1989), and in North America, the Fogg Museum extension at Harvard University.
He was given the Aalto Award in 1977, the RIBA Gold Medal in 1980, and in 1981 was the first British recipient of the Pritzker Prize, considered the world’s leading award to an architect. He was awarded the Japanese culture prize ‘Praemium Imperiale’ in 1990, and his knighthood was announced in 1992, shortly before his death. The Stirling Prize, the UK’s most prestigious architecture prize, is named after him. Subject of a biography by Mark Girouard in 1998, the last few years have seen a revival of interest in the architect’s work, marked by the publication of a number of studies by authors including Geoffrey H Baker, Mark Crinson, Amanda Reeser Lawrence and Anthony Vidler.
Speculative offices incorporating retail units, the Green Man public house, a public right of way in Bucklersbury Passage and rooftop restaurant and garden. Designed in 1985-88 by James Stirling, Michael Wilford and Associates for Peter Palumbo’s City Acre Property Investment Trust Ltd, and built in 1994-98 by the practice, renamed Michael Wilford and Partners after Stirling's premature death in 1992.
Architect-in-charge Laurence Bain. Structural and mechanical engineers - Ove Arup and Partners; Main contractor - John Laing Construction; rooftop landscape - Arabella Lennox-Boyd, restaurant - Conran Design Partnership.
STRUCTURE AND MATERIALS: the structure was determined by the underlying geology and archaeology. The building has a reinforced concrete frame on granite foundations and is clad with alternating bands of rusticated buff and red sandstone (Australian Helidon and Wilderness Red from the Forest of Dean, Glocs.); Rosa Gallura granite detail, cladding and paving, and glazed blue tiles lining the atrium; in the principal public areas fixtures and fittings, including windows, are in bronze; elsewhere window frames are predominantly powder coated aluminium, in places brightly coloured. The ground floor level of the atrium or courtyard is paved in York stone, defining the public realm.
PLAN: No.1 Poultry occupies the wedge of land at the intersection of Queen Victoria Street and Poultry. Symmetrical in plan and section, laid out about a central longitudinal axis, it is set out on a 1.5m grid which informs the rhythm and bay divisions of the external and inward facing facades and internal plan. In plan it resembles a wedge pierced with an open cylindrical volume into which is inserted a triangular form. The building is of six storeys plus two basement floors; the ground floor and lower ground floor concourse levels incorporate retail units, including covered shopping, an entrance to Bank underground station and public right of way, namely Bucklerbsury Passage. Floors 1-5 are occupied by offices, with a publicly accessible rooftop restaurant and garden above. On the SW corner is a pub opening from the street and concourse. Cutting through the building, Bucklersbury Passage, expressed as a courtyard with an open rotunda above and below, replaces the historic route of Bucklersbury.
The design is characteristic of Stirling’s work in its exploration of space and movement through interlocking geometrical forms, and in terms of motifs and materials, as first realised at the Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart. The generosity of the public realm is wholly exceptional for a speculative scheme and the interlocking geometry and use of colour have a powerful intensity that derive from the tight constraints of the site.
The project was conceived, revised and executed by the same practice, and in principle executed as stipulated, to Stirling's agreed design, as set out in his Proof of Evidence to the Inquiry. Materials were sourced and technical detail finalised after his death, incorporating later revisions and amendments imposed as the building was under construction, for example to allow emergency access.
EXTERIOR: the long elevations are symmetrical in three main bays with atypical bays at the western end. Each elevation has a colonnaded base, rising through two storeys, either side of a projecting monumental opening with sloping sides. Above, the middle and top sections are trade motifs, organised in a pattern of alternating segmental stone bays into which are set two tiers of windows, and V-shaped glass bays, the bay rhythm and parapet height acknowledging the surrounding buildings. The colonnades are separated from the upper floors by a giant bull-nosed stringcourse of grey granite. Behind the colonnades are bronze, segmental glazed shop fronts and at first floor level, windows which are offset from the colonnade. The Poultry elevation incorporates a terracotta frieze of royal progresses by Joseph Kremer, incorporated from the demolished 12-13 Poultry, by Frederick Chancellor. Flanking the Poultry entrance, the address - 1 Poultry - is set into the stone in bronze lettering.
The apex of the building is distinguished by a prominent tower. This rises from the blind flanking walls which are carried forward at ground floor level to form a large, round-headed entrance with a revolving door. Above this is an acutely angled V-shaped window - echoing those on the side elevations - and the cylindrical tower itself which incorporates a window in the form of a clock and higher up the cantilevered platforms of the viewing turret. Behind, the flanking walling terminates in a bold prow-like cornice. The tower has been compared with that of the Mappin and Webb building (J and J Belcher, 1870-71) which it replaced but may also allude to Roman rostral columns and a 1974 scheme for a Tuscan tower house by Stirling’s former assistant, Léon Krier. The clock window, the design completed after Stirling's death, is said to be based on Stirling's own watch.
INTERNAL SPACES: the public thoroughfare through the side entrances, the ancient right of way of Bucklersbury Passage, is threaded through a centrally placed open court, articulated on the street elevation by the curved form of the drum at the top. Into this volume is inserted a triangle of offices, the switch indicated by the diagrid ceiling of the covered way, the superimposition of geometries, a favourite Stirling device, and wall treatment, echoing the alternating bays of the exterior. At street level a central triangular gallery within the compass of the structural piers overlooks the lower level concourse and, as on the upper floors, has a bronze handrail. In each quadrant of the ground floor atrium are shop windows of different heights, the main entrance to the office floors to the west (finalised after Stirling's death), and access to the lower concourse to the east. The clock from the Mappin and Webb building is mounted above the entrance. The lower concourse, also circular on plan was designed to accommodate retail outlets, with a restaurant added after completion. At first floor office level the stone-clad wall of the atrium is blind while the second floor has deepset small square lights, as if echoing a classically informed basement storey; the triangular inserts of the projecting upper office floors are clad in blue glazed tiles into which deepset windows with pink, yellow and blue reveals are set, the whole resembling an intimate domestic street or court, as if the tight City street plan is represented in ascending layers. Paving as elsewhere is of granite slabs.
The approach from the apex into the central drum creates a dramatic and fluid relationship of internal and external spaces, exceptional in a post-modernist commercial building, that conjures up the multi-facetted historic fabric of the City, a recurring theme, of cities within cities, in Stirling’s later work. Rising from the principal entrance at the apex of the building to the first floor is a dramatic, monumental stair of inclined granite steps, lined within banded masonry walls and beneath a vaulted roof. At upper levels panels appear to pivot, to accommodate small windows which let in light and provide glimpses from the office floor.
From the main entrance within the central court, glass-sided lifts rise to roof level where they emerge beneath a steel canopy (the entrance sequence and lifts all detailed after Stirling's death), which oversails the atrium, which can be viewed from the terrace. The rooftop restaurant, named by Terence Conran the Coq d’Argent (Silver Cockerel), punning on the name of the building and its architect, has bronze doors, fixtures and fittings. The interior, designed by C D Architects (Conran Design) in 1997, appears to have been partly refitted but is essentially as built. The garden, designed by Arabella Lennox-Boyd, reflects the geometrical form of the building. An open loggia within the banded sandstone lined drum is formed of a sturdy oak pergola on granite plinths, with diagonally set paving that echoes the diagrid, and is backed by luxuriant informal planting. A simple opening in the drum wall opens onto a lawn above the prow of the building (astro-turfed in 2015) flanked by formal rows of box hedging and spherical forms and leads to an enclosed circular platform and viewing turret at the apex, a rare instance of a post-modern garden associated with its parent building.
The asymmetrical south-western bay on Queen Victoria Street containing the Green Man pub is treated in the manner of the main elevations and turns abruptly to the largely unseen Sise Lane elevation which is in a simpler palette of materials, of stucco walls and geometrical forms. The west-facing pub window is supported on a striking yellow conical shaft, the latter a reference to Stirling's earlier work. Above, deepset windows picked out in yellow in pronounced rectangular masonry architraves, contrast with the adjacent section where bands of strip glazing, in an almost moderne spirit, are picked out in blue, with yellow portholes above.
INTERIOR: granite-lined lift lobbies with sloping sides and deep-set lift openings with bright coloured reveals echo the external openings in their form and use of colour. Ceilings which echo the diagrid are apparent in the office floors; the offices and retail units were intended to be flexibly fitted out and have been refitted*. On the first floor are squinch-like internal openings of the windows lighting the monumental stair. On the second office floor the rear openings of the atrium windows are deeper than on the external face. Aside from a perimeter counter below and adjacent to the window, the Green Man pub has also been refitted.
Office partitions, fixtures and fittings*, retail unit and concourse restaurant interiors, fixtures and fittings*, the bar and counter* in the Green Man pub, plant and services* and basement storage* and parking facilities* are not of special interest.
* Pursuant to s.1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’) it is declared that these aforementioned features are not of special architectural or historic interest.