Lloyd's of London may quit Richard Rogers building over design "frustrations"

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Lloyds of London by Richard Rogers

News: insurance company Lloyd's of London could leave its landmark headquarters designed by Richard Rogers, according to today's Sunday Times.

Lloyd's is in talks to move out of the revolutionary 1986 building due to "frustrations" with its design, the newspaper reports (£).

"Lloyds has made no secret of its frustrations with its headquarters, which has lifts and services outside the building," the newspaper says. "Because of advances in technology Lloyd's now uses only three quarters of the 350,000 square foot site, subletting the spare space".

According to the paper, Lloyd's former chief executive Richard Ward said last year: "There is a fundamental problem with this building. Everything is exposed to the elements, and that makes it very costly."

"We thought Lloyd's building was the ultimate in technology, but it's practically hand made"
Lloyd's of London. This and top photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

The insurer favours relocating to nearby 40 Leadenhall Street, an as-yet unbuilt tower designed by Make Architects and dubbed "Gotham City," the paper adds.

The Lloyd's was awarded Grade 1-listed status - the highest level of protection available to a building in England - in 2011. It was Rogers' second major building, following the completion of the Pompidou Centre in 1977, which he co-designed with Renzo Piano.

"We thought Lloyd's building was the ultimate in technology, but it's practically hand made"
Central atrium of Lloyd's building. Photo copyright: Richard Bryant / Arcaid.co.uk

The building achieved instant fame for the way its stainless steel services and circulation are mounted on the outside of the building's concrete structure, creating open, flexible interior spaces.

"We were able to convince Lloyd’s that we would put the mechanical services on the outside because mechanical services have a short life," Rogers told Dezeen in an exclusive interview last year.

"[We] kept the floors clear because Lloyd’s said they wanted two things," Rogers added. "They wanted a building that would last into the next century - we met that one - and they wanted a building that could meet their changing needs."

Lloyd's became one of the most recognised example of the "high-tech" style of architecture, although Rogers himself said he was never keen on the term.

"I have no great love for high-tech," he said. "One would like to think one uses the appropriate materials, but of course appropriate materials are shaped by the time you live in."

"We thought Lloyd's was the absolute ultimate in the art of technology," he added. "When I look at it now, it's practically hand made."

Update: in a letter to the Sunday Times newspaper, Rogers said that a Lloyd's spokesperson had told the architect that the company had "neither intention of leaving – they are, in fact, negotiating their rent review with the building’s new owners – nor are they unhappy with the way the building performs."

"The building has proved to be very flexible and is still a highly desirable office that has attained some of the best rents in the city and proved to be a fantastic commercial success," said Rogers. "And we know that it will remain so."

The interview with Richard Rogers features in our new book, Dezeen Book of Interviews, which is on sale now.

  • Colonel Pancake

    Another example of how the technological advances of contemporary architecture have drastically outpaced architects’ ability to adeptly utilize them. Wherever there’s a world class architect (Mayne, Gehry, Rogers, Nouvel etc.), there’s one of their “masterpieces” with a leaky roof and broken automated facade not far behind.

    In the coming centuries, the late 20th and early 21st centuries will be remembered for their blatant disregard of the historically proven methods of construction for the sake of the wheel’s reinvention.

    • Nickthegreek

      Although I agree that any work of architecture must at least meet the functional requirements inherent to the discipline, it is incredibly reductive to claim these as a benchmark for architectural success.

      It is worth reiterating a point that is continually forgotten in the vitriol that follows any report of a leaky roof or expensive maintenance bill. Architects have a duty to not only meet practical requirements, but also to engage with and express the culture and ambitions of the society they serve. There will always be a risk in this. But the alternative – tried and tested ‘safe’ construction at the expense of architectural ambition – is riskier still. It implies that everything we have to say has already been said.

      • Concerned Citizen

        That’s not necessarily true, at least as of yet. For example, it seems the tried and true method of preventing roof leaks includes selection of material to meet the design requirements, proper anchoring the roofing material to the substrate, and weatherproof details. Has technology ever overcome those basics?

  • jbech

    Interesting article. I wonder what some of Lloyd’s private reasons are for wanting to relocate? (I hope your book is edited a bit better than this article.)

  • Daniel brown

    I take it the dezeen proof reader is on holiday?!

    • http://www.dezeen.com/ Dezeen Magazine

      Corrected now, thanks for pointing out the typos! Written by a tired journalist with jet lag ;-)

      • spellchecka

        NO EXCUSES ANYMORE!
        TYPOS ARE NOT ACCEPTABLR!!

      • Concerned Citizen

        Who still gets jet lag? That is so 1960s.

  • robert_t

    “They wanted a building that would last into the next century – we met that one …” 14 years, to be exact. Not really much of an achievement in architectural terms. I suspect it was always meant to be more of a showcase than a long-lasting functional building… shiny and nice for a film set.

    If we’re going to continue seeing buildings like this produced by architects, then they need to be more pragmatic and the quality of construction needs massively improving.

    • stooge

      You hit it, “the quality of construction” most of the time is the contractors fault, not the architect.

  • http://www.inalcotrends.com/ Inalco Ceramics

    We’ll keep tabs on this. Thanks.

  • spadestick

    According to the paper, Lloyd’s chief executive Richard Ward said last year: “There is a fundamental problem with this building. Everything is exposed to the elements, and that makes it very costly.”

    Is this really the case? Aren’t a lot of industrial structures like oil refineries and power stations built this way? Aren’t the services meant to weather the elements? Seems a little strange.

    • Graham

      Rather like gothic Cathedrals et al. All aging buildings require maintenance.. I suppose it depends if people love them enough to care for them in their later years.

      • Dylan

        Yeah, like Canterbury cathedral which is 800 odd years old. The pictured building is under 30 years old and yet it has serious and very costly problems already.

  • Anon

    Well I think we all know that ‘advances in technology’ is code for staff cutbacks which would explain them wanting to leave the building.

  • Concerned Citizen

    Actually, 30 years is minimal for well established companies, especially ones that have put forth such design requirements.