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Lloyd’s Register is one of the great City institutions, founded in 1760, with the same maritime and coffee-house roots as Lloyd’s of London. Lloyd’s Register has occupied the site on the corner of Fenchurch Street since 1901 when Thomas Edward Collcutt completed the splendidly decorated Edwardian baroque palazzo. Ninety-nine years later, the Richard Rogers steel and glass towers building was completed.
The two belong to very different architectural worlds, yet each is characteristic of its time and a particular aspect of stylistic fashion. The old and new buildings can be encountered together at close range from the former churchyard, which now serves as Lloyd’s Register entrance space, a haven amongst the busy city streets of central London.
Thomas Edward Collcutt’s design for the 1901 building was for an impressive classical stone palazzo in the 16th century Italian manner. His specification called for first-class materials both inside and out; Portland stone and carved Hopton Wood stone on the façades; inside, a grand entrance hall, with marble floors and staircase, and oak or mahogany doors, skirting and floors. Artists and the best trade firms were to embellish the building.
Thomas Edward Collcutt (1840-1924) was also a prolific architect of his age, with a major City and West End practice. His projects included the Savoy Hotel, Wigmore Hall, the Palace Theatre, and the Imperial Institute in Kensington, as well as the interiors of several P&O passenger liners.
Rogers steel and glass building with its sleek, decoration free and transparently clear structure, contrast with the Collcutt design could not be more obvious, or more deliberately intended. The new building replaces a jumble of piecemeal additions to the 1901 building, which had grown up over the previous century, around the former churchyard of St Katherine Coleman.
The Rogers building is set to the south and west of the Collcutt building, now pruned back to its original dimensions. At the planner’s insistence, the existing shell of flanking buildings had to be retained, making it difficult to ensure adequate natural light and efficient circulation. Rogers overcame these problems by building high, in the form of two glazed towers of office accommodation, 12 and 14 storeys tall, with another seven storeys of additional space behind the retained facade on Lloyd’s Avenue.
The three towers, arranged on a fan-shaped grid, are connected by two soaring glazed atriums which act as “climatic buffers” between the external and internal environments.
‘Served and servant spaces’ are a key item in many of Rogers’ buildings and here, the distinction is marked by the transparent steel and glass towers containing stairs and lifts which are attached to the concrete frames overlooking the entrance. Topped by lift-motor room’s elegant objects in their own right – they give an exhilarating verticality to the building, as well as demonstrating Rogers’ usual attention to engineering and design details. The use of colour – blue for the main structure, yellow for the stairs, red for the lifts – is particularly notable.