Essential Architecture-  London

88 Wood Street


Richard Rogers


88 Wood Street, London, England


1993 to 2001


High-Tech Modern


concrete frame with steel bracing, glass curtain wall


Office Building
The first City building completed by RRP since Lloyd’s of London in 1986, 88 Wood Street demonstrates the potential for speculative commercial development that does not compromise on quality and enhances the public domain. 

The site, at the junction of Wood Street and London Wall, was formerly occupied by a 1920s telephone exchange. Delays in securing the demolition of this supposedly "historic" building, combined with the onset of the Nineties recession, led to the cancellation of a 1990 Rogers scheme for a prestige new headquarters for banking corporation Daiwa. A larger scheme was designed in 1993-94, with speculative letting in mind. 

The 33,000 m² building is arranged as three linked blocks of office accommodation that step up from eight storeys on Wood Street, where the context includes two listed buildings, to fourteen and finally eighteen storeys to the west, responding to the taller built topography towards London Wall. By using the extensive basement of the demolished telephone exchange for plant, roof levels were kept largely free. The office wings are constructed of in situ concrete which contrasts with the lightweight, steel-framed service towers containing toilets, lifts and dramatic, fully glazed stairs. The use of brilliant colour enhances their impact - air intakes and extracts at street level are also brightly coloured, contrasting with the neutrality of the occupied floors.

The generosity of the scheme is reflected in the spacious, 8 metre-high entrance lobby, floored in granite as an extension of the external landscaping. This reception area features a 54 metre-long wall running the length of the building. The façades of the main office floors are glazed from floor to ceiling to maximise daylight and views – in addition, levels 8,12 and 16 lead directly onto roof terraces with spectacular views over the City skyline.

Though built to a strict commercial budget, 88 Wood Street contains many innovative elements. The massing of the building allows controlled daylight to penetrate the office floors. Its triple-glazed active façade is formed of single panels, each 3m x 4m, of highly transparent float glass. The inner faces of the external panes have a low emissivity coating which further reduces internal solar gain, while the cavity between the double glazed units and the third panel is fitted with motorised, integral horizontal blinds with perforated slats. Photocells on the roof monitor external light conditions and adjust the angle of the blinds, thus minimising sun-glare, heat gain and energy consumption.

The site lies at the heart of the City of London, between St Paul’s Cathedral and Moorgate and was subject to complex planning negotiations with the Corporation of London. The building rises in three linked steps of 10, 14 and 18 storeys, responding to the geometries of the site: at its highest it complements the buildings lining London Wall, while the lowest block is sympathetic to the scale of the Wren tower in Wood Street.
The double-height reception space cutting through the entire length of the site, the expressed vertical services and circulation towers are clearly comprised of ‘servant’ and ‘served’ space enabling clear access to all parts of the building.
The sophisticated glazing system allows maximum daylight penetration to all floors, and incorporates integral internal blinds, remotely controlled to protect the building from unwanted solar gain and glare.