Open House weekend has just been and gone for another year... a brilliant annual event which allows access into 700 buildings of every conceivable type, style, size and function, across London. This year we chose to visit two buildings with a firm connection; the first was the office of Allies and Morrison architects and the second was The Blue Fin Building, located on the same street and conceived and built by the same architects. Allies and Morrison are a practise that I have long admired; I first became aware of tem through their work for the Contempoary Applied Arts on Percy Street, when in 1997 they designed their new gallery and shop. From that point on I have sought out and visited many of their projects including: the Centenary Building at our wonderful local museum The Horniman, the new planetarium at Greenwich Royal Observatory, the Atterbury Street entrance to Tate Britain, the refurbishment of the Royal Festival Hall and the creation of the fabulous restaurant Canteen at the RFH.
So with all of this in mind I was keen to see where the magic happens... and so to 85 Southwark Street. Located on a busy road this is a 3 storey building with an impressive glass facade, accentuated with perforated yellow shutters. We were taken on a tour around the building by one of the architects who was very enthusiastic about the environment as a workplace and we were shown around every square inch of the space, from the reception through to the roof top terrace, the meeting rooms, the open plan office space, the kitchenettes and (amazingly) their very own model making shop. Even though the building had a large number of visitors traipsing through it, it still managed to retain an atmosphere of calm, understated strength and beauty; the architect's use of exposed concrete, simple materials, accents of yellow, the Alvar Alto furniture and a great attention to detail make this a very modest building, which reflects the quiet ingenuity of it's creators.
And so to the Blue Fin Building literally across the road, which is in direct contrast to the architect's own office... This is a 12 storey edifice, home to the headquarters of the publishing giant IPC; a sleek corporate building where the facade is peppered with random 'blue fins' from which the building gets it's name. Set around a central atrium this building boasts a state of the art presentation theatre, a winter garden, striking landscaped outdoor terraces on the 10th floor and an 11th floor staff restaurant with magnificent views out over Tate Modern, the Thames and beyond. It was on this floor that I discovered I'm not imune to an unnerving sense of vertigo, as I peered over the glass balustrade, down to the ground floor reception area! Fortunately I held it together and was able to explore the many meeting rooms, workspaces and breakout areas that go to complete this impressive building, which although huge does not appear too overwhelming as the architects have managed to retain the understated minimalism and quality of detailing for which I have long admired them for.