Designed by SOM in the 1980s, 135-175 Bishopsgate is the largest building in the Broadgate development on the eastern fringe of the City of London. Despite this wealth of office space and its prime location, the building is to be vacated, with its current tenant, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, moving to Canary Wharf. What to do, then, with this empty behemoth of a groundscraper?
Seizing the opportunity, Home Office proposes repurposing the building into a biophilic oasis, part of a larger plan to designate the wider area as the ‘Green Mile’, to link up with the adjacent ‘Square Mile’ of the City, the ‘Culture Mile’ to the west and ‘Tech City’ to the north.
The building itself would be transformed into an Institute for Green Research, encouraging and incubating green industry by turning former office space into research laboratories, community education hubs, workshops, testing facilities and conventional classrooms.
With the socially deprived London Borough of Tower Hamlets nearby, Home Office stress this is also a place for education and re-skilling, linking work and education on-site. Visitors are encouraged into the revamped building through the insertion of more entry points and a sloping surface mediating the building’s elevation above the street. This raised ground floor has become an internal streetscape, filled with a food hall, resource library, workshop and retail.
Multiple atria have also been enlarged and carved out, primarily to let in more natural light, but also to create visual connections across floors and most dramatically to allow auditoria in the form of floating timber pods to occupy the space. Enhancing this experience, winding wooden walkways take visitors up through the atria, flora and internal tree canopy to the building’s roof, where air-conditioning plant is replaced with further vegetation as part of a rooftop rewilding strategy. Here, public sports facilities such as a gym, and squash and basketball courts, can be found, alongside community allotments, conservatories, beehives, bar, restaurant and outdoor cinema.
Design Think Tanks
How can design improve the way we live in cities? Design Think Tanks (DTTs) at the LSA put forward proposals to help meet the targets set out in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
Design Think Tanks are collaborative projects between students and leading architectural practices at the London School of Architecture. The UN Sustainable Development Goals address the global challenges we face, including those related to poverty, inequality, climate, environmental degradation, prosperity, and peace and justice. They are a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.
Each year the LSA selects a shortlist of DTT topics to be studied from a long list of suggestions made by the LSA Practice Network. The study topics suggested are ones that require urgent consideration, innovative thinking and design solutions that will generate significant social and environmental progress and beneficial urban change.
Students elect to work on one of the shortlisted study topics in collaborative groups of between six and eight led by senior staff from the sponsoring practice that suggested the DTT study topic. Generally, at least one member of each study group works with the sponsoring practice. LSA Faculty work with the DTT leaders to guide students through the research and design process.
We asked fourth-year students at the London School of Architecture to share their proposals for transforming the lives of Londoners in the borough of Hackney. Within eight design think tanks, students and practices collaborated to reimagine how we occupy our cities, as well as our relationship to work, food and travel.