LONDON OPEN-CITY 2010 (PART I) LLOYDS OF LONDON: NEITHER A BANK NOR A CHEMIST (LET ALONE A DESIGN AGENCY)

The atrium inside the Lloyds Building in the City of Lonodn

I was eagerly awaiting for the London Open House (now rebranded as Open-City) that took place last weekend to have the chance to look inside some of those outstanding examples of architecture that we sometimes admire in awe when walking around town.

No doubt my first option was a private flat at Lauderdale House, in the magnanimous Barbican state, which, for my disappointment, was unexpectedly cancelled by the organisers… Notwithstanding, I was keen on catching up with something as there were plenty of other interesting places to see such as the world-renowned Lloyds building, which fit the bill very well.

It’s impossible not to draw references to Archigram when looking at the Lloyds’ façade, for example.  In fact, that is precisely the type of construction they would have pursued should any of their freaking crazy concepts have come to fruition. Instead, Richard Rogers took from where Archigram left and created a memorable piece of space-age architecture. What strikes me most is the fact that Lloyds started out in a mere coffee house on Tower Street in 1688, and over its 322 year history it has become the largest insurance market in the world. Originally dedicated to insuring risks for Maritime enterprises of all kinds (and yes, slavery trade too, regretfully) it grew to a structure of £2bn worth in assets. So, the bigger the numbers the bigger the need for accountability, right? The impression the building left on me was that besides its sheer dimensions there’s sense of openness that Rogers tried to create by means of vast open plans, and the use of certain materials such as glass in its interiors. It is almost as if the building’s structure, with its apparent pipes and ducts (80km of it, to be precise), open plans, glassed walls and a massive atrium work as statement about transparency and foresight. It’s like exposing the engine of this complex mammoth that is insurance business.

However unappealing the idea of working side by side with brokers and the like day after day I could not help but think how damn cool it would be to have an office in that place. If only creative industries were capable of generating similar amounts of revenue then maybe we would see something like a Pompidou-esque building being erected by the Thames to house the ‘creative syndicates’ operating in the ‘visual communications market’ or, the economies of the future.

For now though, not much we can do other than make the most of the premises in one of the famously converted warehouses/wharfs pinpointing Shoreditch and Clerkenwell. Right, I shall concede it holds its charm too.

Advertisements