55 Broadway

55 Broadway

In 1926 The Underground Group commissioned 55 Broadway, over St James's Park station, as its new headquarters. It was to replace Electric Railway House, whose offices were too cramped for the growing organisation. The headquarters was to symbolise the company's vision of public transport being at the heart of London's social and commercial life.

Frank Pick, assistant managing director of the Underground Group, commissioned the architect Charles Holden of the firm Adams Holden and Pearson to design the building. On its completion in 1929, 55 Broadway was the tallest building in London. However, building restrictions prevented the floors above the seventh being used as offices.

The modern and assertive design was considered an architectural masterpiece. It was awarded the London Architectural Medal by the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1929. The Underground Group's desire to make a bold architectural statement in keeping with the ideals of the company had been realised.

The commission was based on Holden's previous work for the Underground Group on the Northern line extension Underground stations, including Morden and Clapham South. Both Pick and Holden shared the same philosophy in architecture, that it should be well designed and easy to use. They wanted to produce buildings with clean simple lines, proclaiming their 'fitness for purpose'.

The building is Portland stone over a steel structure. Holden's response to the site, which was an awkward diamond shape, was an inspired cruciform plan. Open plan offices radiate in four wings from a central tower. Large expanses of glass make the most of the direct natural sunlight. There are no internal light wells as was common in buildings of this size. The offices are partitioned with Muranese glass that lets in light but can be moved as necessary. This plan followed contemporary American office design, but was considered an innovation in London. Some of the ground floor offices were lit by top light.

Bookmark with:

  • What are these?