|Address||101–103 New Oxford Street|
|Town or city||London|
|Structural system||Reinforced Concrete|
|Design and construction|
|Structural engineer||Pell Frischmann|
|Main contractor||Wimpey Construction|
Centre Point is a substantial concrete and glass office building in central London, occupying 101–103 New Oxford Street, WC1, close to St Giles Circus and almost directly above Tottenham Court Road tube station. The site was once occupied by a gallows.1 One of the first skyscrapers in London, it is now the city's joint 27th tallest building.2 Since 1995 it has been a grade II listed building.3 An aggressive use of the "flashy and international style of crystalline concrete" that Richard Seifert developed with his partner H.G. Marsh, the 380-ft tower stood empty for five years after its completion in 1967.4
Centre Point was built as speculative office space by property tycoon Harry Hyams, who had leased the site at £18,500 a year for 150 years. Hyams and Seifert engaged in negotiations with the London County Council over the height of the building, which was much taller than would normally be allowed and was highly controversial; eventually he was allowed to build 32 floors in return for providing a new road junction between St Giles Circus, Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road, which the LCC could not afford to build on its own. Hyams intended that the whole building be occupied by a single tenant.
The building was designed by Richard Seifert with engineers Pell Frischmann and was constructed by Wimpey Construction from 1963 to 19665 for £5.5 million.6 It is 117 m (385 ft) high, has 34 floors7 and 27,180 m2 (292,563 sq ft) of floor space.
On completion, the building remained empty for many years. With property prices rising and most business tenancies taken for set periods of 10 or 15 years, Hyams could afford to keep it empty and wait for his single tenant at the asking price of £1,250,000; he was challenged to allow tenants to rent single floors but consistently refused. The prominent nature of the building led to it becoming a symbol of greed in the property industry. Some campaigners demanded that the government of Edward Heath should intervene and take over the building, and at one point in June 1972 Peter Walker (then Secretary of State for the Environment) offered £5 million for the building. Eventually Hyams agreed to let the building by floors but the arrangements were stalled.
A more intriguing speculation was that the government was paying Hyams "a heavy but secret subsidy to keep it empty" for its own purposes. Various conspiracy theories circulated about what those purposes might be. One common theme was that since the building was 100% air-conditioned (a rarity in London at that time), and sited over Tottenham Court Road tube station and its deep tube lines, this would somehow make it useful to the government in the event of nuclear war.citation needed
From July 1980 to March 2014, the building was the headquarters of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI). In 1995 Centre Point became a Grade II listed building. Noted architecture critic Nikolaus Pevsner described Centre Point as "coarse in the extreme". In 2009, the building won the Concrete Society's Mature Structures Award.9
In October 2005, Centre Point was bought from previous owners, Blackmoor LP, by commercial property firm Targetfollow for £85 million.7 The building was extensively refurbished. It has since been purchased by Almacantar, who have received planning permission to further refurbish the building to plans by Rick Mather Architects.6
Occupiers in the building now include US talent agency William Morris Agency; the state-owned national oil company of Saudi Arabia, Aramco; Chinese oil company Petrochina; and electronic gaming company EA Games. Its longest-standing tenant was the CBI (33 years, 7 months).2
In Autumn 2008 Paramount10 was opened at the top of Centre Point. Initially operating as a private members club, however this policy was changed in 2010 with Paramount opening its doors to the general public. Occupying the top three floors of the building, Paramount was designed by British designer Tom Dixon, and includes event space on the 31st floor, bar and restaurant on 32nd, and a 360-degree viewing gallery on the 33rd floor – the top floor of the building.
In February 2013, the global members club for creative industries, ‘Apartment 58’, launched APT58 at Centre Point. The members club, on the lower floors of the building, features a night club, meeting rooms, a locker and mail service and a young creative lounge. The venue also includes a late-license ground floor street-food concept restaurant.13
At 5:30 pm on Friday, 18 January 1974, homeless campaigners (two of whom had obtained jobs with the security firm guarding Centre Point) squatted the building in a protest that the building ought to be used to help London's housing crisis. The occupation lasted only until Sunday 20 January and is often said to have inspired the housing charity Centrepoint, which took its name from the building; this is not, in fact, the case, as the charity had been around for five years prior to this. In fact the charity was named for the fact that its first night shelter was at the centre of the Soho parish. The name co-incidence was accidental, but when it was pointed out to the founders, they were quite pleased that the confusion might raise awareness of the plight of the homeless. Another urban myth surrounding the use of the name was that the subways and pedestrian underpasses beneath the building were popular places for rough sleepers.
The promised transport interchange and highways improvements were not delivered following the original plan. The pedestrian subway attracted anti-social activities.14 On 19 June 2006 the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment pointed to the building as an example of bad design, where badly-designed pavements force pedestrians into the bus lane as they try to pass the building and accounts for the highest level of pedestrian injuries in Central London. With the planned redevelopment of Tottenham Court Road Underground Station a framework has been adopted to redevelop the traffic island beneath Centre Point as an open space.
The site of the plaza and fountains will be a work site for the Crossrail and station expansion works at Tottenham Court Road station. The plaza is being demolished and the fountains have been removed.
- Centre Point is featured in the 1977 classic horror film 'The Medusa Touch'. A Boeing 747 aircraft is seen to hit the top of the tower and destroy it. The resulting collapse engulfs the Dominion theatre next door.
- The Centre Point building is visible in the beginning of the music video for "Check the Meaning" by Richard Ashcroft. It also appears in the background of the music video for "Midnight Madness" by English electronic music band The Chemical Brothers, and during the music video of "Bang" by Blur.
- Centre Point is one of the locations Jim (Cillian Murphy) walks past in the 'deserted London' scenes of UK horror film 28 Days Later (2002). Director Danny Boyle also references this (as "a famous empty/partially empty building in London") on the DVD commentary.
- The character "Old Bailey" camps on top of Centre Point at one point in Neil Gaiman's novel Neverwhere. He describes it as an "ugly and distinctive Sixties skyscraper" and goes on to remark that "the view from the top was without compare, and, furthermore, the top of Centre Point was one of the few places in the West End of London where you did not have to look at Centre Point itself".
- The building is mentioned in the sixth episode of the BBC comedy series The Thick of It. During an inquiry into the UK government's culture of leaking information to the press, Stuart Pearson, a Conservative spin doctor is asked about an analogy he has made between government transparency and the Pompidou Centre. A member of the inquiry suggests that rather than creating a "political Pompidou Centre," Pearson has created "the opposite, Centre Point - I mean everyone sees it looming over them but nobody has the faintest idea what happens in there." To which Pearson replies, "I think there's some kind of club on the top floor."
- In the sixth episode of the second series of the UK comedy programme The IT Crowd, the view from Jen Barber's new office looks out across to Centre Point.
- The building is also the location of the final battle scene and the headquarters for 'The Tower' in Kate Griffin's 2009 novel 'A Madness of Angels'.
- Peter Ackroyd, "London: The biography", Chatto & Windus, London, 2000. ISBN 1-85619-716-6
- Targetfollow news archive, 11/08/09dead link
- Centre Point and Pond to Front, Camden, British Listed Buildings. Retrieved 8 December 2012.
- Betjeman on English Architecture, p.102. Penguin 1974. ISBN 014 0038248.
- White, p. 26
- Targetfollow news archive, 06/10/05dead link
- "Portland; an Illustrated History" by Stuart Morris, The Dovecote Press
- 43rd Concrete Society Awards
- Paramount Bar by Tom Dixon (London)
- Pierre Condou’s club at top of London’s Centre Point – The Condou set
- "APT58". The Handbook. 25 February 2013.
- An architectural icon from the 1960s, Urban75, April 2012. Retrieved 8 December 2012.
- White, Valerie (1980). Wimpey: The first hundred years. George Wimpey.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Centre Point.|
- Targetfollow.co.uk - Owner of Centre Point
- Targetspace.co.uk - Office Services in Centre Point
- BBC News: Hunt for UK's 'failed' buildings
- Concrete Society: Certificate of Excellence for Centre Point
- Centre Point by Richard Seifert