Thursday, December 9, 2010

No. 1 Poultry

1 Poultry is an office and retail building in London. It was designed by James Stirling on a site owned by Peter Palumbo, the property developer. It was completed after Stirling's death by his architectural partner Michael Wilford. The building is one of the leading postmodern buildings in London with use of bold forms and colours.  Opinions on the building are divided among architecture critics; amongst the readers of Time Out magazine, it was voted the fifth worst building in London. Its construction required the demolition of the Mappin and Webb building.

For some reason, I like this building.  I like the way it seems to undulate and it has a rhythmic vibration and movement to its geometry.  This building is the result of a series of long and bitter struggles. In 1967, Mies van der Rohe, invited by his client (Peter Palumbo) came to London to design a skyscaper for the site. It was granted planning permission in 1969. However, it took Palumbo over another decade to acquire all the land required. By then, in the 1980s, the permission had lapsed and had to be re-applied for.
This time the application was rejected and Palumbo appealed. Jim Stirling appeared on Palumbo's behalf at the hearing. The eventual outcome was that the site could be developed, but not with the Mies scheme. Stirling, highly regarded as the right man for the job after his acclaimed Neue Staatsgalerie in Stuttgart had opened in 1984, received the new commission. 
James Stirling
This was also a lengthy process, since it involved the demotion of nine 'listed' and much loved buildings. It was completed after Stirling's death in 1992.
Seems like a epic story for a piece of property with such an unattractive sounding address as "Number 1 Poultry".  If I were Palumbo, I would have renamed the street as well!

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