Barclays Bank Headquarters

HOK won the project in competition with SOM and Cesar Pelli and Associates, both practices with a long association with Canary Wharf. Barclays was planning to vacate a series of buildings in the City, including its prominent headquarters block on Lombard Street. The brief was for a building of around 93,000 sq m, capable of accommodating more than 6,000 members of staff in largely open-plan office apce, togther with some cellular office space for senior staff. Dealing floors were not required since Barclays' dealing operations are housed elsewhere at Canary Wharf. The bank saw the move as the opportunity for a 'culture change', with the new building encouraging more interaction between staff who had hitherto been scattered across a series of locations. The client wanted a building that expressed openness and effeciency, with less of the extraneous display seen in some of the earlier blocks in Canary Wharf.

Entering the ground-floor lobby - light, clean and with a conspicuous absence of heavy decor - the visitor immediately senses that this is a building with a distinctive personality. The use of colourful and figured marbles - a feature of many other Canary Wharf developments - is restricted to the lift lobbies beyond. However, Barclays is also a building that extends the 'vocabulary' of Canary Wharf in other ways. Since the inception of the development, central service cores have been de rigueur in the office buildings there, in line with standard American practice. With the overall profile of the building - height and volume - set by the masterplan, HOK proposed departure from standard practice. They concentrated devolved service cores to the north of the site and designed a series of (mostly) six-storey glazed atria extending up the southern face of the building, which could be working spaces as well as places to relax over a coffee. These atria are fundamental to the project and are airy, light-filled spaces which are heavily used. At most times of the day it is usual to find two or three colleagues having an informal working meeting, or an individual quietly tapping away at a laptop as others take a break from their desks. Each atrium has a visual theme: one has a grove thriving bamboos, for example, with a hanging sculpture that continues the theme. The views from offices into the atria are a feature of a building in which visual connectivity is a guiding principle.

Externally, the atria can be clearly seen rising up the south face of the tower, the strong and individual identity of which is reinforced by the facade treatment. Depending on the time of dayand the light conditions, the building reads variously as an all-glass structure or as one where the stainless-steel mullions of the glazing emerge to give it a very different, more solid, character. Avoiding complex glazing solutions, the architects went for a very straightforward system in which the facade is hung from a series of great steel masts, perhaps consciously nautical in flavour, which rise the height of the tower through the atria. The special sparkle in the stainless steel is the outcome of studies that established that giving the steel a stippled 'linen' texture provided maximum reflectivity, even on dull days.

Work began on site in November 2001 and with the the attack on New York's World Trade Center a very recent memory, the structure of the tower was designed to address a variety of emergency conditions. In addition, the internal stair cores can contain the entire population of the building using a strategy of 'invacuation' - innovative at the time, but since copied in many new designs. The cantilevered corners of the tower provide attractive meeting spaces on all floors, and reduce the overall steel load. Floors are typically of around 3,200 sq m, with some extending to 3,500 sq m where they do not embrace atria. Below street level, the base of the building provides connections to the retail centre and to Canary Wharf Underground Station, heavily used by Barclays' staff - parking on site is minimal. There is also a fitness centre at this level.

Canary Wharf has not always been regarded as an innovator in energy and environmental issues. At Barclays, the banks of atria, which act as an energy buffer, plus a 'green' roof - the first in the Isle of Dogs and claimed, at 160 metres (520 ft) above street level, as the highest in Europe - are elements in an environmental strategy that won a BREEAM rating of 'Excellent' and a series of sustainability awards.

This is a classic HOK London project. HOK's design director, Larry Malcic, believes that it is a "good example of the way in which we explore the potential for reinventing a building type - Barclays is highly innovative, both in concept and execution, but it wears its innovative aspects lightly".

Malcic worked closely with senior designer Chrisopher Colosimo and Chris Yoon to create a highly efficient, well-crafted and classically elegant tower.
Architect
HOK London