Architecture of the Smithsons celebrated with renovation of their Brutalist Economist landmark

Developer Tishman Speyer and architects DSDHA have completed the first phase renovation of famous Alison and Peter Smithson’s Economist Building and Plaza on London’s St James’s Street.

The Brutalist Grade II*-listed complex, completed in 1964, was originally commissioned by the Economist magazine, which had its offices there for more than half a century.

The buildings are now being upgraded, with new public amenities added. As part of the first phase, the main square has been reinvigorated and rebranded as Smithson Plaza to celebrate the acclaimed architectural duo.

Deborah Saunt, founding director of DSDHA, said: "Having considered the impact of incremental changes since 1964, we have assessed what might be preserved and what can be changed. We have developed a phased restoration framework to create sustainable, flexible and contemporary workspaces whilst preserving public amenity."

A public art programme has been re-introduced to the plaza and will begin with a dramatic installation by Swiss artist, Olaf Breuning, in collaboration with CASS Sculpture Foundation and Metro Pictures Gallery in New York.

At street level, 4,600sq ft retail space has been created, further connecting the complex with the public realm.

In ther own words
Tishman Speyer on the project

Recognised as a triumph of post-war architecture, the scheme’s significance is founded on its urban contribution, as much as that of the individual buildings. The three buildings arranged around a raised plaza comprise the 15-storey Smithson Tower (formerly known as The Economist Tower), the five storey Bank Building and eight storey Residential Building.

Following the acquisition of the estate in 2016, Tishman Speyer appointed London-based architects DSDHA with the strategic brief to safeguard the future of the estate through considered investment in the buildings and their public realm, enhancing their historic significance and longevity, while delivering best-in-class and environmentally sustainable accommodation. The proposal received support from 20th Century Society and Historic England.

Six newly renovated upper floors, totalling approximately 22,000sq ft have been delivered as part of the first phase. Renovation works include new double-glazed windows, totally new services and lifts as well as state-of-the-art amenities for tenants. The Smithson Tower offers 360-degree, unobstructed panoramic views of the city and will be, upon delivery, the only refurbished office tower in St James’s.

“Our strategy was to reposition the Smithson Plaza as a best-in-class West End office destination while safeguarding its historical significance for future generations,” said Dan Nicholson, MD of Tishman Speyer UK.

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