Interior of Lloyds Building
Architect: Richard Rogers Partnership (1978-1986)
Photograph: A. Hunter (1986)
Source: RIBA British Architectural Library Photographs Collection
Compared to its busy exterior, the inside of Lloyd’s of London (1978-86) seems at first restrained. Centred round the high light well or atrium, this looks like an ordered, if busy, office environment. For its time, though, this was groundbreaking, and looking more closely we can see why.
Visibility is everything. All structural and mechanical engineering is exposed. The great concrete piers project out, their bulky joints clearly expressed. The ceilings are open, revealing the gap between them and the floors above. The balconies are glass fronted – not for the faint-hearted. Even the mechanics of the escalators can be seen whirring away. All is brilliantly conveyed in this photograph by Hunter; the only thing that appears missing is the noise: such a bustling environment we expect to be cluttered with voices.
Rogers’ sources for the building were many. The immediate precedent is his Pompidou Centre, Paris (1971), which he designed with Renzo Piano. The stress on the machine-like elements looks back to Le Corbusier, and the greenhouse-like atrium can be sourced back to Paxton’s Crystal Palace (1851). Significantly, Rogers’ design has since become a source for offices and shopping centres throughout Britain.