Picturing London

Architects' Visions: Economist Building

Design for the Economist Building

Design for the Economist Building, 25 St James's Street, 1961
Designer: Alison and Peter Smithson
© RIBA Library Drawings and Archives Collections 

This elevation of Alison and Peter Smithson's Economist Building shows the relationship of their complex to the streetscape. A serious, even stern drawing, it reflects the scheme's desire to pack a punch worthy of its function and name.

This pragmatic drawing was conceived of not as a construction document, but like the previous drawings, as a way to illustrate and sell a bold new urban proposal. The Smithsons' architecture was completely at odds with the Palladian terraces and club houses of St James. The scale, materials and the high tower blocks sneer at the surrounding eclecticism. Yet, by downplaying the ornament of the existing buildings as simple line work, the column grid of the Economist building relates to proportions of the street. A lack of pedestrians, vehicles or street furniture enhances the clean, unbroken lines of the project. Rendering the entire street elevation in such a crisp manner reflects the Smithsons' ideas of ordered, rigorous Modernism for civic improvement.

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