Picturing London

Artists' interpretations: Economist Building

Perspective drawing of the Economist Building

Perspective of the Economist Building, 25 St James's Street, 1964
Designer: Alison and Peter Smithson
Artist: Gordon Cullen
© RIBA Library Drawings and Archives Collections

Gordon Cullen, a writer and illustrator in the 'Architectural Review', found Alison and Peter Smithson's Economist Plaza to be an almost perfect public space. This drawing, one of a series made by Cullen, explores the perspective towards St James's Street opened up by the scheme. There is high contrast between the Smithsons' glazed blocks and the Palladian palazzo opposite, which highlights the Smithsons' uncluttered, light-filled plaza. The bare, daringly blank court runs directly into its older neighbour, encumbered with ornament - Cullen's shading and hatching gives it weight and sobriety.

For Cullen, the plaza epitomised the design necessary for a more liveable London. Unlike many of his predecessors, Cullen does not attempt to romanticise or focus on the past.
The modern building encroaching on the older fabric is a positive force of newness, unbridling the chocked streets. 


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