The Brits Who Built The Modern World

Lloyd's Building




Lloyd's building, Lime Street, City of London

Lloyd’s - the world’s oldest insurance market - was rebranded for the modern era in 1986 with the opening of a new cutting-edge headquarters. British architect Richard Rogers’ steel-clad concrete-framed building for Lloyd’s was unlike any of the Portland stone edifices nearby when it opened – it was an audacious and experimental project in a place where conservative attitudes to the built environment prevail.  

…one of the most astonishing artistic achievements of our time

It flaunts its services on its façade, exposing its pipes, toilet pods, staircases and glass lifts for the rest of the City of London and passers-by to see. The Lloyd’s building coexists with its smaller Victorian and Edwardian neighbours, continuing the surrounding public realm via shops and restaurants and a permeable perimeter of pedestrian routes partially sheltered by the body of the building. In this densely built up area of London the building’s mass is broken by towers, which contain fire escapes, services and cranes.

Design for the Lloyd's building, Lime Street, City of LondonDesign for the Lloyd's building, Lime Street, City of London

The large clear floor plates, uncluttered by services, are each connected by escalators to facilitate easy internal communication, one of the essentials of the brief.  Natural light comes through from all directions and from an atrium (showing influence from Joseph Paxton’s Crystal Palace), which dominates the interior.

Evidence of Lloyd's long history is proudly displayed as set pieces against an unashamedly modern habitat for making money – lots of money. The Lutine Bell, once rung to announce the latest news of overdue ships, sits at the bottom of the atrium, while a classical Robert Adams interior sits on the upper floors. A lone ornate Neo-Classical doorway designed by Sir Edwin Cooper, the main entrance to one of the previous Lloyd’s buildings, still exists on ‎Leadenhall Street, but the main entrance is now on Lime Street.

Nothing is hidden, everything is expressed. The legibility of the parts gives the building scale and shadow

Despite its futuristic appearance and the fact that it was designed to accommodate change, in 2011 the Lloyd’s building became the youngest ever to be given Grade I listed status. Since the 'big bang' of the 1980s, which liberated the financial markets, the building has successfully adapted to changes in technology and to the size of Lloyd’s. The rest of London has grown too and now the headquarters of Lloyd’s is surrounded by other towers, but it is Rogers’s High Tech interpretation of an office built from parts that still captures the imagination – and the eye of passers-by through the narrow streets of the City.

Before Richard Rogers

For Lloyd’s the problem of continued growth has been the quick obsolescence of each of its new offices, exemplified by the four different buildings it occupied during the 20th century. Rogers’ building was designed to accommodate fluctuations in demand for floor space that previous offices couldn’t. In 1928 Sir Edwin Cooper’s Neo-Classical office block was opened on the market’s current site by King George V. After World War 2 more space was needed and an additional office next door designed by Terence Heysham was opened in 1958. Despite having a room over 300ft long, in time it too proved to be incapable of coping with the need for more space. Demolition of Cooper’s building to make way for the current headquarters began in 1979. Norman Foster + Partners’ Willis building opened on the site of the Lloyd’s 1958 extension in 2008.

Left: Lloyd's building, Lime Street, City of London: the atrium seen from the main entrance; Right: The Underwriting Room (the 'Room'), Lloyd's building extensionLloyd's building, Lime Street, City of London, seen from the west (left)

QUOTES ABOUT the lloyd's building

‘Nothing is hidden, everything is expressed. The legibility of the parts gives the building scale and shadow’
Richard Rogers in Richard Rogers by Deyan Sudjic, 1994, p.74

‘…one of the most astonishing artistic achievements of our time.’
Architectural Review, October 1986, p.57

‘The most consistently innovative building the City has seen since Soane’s Bank of England, breaking absolutely with its usual preference for architectural safe investments.’
Simon Bradley and Nikolaus Pevsner,  London 1: The City of London, 1997, p.313