No 1 Poultry

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No 1 Poultry is an office and retail building on Poultry in the City of London. It was designed by James Stirling for a site then owned by developer Peter Palumbo, and first assembled by Palumbo's father Rudolph in the 1960s. Originally intended to be the site of an office tower designed by Mies van der Rohe in the manner of the Seagram Building in New York City, that scheme was aborted following one of the great architectural and planning show-downs of the 1970s.

The present building was completed in 1997, five years after Stirling's death. It is a postmodern building, with use of bold, but perhaps unsubtle, forms and colours in a compact assembly. It is clad in pink and yellow limestone, fixed in stripes and blocks of colour whilst the interior atrium at the centre of the wedge-shaped site displays some of Stirling's characteristic acidulous colour play.

Like many of the best postmodern buildings the imagery is rich in references. For example, from the sharp apex of the site a keyhole shaped opening leads to a little-seen Scala Regia with a ramped floor, gold-leafed terminus and ancient Egyptian aura takes visitors into the heart of the building. Intended as Palumbo's private entrance this space is today little used: Palumbo sold the development before its completion. The turret above is sometimes likened to a submarine conning tower while the glazed two sided clock is in concept and detail a direct quotation from the Fascist era main post office in Naples. Completed nearly two decades after the first designs were published its reception among architectural critics suffered from the fact that the heyday of postmodernism was already over. Amongst the readers of Time Out magazine, it was voted the fifth worst building in London. However, its powerful image means it is often photographed as a symbol of the new London. Its construction required the fiercely fought demolition of the nineteenth century neo-gothic listed building on the apex of the site, occupied by crown jewellers Mappin and Webb.

While construction was underway, a major archaeological dig was undertaken by the Museum of London archaeological service MOLAS, directed by Peter Rowsome. This excavation made several significant discoveries, including a wooden drain along the main Roman road. Using dendrochronology, this was dated to the year AD 47, suggesting this may be the date of the founding of Roman Londinium.

A restaurant, called Coq d'Argent, is sited on the rooftop of No 1 Poultry and has a terrace and formal garden with panoramic views for drinkers and diners. The building itself is occupied by one of the UK's largest asset managers, Aviva Investors. The rooftop featured in the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games in the segment 'Happy and Glorious' which saw Daniel Craig as James Bond transport Queen Elizabeth II to the Olympic Stadium by helicopter.

The rooftop terrace has gained notoriety in the City in recent years as the place where four people have committed suicide by jumping to the street below, a fall of around 80 ft. City workers have jumped from the terrace in 2007, 2009 and twice in 2012.

References

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  • Peter Rowsome Heart of the City Museum of London, 2000

External links

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