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John Robertson Architects unveil plans for former Daily Mail building Northcliffe House

JRA’s approach refocuses the building’s design to serve the post-Covid requirements of diverse businesses from the insurance, legal, fin-tech, social media and technology sectors.

09/09/2021 3 min read

John Robertson Architects (JRA) have been given the go ahead for the refurbishment of Northcliffe House, the former Fleet Street home to the offices and printing presses of the Daily Mail newspaper until the late 1980s – sitting within the Whitefriars Conservation Area as a Grade II listed building.

JRA’s design narrative recalls the excitement and interest that surrounded the building at its inception, and re-interpret this for a new era in the life of Northcliffe House. The intention is to create a flexible workplace which responds to the requirements of tenants once the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has been contained. The building sits in the heart of the Fleet Street Business Development District – an initiative strongly supported by the City of London Corporation – and JRA’s contemporary iteration of Northcliffe House will act as a catalyst, attracting other businesses into the area by establishing a new ‘sense of place’.

The design seeks to unify the various components of the office building at high level and create a more considered and coherent massing than currently exists. The proposed office additions at levels 5 and 6 are progressively set back, creating three south-facing ‘green’ landscaped roof terraces. These wide terraces link with an existing terrace above Bouverie Street and Whitefriars Street, wrapping around the southern façade of the building while acknowledging their relationship with the historic turret.

The approach allows these terrace areas – characterised by extensive planting and roofs – to be used as outdoor workspaces and for meetings as well as ‘outdoor rooms’ where occupiers can socialise.

The listed Art Deco elevations and the existing brick and stone Victorian façade on Tudor Street will be cleaned and repaired as part of the proposal but will otherwise remain unaltered in design and appearance. The concept for the treatment of the additional office space at levels 5 and 6 has been derived from the existing language of the Daily Mail elevation. JRA have re-interpreted the gridded industrial aesthetic of the copper-light window glazing to provide a contemporary aesthetic for the new elevations – these unify the design of the new office space by referencing the post-industrial history of the site.

There is a strong focus on sustainability, and the scheme targets BREEAM ‘Excellent’. JRA will – wherever possible – re-use or recycle those materials recovered as part of the refurbishment and has sought to ensure, when specifying new materials, that these contain a high recycled content. The approach has been strongly informed by a Life Cycle Assessment (commissioned by the client) which considered the savings in embodied carbon by retaining the existing structure compared with demolition and a full, new-build redevelopment of the site.

‘Our design will revitalise Northcliffe House to create a distinctive and attractive 21st-century workplace, providing flexible office space for a range of new tenants,’ says John Robertson, Founder and Director, John Robertson Architects.

‘Throughout the consultation process, we have been mindful of the building’s heritage. Not only have we sought to reference Northcliffe House’s links to the newspaper industry but also its wider relevance to the ‘Roaring Twenties’, a period of rapid growth in engineering and industrial design which saw the emergence of Art Deco.

‘We plan to build on the post-industrial history of the building, by exposing the structural steel frame and by designing ceiling rafts with semi-exposed services on the office floors to give character and volume to the interior design. The combination of flexible office floor plates, with the hospitality- themed reception and extensive roof gardens, will make this a unique workplace.’

Northcliffe House is JRA’s third major reconfiguration of a former newspaper building in the City of London over the past two decades, following the practice’s award- winning work on the Daily Express Building (completed in 2000) and Bracken House, HQ of the Financial Times (completed in 2018).

Work starts on Northcliffe House this month, expected to complete late 2022 – watch this space!

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