Client: Kajima / Taylor Woodrow Capital Developments / The Itochu Corporation
Owen Williams, Lord Beaverbrook and Eric Aumonier between them ensured that the headquarters for Beaverbrook’s Daily Express newspaper was one of the finest Art Deco buildings in Britain when completed in 1929. Its black vitrolite cladding distinguished it from its stone clad neighbours on Fleet Street, such as Lutyens’ Reuters’ building opposite; its rationalised structure facilitated the production process, while its magnificent Art Deco entrance hall with Aumonier’s relief sculptures, a wavy linoleum floor depicting the ocean and sunburst ceiling powerfully conveyed Beaverbrook’s doctrine of “Empire Free Trade”.
Although spectacular, the original façade did not reach modern standards of acoustic or energy insulation, so JRA had to find a way of recreating the original appearance while meeting new standards. Making the wall thicker and heavier, while retaining the elegant framework called for considerable ingenuity: the chosen solution was to use hollow aluminium sections, but post-tensioned with steel rods inside to increase their strength. Old photographs were the main source for recreating the entrance hall which had suffered considerably over time, helping to establish the floor pattern which was remade in terrazzo, and the only source for redesigning the serpent handrails which had disappeared.
The restored building won the Royal Fine Arts Commission Trust Building of the Year Award and The City Heritage Award in 2001.