Complexity in Modern Architecture

I want to look very briefly at a piece of modern architecture - one that I regard highly - and how it displays complexity in its form, partly through powerfully expressed structure but also through carefully composed fenestration and interior design. I’ll illustrate this with my own photographs; all black and white and processed with a high contrast treatment that brings out form, liberated from the distraction of colour.

The building is the Broadgate Tower in the City of London. Designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) and completed, along with its neighbour, 210 Bishopsgate (also by SOM), in 2008. Co-incidentally, SOM actually has its London office in the Tower.

A feature of this complex is that it sits over the main railway lines running into Liverpool Street Station, as does the nearby Exchange House - an extraordinary building/bridge hybrid also by SOM. The character of the public space - Broadgate Plaza - between the two buildings owes much to the Tower’s stainless steel flying buttresses - some rectangular sectioned, some round - which soar across the space, and whose bases are ground level sculptures in their own right. 

I haven’t yet been inside the Tower but one can see the ground floor entrance lobby is dominated by a pair of escalators overhung by a delicate suspended canopy of glass and steel (see the elevation, below). They too present complexity as they climb to and descend from the upper floors. 

Not only are the Tower’s surfaces complex, but so too are the internal and external volumes that they define. This is commercial architecture of a very high standard: sophisticated, sleek, shiny and complex. It is worth having a look at if you are in that part of the City.

November 2016