12 October 2018 | Herpreet Kaur Grewal
Bloomberg's European headquarters, reputed to be the world's most sustainable office building, has won the 2018 RIBA Stirling Prize.
The Stirling Prize judges were unanimous in their decision to award the Bloomberg scheme in the heart of the City of London the prestigious award, describing it as a "once-in-a-generation project".
Thought to be the largest stone building in the City since St Paul's Cathedral (built around 1675), Bloomberg is a state-of-the-art project that has pushed the boundaries of research and innovation in architecture, according to RIBA.
Years of systematic research led architects at Foster + Partners "to radically rethink the standard 'office-in-the-city' format and develop ground-breaking systems to make it the most sustainable in the world", said the judges.
RIBA president Ben Derbyshire said it has "not just raised the bar for office design and city planning, but smashed the ceiling."
At 1.1 million square feet, Bloomberg occupies a whole block in the City at Queen Victoria Street and currently provides a workplace for 4,000 staff. Bloomberg comprises two buildings, connected by a bridge, which sit either side of the newly created public arcade. The arcade reinstates the old Roman road, Watling Street, which originally ran through the site.
Even though Foster + Partners originally obtained permission to design a building over double the height, Bloomberg is on 10 storeys "and seeks to create a dialogue with the City that surrounds it".
The complex scheme also incorporates new access to Bank Underground station, cafés and restaurants, and a museum displaying the Roman Temple of Mithras, which was discovered on the site 60 years ago.
The judges complimented it as a building of contrasts: restrained, sensitive and elegant from the outside with a dynamic, open-plan interior to encourage and facilitate the global financial information company's collaborative way of working.
Instead of a large central core formed of lifts and staircases usual in City buildings, Bloomberg's services are pushed to the edge and the people are collected in the core of the building.
Everyone passes through the reception lobby before being drawn into the 'Vortex' - a dramatic double-height space created by three curved timber shells. From here, high-speed lifts carry people directly to the sixth floor 'Pantry' - a large concourse and café space with views across the City.
A 210m high bronze 'ramp' wide enough for impromptu conversations without impeding the flow of people winds down and links the office floors below. Workspaces are clustered in the wide open-plan floors, which are filled with pioneering technologies including multi-function ceilings fitted with 2.5 million polished aluminium 'petals' to regulate acoustics, temperature and light.
Other projects shortlisted for the prize:
Bushey Cemetery by Waugh Thistleton Architects
Chadwick Hall by Henley Halebrown
New Tate St Ives by Jamie Fobert Architects with Evans & Shalev
Storey's Field Centre and Eddington Nursery by MUMA
The Sultan Nazrin Shah Centre by Niall McLaughlin Architects
Foster + Partners has won the award twice before, once in 1998 for the Imperial War Museum in Duxford, and again for 30 St Mary Axe - nicknamed "the Gherkin' - in 2004.