London ’09: Lloyds & Leadenhall

On one of my rambling walks through London (following the lead of KSA Professor Doug Graf), I came, unexpectedly, upon Richard Rogers’ 1986 “masterpiece” — Lloyds of London. Like the Pompidou Center of 10 years earlier (by Rogers in collaboration with Renzo Piano), the building services are all expressed on the exterior. I say “expressed” because I doubt that all these tubes are functional, but the intent is unmistakable: here’s a building whose public face is its internal systems. While at the Pompidou center, the building services are pushed to the exterior to allow open-plan gallery spaces within, here at Lloyds it seems to simply be a bold celebration of technology, and possibly the best example to date of “high tech” architecture.
Unfortunately, the place is heavily guarded, and there’s no chance to get inside as an archi-tourist. A shame, because – as wikipedia states – the interior contains an 18th century dining room reconstructed piece-by-piece within this futuristic monstrosity, in a curious act of preservation.
The concrete structure is sometimes detailed as if it were built from a system of standardized metal parts, a design decision that leads me to believe that the concept behind this building is not one based in pure material honesty and technological expression. Rogers’ attitude seems almost postmodern, using the detailing of the concrete formwork to evoke a structural frame of metal tubes screwed into place.
Leadenhall Market just down the street (whose iron and glass roof structure was added in 1881) is an even greater celebration of technology than Rogers’ tower. The existing buildings were covered by the canopy, exterior space was turned inward, and the building facades were made interior walls, all through the technology of wrought iron.