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Broadgate Exchange House

AIA Twenty-Five Year Award: Broadgate Exchange House

Architect, May 2015

The Big Bang, at least the British version of it, took place on Oct. 27, 1986, when Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher deregulated the London stock market. Very swiftly after that, the City of London morphed from an insular old-boys club into a modern, global financial center. Foreign banks rushed in, and they needed somewhere to go.

Broadgate, which had broken ground a year earlier, became that somewhere. With 14 buildings planned for a 32-acre site east of the Barbican and St. Paul’s, it was the largest-ever office development in Britain at the time. Working with Rosehaugh Stanhope Developments and British Rail (BR), Arup designed the initial master plan and several buildings, while Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) designed the rest.

The main challenge facing SOM was that the land, then owned by BR, was covered by tracks going in and out of Liverpool Street Station, a major commuter hub. The trickiest part of the site was the “throat” of jumbled tracks on the north side of the station. The brilliant way that SOM solved this problem in building the Broadgate Exchange House—by spanning the tracks with parabolic steel arches, which it happily exposed—has earned the firm this year’s Twenty-Five Year Award. The award is given each year to a building that has stood the test of time, and the Exchange House—completed in 1991—is the first building outside of the United States to receive it.

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