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Interview: Ian Simpson
Ian Simpson, Ian Simpson Architects

Ian Simpson Architects is a bold design studio based in London and Manchester and headed by Ian Simpson and Rachel Haugh. With a cluster of high-profile projects including Battersea Power Station (Stage 1) and the Manchester Museum under its belt, the practice has gone from strength to strength and has recently begun construction works on an asymmetrical 170m-high tower on the banks of the Thames.

Here, Ian Simpson talks to WAN about the design of the firm’s latest scheme and the difficulties of building tall in London.

WAN attended the CTBUH conference this year where you spoke of the process and cost considerations of building in London in comparison to regional cities. How has the One Blackfriars project been affected by its central location?

A building such as One Blackfriars could only be considered in a global city such as London, when end residential values can support the build cost for such a complex and highly detailed building, together with the inherent cost of the site and achieving detailed planning permission in such a city which inevitably takes years, rather than months.

How has the silhouette of One Blackfriars


been moulded by London’s skyline and planning restrictions?

The form of the building and its silhouette has been derived directly from context. We have to sought to create a dynamic and organic form that responds to the river and the vitality of One Blackfriars Road. The building rises and faces towards the City of London, presenting its most slender profile towards St Paul’s Cathedral. The height of the building was restricted due to planning considerations, and in particular, views from St James’s Park. The top of the building will read as a dome from the distant views, and sits amongst a group of roof forms and couplers surrounding Horse Guards Parade.

Has the construction of The Shard had a positive effect on the process of achieving planning permission for further tall buildings in London?

I don’t believe The Shard has affected the process of achieving planning permission for further tall buildings in London. Each project must be justified, and considered on its own merits. The creation of the Shard on the Southbank, I believe, has given confidence to others to invest in development of tall buildings, away from what would normally be considered the prime city core.

How does One Blackfriars reflect the ethos and design aesthetic of Ian Simpson Architects?

One Blackfriars is the epitome of a building that represents both our ethos and design aesthetic. A strong and dynamic form, elegant, slender and beautiful, reinforced by a singular material. A continuous and smooth, low iron, glass surface stretched tautly over the varied programme and simplifies a complex and varied building in to one that contributes positively as a singular form on the skyline, whilst revealing itself, its depth, texture and variety. On closer inspection, a richly textured, subtle and elegant form.

How has the design of the tower changed since the first renderings were released in August 2004 and why were these alterations made?

The tower has only changed in height since the


first images were released in 2004, in direct response to planning and conservation issues, particularly distant views and the setting of other historic buildings. The form and general configuration has been retained throughout the process.

One Blackfriars extends to a new mixed-use quarter and landscaped piazza. Why are projects such as One Blackfriars so important for London's urban regeneration?

Projects such as One Blackfriars are fundamental to the evolution and development of a global city such as London, and in particular the opportunity to engage outlying boroughs such as Southwark within the perceived City core. Public spaces and landmark buildings form a natural gathering and meeting point along the river’s edge, stepping stones in effect, connecting the key cultural assets of the City such as Tate Modern and the National Theatre. The building also provides a gateway into Southwark and creates confidence in the neighbouring area for further investment and new development.

Ian Simpson Architects


More projects by this firm
Beetham Tower
No 1 Westbridge
Jumeirah Hotel
One Blackfriars
Tariff Street

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