Renovation of a brutalist icon, with a design that respects the Smithsons’ original architectural vision, while dramatically increasing the commercial complex’s lifespan and environmental efficiency.

The first stage of renovations at the former home of The Economist Magazine has been completed. Originally designed by Alison and Peter Smithson and renamed in their honour, Smithson Plaza consists of three towers five, eight and 15 storeys in height, linked by a raised plaza. First completed in 1964, the complex is Grade II* listed and represents a significant example of sixties brutalism.

Supported by both Historic England and the Twentieth Century Society, the staged refurbishment brings the cluster of buildings in line with modern standards, creating sustainable and flexible new workspaces, with minor extensions to the towers’ rooflines, space for new shops, and new skylights in the plaza surface that allow light into a new subterranean art gallery. The first phase of the project includes the addition of a new café facing onto the plaza, and the refurbishment of six storeys of the tallest tower, with further refurbishment phases taking place while the buildings remain occupied.

Eckersley O’Callaghan has provided engineering services on the retained facade, the replacement of glazing systems, a refurbished lobby facade and a new extension to the building realized in a glazed curtain wall system. We also developed construction methods that could be undertaken in a phased sequence to support the project’s overall strategy.

The constraints of refurbishing listed buildings necessitated careful studies of the existing fabric, with careful detailing to the support structure of the facade to maintain its existing appearance while achieving an improvement in the facade’s thermal performance.

London, UK

Tishman Speyer