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Willis Building

The building is located in London's City district, which is in a historical preservation zone. The designs bear significant relevance to London, both from the urban and environmental points of view. The building is woven into the urban tapestry through the provision of open public spaces at street level. The project's commitment to sustainability and the environment is evidenced by the surpassing of official British government carbon reduction targets by 20%. The building received the BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) Excellent rating – the highest rating possible and which is only rarely conceded. It also earned, for its architectural quality and contribution to the urban landscape, the 2007 New City Architecture Award.


The project comprises two independent blocks unified by an open square at street level that is open to the public. The larger block, standing 29 storeys high, is located in front of the Lloyds Building (designed by Richard Rogers and an example of prime architecture), which required a plethora of studies with a slew of factors to take into account so that the new project did not obliterate its identity, instead creating a dialogue between the two structures.  The smaller, 10-storey high, building features a concave façade that lends form to the square, while its curved edges preserve the protected view corridors. Its footprint also reintegrates a historical route at street level through an internal, pedestrian "street", with stores, cafés, restaurants, landscaping features, banks, leisure facilities, parades, etc. that ensures a continuity of the historical spirit created by the nearby Leadenhall Market and forming a route between them.


The two structures were designed as curved, overlapping "shells" on three staggered planes, whereby the roof cover for the two lower levels offers a terrace with views of the square that can be accessed from the offices. Both blocks have a central circulation tower to allow for open and flexible internal layouts. The façades are an integral part of the sustainability and energy gain strategy, as they are highly reflexive and composed of interspaced solid and glass panels in a zigzag arrangement. This not only offers greater thermal insulation, but also diminishes the incidence of direct sunlight and its excessive heating effects.


The brief called for: an auditorium with 375 seats; a spa/gym; terraces for associates and clients; a restaurant and café for associates; 27 conference rooms; a video room; an eating area for clients; 35,000 square metres of office space. The project also includes parking in the form of 42 spaces for cars, 88 spaces for motorcycles and 264 spaces for bicycles. This was a strategy aimed at ensuring no negative impact on local traffic conditions and encouraging the use of public transport.






The project concept was arrived at through the work of an internal team set up and dedicated to this purpose. Extensive analyses were run to take into account the myriad historical, geographical, demographic, weather, geometric and other factors involved.  There was particular care paid to shaping the volume in tune with the surroundings while respecting the rights of light parameters. Deep studies were made on Leadenhall Market and its land occupation standards, which were incorporated in the "internal street" designs. Diagrams were drawn up illustrating the different impacts the project would have on orientation, placement, geometry, and spatial, cultural and human relations. Dozens of models were made in search of the best possible intervention that also fulfilled the client's objectives.


The project development also counted with a large, multidisciplinary team of consultants, including budgetary experts, structural and installations engineers, legal approvals specialists, wind tunnel technicians, vertical circulation consultants, etc., which the internal team had to coordinate and interact with. 


Getting all the permits and approvals from the city council was a highly complex process due to the many factors involved: the fact it was a historical preservation area, the proximity to the Lloyds Building, already saturated local traffic conditions, and restrictions imposed by the adjoining buildings' rights of light, to name a few. This led to repeated redesigns and discussions with the planning authorities, which, in turn, gave rise to one of the conditions for approving the project as a whole: the concession of spaces for public use.


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