Offices

London's Aga Khan Centre by Maki and Associates by Alex Upton

 The Aga Khan Centre King's Crosss London 2018. Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

The Aga Khan Centre King's Crosss London 2018. Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

Location: King’s Cross, London.
Developer: The Aga Khan Foundation UK
Architect: Maki and Associates (Fumihiko Maki)

Joining the ever expanding array of buildings which comprise the 67-acre, King's Cross regeneration scheme is the recently completed Aga Khan Centre. Designed by Pritzker Prize winning architect Fumihiko Maki and his Japan based practice Maki and Associates, the building contains offices for the Aga Khan Foundation's development organisations along with facilities for research and education.

 Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

The building is typical of Maki's output being predominately a minimal affair, clad in white limestone and semi-opaque matt glazing, but on closer inspection you can see that it is punctuated at intervals with the ornate. This can first be observed at the main entrance where the large glass windows are decorated in a film of geometric patterns referencing Islamic art. These instances are then further repeated around the structure in the form of six courtyards, terraces and gardens which were inspired by Muslim societies the world over.

 Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

The building is situated at the rear of the University of the Arts London, Central Saint Martin's campus, alongside Duggan Morris' pink R7 development. Inside the ten-storey Aga Khan Centre is 10,000 sqm of floor space, with the first floor, which will soon be open to the public, containing an exhibition area dedicated to Muslim cultures. The building’s gardens will also open publicly on the 22 September and are intended to act as an entry point to discovering and understanding the history and cultures of the Muslim world.

 Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

Also housed within the building is the Aga Khan Library, which contains storage facilities for rare books and manuscripts. Users of the library can take their books and enjoy them in the tranquility of the Terrace of Learning - the second Islamic garden - located on the Library's upper level. Central to all this is a large atrium which rises to the top of the structure. Continuing above the Library are four floors of office space dedicated to the Aga Khan's education and development organisations. These include the Institute of Ismaili Studies, the Aga Khan University's Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations and the Aga Khan Foundation UK.

 Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

As you approach the buildings rear you will notice there is still ongoing construction works, when complete in 2020 these will give rise to King’s Cross' Jellicoe Garden's designed by Tom Stuart-Smith. This area aims to produce a 'coherent collection of linked green spaces defined by their diversity and quality' and will reflect the Persian tradition of garden design.

 Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

After capturing photographs of the Aga Khan Centre I was just about to leave when I noticed a beautiful, somewhat ghostly projection of light and shadow reaching up the rear of the building. Contrasted against the rigid, angular geometries of the physical structure these soft shapes appeared like a gentle fabric draped over the facade. This juxtaposition reflects the building as a whole, it is both minimal in form and ornate and detailed at intervals, the play between the two works harmoniously which is unexpected. This is yet another great entry into the growing number of quality architectural projects which forms the overall King's Cross regeneration scheme.

Cannon Bridge House by Stiff + Trevillion by Alex Upton

 Cannon Bridge House by Stiff + Trevillion. Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

Cannon Bridge House by Stiff + Trevillion. Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

Location: Cannon Bridge House (The River Building) 25 Dowgate Hill, London UK.
Architect: Stiff + Trevillion
Developer / Contractor: Blackstone Group / Lend Lease
Photography Client: Structura UK

The multidisciplinary West London architectural and design practice Stiff + Trevillion have recently completed both an internal and external refurbishment of Cannon Bridge House, which is situated on the north bank of the Thames River in central London. As the internal fit-out was nearing completion the client Structura UK requested photography of the interior office spaces, with a focus specifically on the curtain walling system they installed.  

 Cannon Bridge House by Stiff + Trevillion. Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

Cannon Bridge House by Stiff + Trevillion. Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

Cannon Bridge House or The River Building as it is now known had gone unmodernised since the early 1990's and was no longer suitable to cater for the demands of a 21st century office space. With the buildings central location it was a prime subject for redevelopment by the developer and owner Blackstone.

 Cannon Bridge House by Stiff + Trevillion. Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

Cannon Bridge House by Stiff + Trevillion. Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

The alterations made to the original structure are succinctly noted by the architects: 

'Upgrading of the southern building elevation. Redesign of the existing building entrances on Cousin Lane. Improved  glass link on the 1st floor between the Atrium and River Building. Reduction in the size of the River Building atrium roof.'

 Cannon Bridge House Interior. Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

Cannon Bridge House Interior. Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

One of the defining features of the building internally is the convergence of two diagonal panels of glazing, which at their meeting point command amazing views South of the Thames River. If that wasn't stimulating enough for the buildings soon to be occupiers there are also trains silently passing under the building as they cross the river along Cannon Street Rail Bridge. Internally it is hard to picture the building from the outside as its now modern interior contrasts sharply with its yellow brick exterior and the wide arches that perforate it at intervals.

 Cannon Bridge House by Stiff + Trevillion. Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

Cannon Bridge House by Stiff + Trevillion. Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

Another exciting part of the development, which I am unfortunately unable to provide photographic evidence of, is the new roof garden which provides an area of respite for the busy office workers below. Unusually for a city often hidden beneath a horizontal wall of grey, watery vapour the sky garden has emerged as an essential feature of any new office development. This has given rise to all manner of extra curricular horticultural happenings taking place in the cities upper atmosphere, unbeknownst to the uninitiated citizens of the streets below. Adjacent roof gardens now rival each other for the most finely preened shrubs in an undeclared topiary showdown which has produced hedges of logic defying geometries.

 Cannon Bridge House by Stiff + Trevillion. Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

Cannon Bridge House by Stiff + Trevillion. Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

Returning inside the building you are greeted by a central atrium which rises up two floors to be met by an arched, glazed roof allowing natural light to flood into the building. Unfortunately at the time i was photographing the site there were still on-going maintenance works around the atrium which limited the images I could capture.

 Cannon Bridge House Atrium. Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

Cannon Bridge House Atrium. Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

Leaving Cannon Bridge House that day after several hours of photography I couldn't help wishing that I might one day spend a day there as a worker, enjoying the view of the trains traversing the river below and popping up to the roof garden at lunch time for a spot of high-rise relaxation among the finely sculpted foliage. Having not seen the building internally before its makeover it is hard to visualise what existed in its place. What is evident though, is that Stiff + Trevillion's redevelopment has created a modern, light filled space which incorporates elements of the original structure, brickwork and steel, in a manner that gives prominence to them rather than hides them from view.  It is a great space, with many additional attributes provided by its location and history.