Combining old and new


Since founding Ian Simpson Architects with Rachel Haugh in 1987, Ian Simpson has left his mark on countless structures all over the UK, including the re-modelled Battersea Power Station. His latest development, One Blackfriars is set to become a new landmark on London’s skyline towering 170 metres over the city’s Southbank.

 Please tell us a bit about the design ethos of One Blackfriars.

We wanted to create a very beautiful addition to the London skyline and with this in mind, we have developed a unique organic form that has been derived from the dynamics of the River Thames and Blackfriars Road. It is a directional form addressing the City, and is a continuous smooth glass form that translates between dark and light, that will capture the sky and the surrounding context. These colours gradually fade as the cladding rises higher up the tower becoming lighter nearer the top, while at the bottom the building will taper to provide a further touch of elegance. The building is shaped in an elegant arch stretching 52 storeys into the sky and allowing uninterrupted views of London’s cityscape, including the financial district of Canary Wharf and The Tower of London. {+++}

What is the significance of designing something like this in London, with its mix of historic and contemporary?

The vision was always to contribute to the existing skyline of London, to create a tower that exists seamlessly alongside the many other greats with which we could never compete, like St Paul’s. There has got to be a vision and change is important in a growing, sprawling city, but there also has to be respect for the existing landscape. It was a very important opportunity to create a contemporary, elegant, slender and beautiful form such as One Blackfriars within a historic city such as London. I believe the form of One Blackfriars will complement the city and not detract from the historic context. Cities need to evolve and grow and unique buildings such as One Blackfriars are important in terms of the evolution of the city. I’ve taken great pleasure in modernising the appearance of skylines in the past by introducing innovative and unique buildings to tastefully alter and remodel the face of cities. The location of One Blackfriars has lent incredible inspiration to the designs we’ve created; the arts and culture, vibrancy, the buzz and especially the unique character of the Southbank which never fails to draw people out of their homes onto the riverside walkways on a sunny day

Can you tell us a bit more about trends in urban regeneration efforts?

There is a move towards the redevelopment and regeneration of the Southbank of London. Buildings on the South face back, across the historic city and can appreciate the views, and the rich mixture of old and new. One Blackfriars will complement the city skyline but will also form a gateway to Southwark and the regeneration of the borough.

You were involved in the design of Battersea. Please tell us more about that.

Our proposal for Battersea Power Station Phase One is very much a ground-scraper, a building that is taller than the Shard if laid on its side. Again, the form of the building has been broken horizontally to create a series of overlapping ribbons of faceted glass, capturing the reflections of the Power Station and the river. The building peels away from the Power Station in deference to the solid formality of the four chimney structure. We did not wish to compete with the weight and formality of this brick built building, but chose to create a dynamic and faceted form that captures light and reflection in many ways and is a contrast to the power station itself.

What inspires you personally?

I am inspired by art and sculpture, by the energy and vitality of a place, and the opportunity of creating a beautiful building and a new public space at the heart of the Southbank.

is Bangkok-based journalist