The headquarters of the Financial Times returns to historic location near London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral after over thirty years. A BIM restoration and refurbishment project
After almost 30 years, the Financial Times moved back to its historic headquarters in Bracken House in the heart of London, just down the road from St Paul’s Cathedral.
Thanks to the use of BIM practices, John Robertson Architects (JRA) has recovered and refurbished Bracken House on behalf of the building’s owner Obayashi Corporation.
Originally designed by Albert Richardson in the early 1950s as the Financial Times (FT) headquarters and printing house, the building underwent a dramatic transformation in 1988 by Michael Hopkins and Partners.
After a quarter of a century of use, JRA has significantly renovated the Grade II listed building * (i.e. a restricted English building that cannot be demolished).
The intervention consisted in:
- the enlargement of the entrance hall
- the construction of new internal courtyards that connect the central office space with the two wings built in 1950s
- the construction of a roof garden with a running track on the roof top
- the complete renovation and modernization of the offices, with a new energy-efficient air conditioning system and a state-of-the-art LED lighting system. Increased daylight was also guaranteed in interior spaces through the remodelling of the atrium roof.
JRA worked closely with the ARUP group to plan the renovation, using Building Information Modelling level two, and to coordinate the design and code checking phases. The BIM model contains over 27,000 objects integrated with information relating to every aspect of the building structure, thus allowing maintenance operators to easily perform any type of repair in the future.
The history of Bracken House
Recognized as an important example of twentieth-century English architecture and classified as Grade II *, Bracken House tells a story of changes in London’s architectural styles and shows how a 21st-century restoration using BIM tools can bring an old building back to life.
John Robertson Architects (JRA) was commissioned to renovate the building, significantly improving the designs of the two previous architects and improving the facilities for the next generation of tenants.
1 – the construction
Bracken House was built by Sir Albert Richardson in 1959 as the headquarters and printing office of the Financial Times. However, already in the mid-80s, also due to the radical transformation of the printing processes, the building needed extensive renovation works. The Financial Times was therefore forced to move elsewhere.
2 – failure to demolish the building and the first renovation in 1980s
Subsequently it was decided that the building should have been demolished and replaced by another building. However, in 1987 part of the construction was classified as a monument of historical interest (it was the first building in England, after the war, to be a listed structure).
After the total demolition was stopped, in the 80s the architect Michael Hopkins was tasked with the remodelling of the building. He decided to demolish and replace only the structure’s central part that had housed printing works, while keeping the two wings of pink sandstone intact. Hopkins inserted an elegant glass and steel block in the central part and in 2013 the building was again classified as Grade II *, this time also including Hopkins’ 80s work.
3 – the second refurbishment and BIM
JRA’s mandate was to bring the building up to the current high standards by working closely with structural engineers and the ARUP construction team. The aim was to upgrade all systems and services, including the mechanical ventilation system, and to modernize the building in terms of energy, light and space requirements.
JRA’s remodelling has led to the complete transformation of the Financial Times offices introducing state-of-the-art LED lighting and energy-efficient air conditioning systems.
Part of architect Hopkins’ original 1980s plan was to include a roof terrace, a “fifth elevation”. A key element, among the client’s requests was the creation of this outdoor space, which today is increasingly valuable for offices in modern London.
The result of the project is a large roof terrace, which has a large garden, seating areas, a running track, as well as a spectacular 360 ° view over the city of London.
The client wanted to use BIM from the beginning for a project with significant dimensions (26,000 m²), both during the renovation of the building and later for the management phase. Bracken House was the first renovation project that JRA brought to BIM level 2.
Understanding the best way to interact with the existing building and then translating it into a BIM model was the major challenge for the team of designers.
The result of the renovation operations is a balance between conservation and progress. The quality of the original designs by Richardson and Hopkins has been preserved, but at the same time the performance of the modern building has been improved.
The building now works better both spatially and environmentally / thermally. It is now ready to host the Financial Times again for a new life in the 21st century.