Marco Polo House

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Marco Polo House
Marco Polo House.jpg
General information
Architectural style Postmodernist
Country United Kingdom
Coordinates 51°28′48″N 0°08′55″W / 51.4801°N 0.1485°W / 51.4801; -0.1485
Owner Now owned by Berkeley Homes (West London), Apartments & Penthouses launching 2014 www.vistachelseabridge.co.uk
Design and construction
Architect Ian Pollard

Marco Polo House (originally stylised as "Marcopolo" was a large 'marble' and glass-clad office building at 346 Queenstown Road facing Battersea Park in the London Borough of Wandsworth. It was designed and built in 1987, to a design by postmodernist architect and developer Ian Pollard. Although always called 'Marco Polo House', 'Marco Polo' is technically only one half of the building (the side which was previously used as a television offices and studio). The other half of the joined structure was called 'Chelsea Bridge House' and was originally The Observer's offices.

Again, although it is classed as 'Marble clad', the white-and-grey cladding is actually Neoparium (crystallised glass-ceramic material from Japan), which Pollard used in place of marble due to its harder wearing qualities. It was added late in the project at a significant extra expense, but as the building was a luxury, high-spec development, this was justified. The tinted glass panels are Pilkington glass.

The building cost £26 million to construct in 1987 (£61.9 million at 2014's rate) and was completed in 1990, at which time one half of it was occupied by BSB and the other half by The Observer. The original estate agents were JonesLangLaSalle.

It was originally home to British Satellite Broadcasting (BSB) television and took its name from its first owner's Marcopolo satellites. Part of the building was also used by The Observer newspaper until the newspaper moved into the offices of its parent, The Guardian. When BSB merged with Sky to form BSkyB the new company kept the lease, and in October 1993 the building became home to shopping channel QVC's studios and offices.

Half of the building was also used as the offices for another ill-fated broadcaster, ONdigital, the UK's first digital terrestrial television broadcaster, from 1998. The company was re-launched in 2001 as ITV Digital who continued to use the ONdigital offices in the building until their subsequent demise in 2002.

The building was split into two blocks (Marco Polo House and Chelsea Bridge House), which were linked by a central glass atrium, covering 157,357 square feet (14,619 m2) and was visible from trains to and from Victoria station.

Demolition[edit]

After a Russian consortium bought the freehold for more than £60m in 2006, QVC decided not to renew its lease when it expired in 2012. The channel looked for an alternative location – including in several cities in the North of England – for its 500 head office staff and studio centre. The channel's management ended broadcasting from the studios on 7 June 2012 and moved to 126,000 sq ft (11,706 m2) a new studio complex at Chiswick Park, in West London[1] in a campus-style development on the site of the derelict London Transport Chiswick Bus Works, where its neighbours would include fellow broadcasters CBS and Discovery Channel.[2]

Press reports suggested[3] that the architecturally and structurally sound Marco Polo House would be demolished, and replaced with a 12-storey luxury residential development, called Vista. Marco Polo House's architect Pollard told the Architects Journal the plan was a move towards a "lower grade of architecture", adding: "Marco was a fun building. It was quite an iconic at the time and some people still say it is." Others said it was "Postmodern nonsense".[4] The Architects Journal's Merlin Fulcher told London's Evening Standard: "The new scheme looks decent, but it's always a shame to see an iconic structure knocked down, especially one that symbolises Eighties post-modernism so well."[5]

By 8 March 2014 demolition had begun. Due to the low-rise nature of the building, the demolition was carried out using high-reach excavators, meaning that the deconstruction of the building was visible to the public and passengers on train services passing the site. Its demolition will leave only Homebase Kensington as the last iconic Ian Pollard postmodern structure in London.

The building was in a perfectly serviceable state and had not reached the end of its life. It was only demolished to make way for the luxury private housing development.

Several former workers for the various companies which had resided at the building in its heyday, including journalist Jeremy Vine, expressed their sadness at the loss of the structure, with Vine calling it "symbolic" and stating that he was "amazed" that it had happened. Also, several members of the public and media professionals took to Twitter and other social networks to express their dismay and sadness of the "waste" of such a recently constructed, iconic building.[6] [7]

In Media[edit]

The building was featured in the 2002 BBC Four documentary 'The Curse of Marco Polo House',[8] 'Dreamspaces: 80s Architecture with Justine Frischmann' from BBC Three as well as the feature films 'Leon The Pig Farmer', 'The Business' and 'B.Monkey'. The distinctive, teal designer glass lifts from the central adjoining atrium, which had been installed from Marcopolo's inception, were featured in some scenes of the 1993 Red Dwarf episode 'Legion'[9]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "QVC moving to Chiswick Park", website of Stahope plc, developer of the Chiswick Park site, 19 August 2010. Accessed 7 January 2011.
  2. ^ "QVC to move to Chiswick Park", Robin Parker, Broadcast, London, 27 July 2010. Accessed 7 January 2011.
  3. ^ "Marco Polo House faces demolition threat", Merlin Fulcher, Architects Journal, London. Accessed 7 January 2011.
  4. ^ "London Building : M" Adrian Welch and Isabelle Lomholt, e-architect, Undated. Accessed 7 January 2011.
  5. ^ "Eighties riverside landmark to be knocked down for flats", Mara Bar-Hillel, Evening Standard, London, 20 April 2010. Accessed 7 January 2011.
  6. ^ [1]
  7. ^ Skyscraper City
  8. ^ [2]
  9. ^ [3]