Tower 42 is the third-tallest building in the City of London
|Former names||National Westminster Tower; International Financial Centre|
|Location||25 Old Broad Street, London|
|Roof||183 metres (600 ft)|
|Design and construction|
|Architect||R Siefert & Partners|
|Structural engineer||Pell Frischmann|
|Main contractor||John Mowlem & Co Ltd|
Tower 42 is the third-tallest skyscraper in the City of London and the eighth tallest in Greater London. Its original name was the National Westminster Tower, having been built to house the National Westminster Bank's international division. Seen from above, the shape of the tower resembles that of the NatWest logo (three chevrons in a hexagonal arrangement).
The tower, designed by Richard Seifert and engineered by Pell Frischmann, is located at 25 Old Broad Street. It was built by John Mowlem & Co between 1971 and 1980, first occupied in 1980, and formally opened on 11 June 1981 by Queen Elizabeth II.
The construction cost was £72 million (approximately £276 million today). It is 183 metres (600 ft) high, which made it the tallest building in the United Kingdom until the topping out of One Canada Square at Canary Wharf in 1990. It held the status of tallest building in the City of London for 30 years, until it was surpassed by the Heron Tower in December 2009.
The building today is multi-tenanted and comprises Grade A office space and restaurant facilities, with one restaurant situated on the 24th floor, and the other, a champagne and seafood bar, on the 42nd floor. In 2011 it was bought by the South African businessman Nathan Kirsh for £282.5 million.
Design and development
The National Westminster Tower's status as the first skyscraper in the City was a coup for NatWest, but was extremely controversial at the time, as it was a major departure from the previous restrictions on tall buildings in London. The original concept dates back to the early 1960s, predating the formation of the National Westminster Bank. The site was then the headquarters of the National Provincial Bank, with offices in Old Broad Street backing onto its flagship branch at 15 Bishopsgate.
Early designs envisaged a tower of 137 m (450 ft); this developed into a design with a 197 m (647 ft) tower as its centrepiece, proposed in 1964 by architect Richard Seifert. The plan attracted opposition, partly because of the unprecedented height of the design and partly because of the proposed demolition of the 19th century bank building at 15 Bishopsgate, which dated from 1865 and was designed by architect John Gibson. Seifert, who had developed a reputation for overcoming planning objections, organised an exhibition in which he presented two alternative visions: his preferred design, and a second design featuring a 500 ft tower with an "absurdly squat" second tower alongside. Visitors were invited to vote and overwhelmingly chose the single tower design. The final design preserved the Gibson banking hall and the tower's height was reduced to 183 m (600 ft).
Demolition of the site commenced in 1970 and the tower was completed in 1980. The building was constructed by John Mowlem & Co around a huge concrete core from which the floors are cantilevered, giving it great strength but significantly limiting the amount of office space available.
In total, there are 47 levels above ground, of which 42 are cantilevered. The lowest cantilevered floor is designated Level 1, but is in fact the fourth level above ground. The cantilevered floors are designed as three segments, or leaves, which approximately correspond to the three chevrons of the NatWest logo when viewed in plan. The two lowest cantilevered levels (1 and 2) are formed of a single "leaf"; and the next two (3 and 4) are formed of two leaves. This pattern is repeated at the top, so that only levels 5 to 38 extend around the whole of the building.
The limitations of the design were immediately apparent - even though the building opened six years before the Big Bang, when there was a lesser requirement for large trading floors, the bank decided not to locate its foreign exchange and money market trading operation ("World Money Centre") into the tower. This unit remained in its existing location at 53 Threadneedle Street. Other international banking units, such as International Westminster Bank's London Branch and the Nostro Reconciliations Department remained at their locations (at 41 Threadneedle Street and Park House, Finsbury Square, respectively) due to lack of space in the tower.
Innovative features in the design included double-decked elevators, which provide an express service between the ground/mezzanine levels and the sky lobbies at levels 23 and 24. Double decked elevators and sky lobbies were both new to the UK at the time. Other innovative features included an internal automated "mail train" used for mail deliveries and document distribution; an automated external window washing system; and computer controlled air conditioning. The tower also had its own telephone exchange in one of the basement levels – this area was decorated with panoramic photographs of the London skyline, creating the illusion of being above ground.
Fire suppression design features included pressurised stairwells, smoke venting and fire retardant floor barriers. However, at the time of design, fire sprinkler systems were not mandatory in the UK and so were not installed. It was this omission, coupled with a fire in the tower during the 1996 refurbishment, that prompted the Greater London Council[dubious ] to amend its fire regulations and require sprinkler installations at all buildings.
The cantilever is constructed to take advantage of the air rights granted to it and the neighbouring site whilst respecting the banking hall on that adjacent site, as only one building was allowed to be developed. For a time it was the tallest cantilever in the world.
Following Nat West's refurbishment of the Tower, the bank renamed it the International Finance Centre, in 1997. The building was subsequently acquired by Hermes Real Estate and BlackRock's UK property fund in 1998 for £226 million. In 2010 they put the property on the market at an expected price of £300 million. This would potentially have been the largest single commercial property sale in the City of London in 2010. In July 2010 it was reported that Chinese Estates Group had entered exclusive discussions to buy Tower 42. but this deal did not conclude and it was sold in 2011 to the South African businessman Nathan Kirsh for £282.5 million.
Upon completion, the tower was occupied by a large part of NatWest's International Division. The upper floors were occupied by the division's executive management, marketing, and regional offices, moving from various locations in the City of London. The lower floors were occupied by NatWest's Overseas Branch, moving from its previous location at 52/53 Threadneedle Street.
The full floor configuration was as follows:
|unnamed||Core only||Plant floor|
|unnamed||Core only||Plant floor|
|42||Core and cantilever (1 leaf)||Viewing Gallery|
|41||Core and cantilever (1 leaf)||Corporate hospitality suite|
|39 - 40||Core and cantilever (2 leaves)||Corporate hospitality rooms and kitchens|
|37 - 38||Core and cantilever (3 leaves)||Executive Management|
|36||Core and cantilever (3 leaves)||Planning & Projects; Subsidiaries & Affiliates; Administration|
|35||Core and cantilever (3 leaves)||Advances; Marketing & Co-ordination|
|34||Core and cantilever (3 leaves)||United Kingdom Region|
|33||Core and cantilever (3 leaves)||Corporate Financial Services; staff restaurant|
|32||Core and cantilever (3 leaves)||Corporate Financial Services|
|31||Core and cantilever (3 leaves)||Plant floor|
|29 - 30||Core and cantilever (3 leaves)||Corporate Financial Services|
|28||Core and cantilever (3 leaves)||Asia & Australasia Region|
|27||Core and cantilever (3 leaves)||Latin America Region; staff restaurant|
|26||Core and cantilever (3 leaves)||Africa & Middle East Region; Eastern Europe & Scandinavia Region|
|25||Core and cantilever (3 leaves)||Northern Europe Region; Southern Europe Region|
|24||Core and cantilever (3 leaves)||Treasurer's Department; Correspondent Bank Relationships|
|23||Core and cantilever (3 leaves)||Financial Control Department|
|22||Core and cantilever (3 leaves)||Plant floor|
|21||Core and cantilever (3 leaves)||North America Representative Office|
|20||Core and cantilever (3 leaves)||Personnel Department|
|19||Core and cantilever (3 leaves)||Overseas Branch - Management|
|14 - 18||Core and cantilever (3 leaves)||Overseas Branch - International Trade & Banking Services|
|13||Core and cantilever (3 leaves)||Plant floor|
|12||Core and cantilever (3 leaves)||Mail & Translations|
|9 - 11||Core and cantilever (3 leaves)||Overseas Branch - Accounting|
|8||Core and cantilever (3 leaves)||Overseas Branch - Payments Abroad|
|5 - 7||Core and cantilever (3 leaves)||Overseas Branch - Inland Payments|
|4||Core and cantilever (2 leaves)||Staff restaurant|
|3||Core and cantilever (2 leaves)||Maintenance, services|
|1 - 2||Core and cantilever (1 leaf)||Maintenance, telephony, services|
|Podium||Core and entrance structure||Building control centre|
|Mezzanine||Core and entrance structure||Upper entrance lobby & lifts|
|Ground||Core and entrance structure||Lower entrance lobby & lifts|
The adjacent annexe building at 27 Old Broad Street was occupied by NatWest's Overseas Branch cashiers and foreign notes and coin dealing operation.
1993 bombing and refurbishment
In 1993, NatWest had planned a major premises relocation that would have seen the International Banking Division move from the tower and be replaced with its Domestic Banking Division, enabling the bank to terminate its lease of the Drapers Gardens tower. These plans had to be abandoned after the tower was damaged in the April 1993 Bishopsgate bombing, a Provisional Irish Republican Army truck bombing in the Bishopsgate area of the City of London. The bomb killed one person and extensively damaged the tower and many other buildings in the vicinity, causing a total of over £1 billion worth of damage to the area. The tower suffered severe damage and had to be entirely reclad and internally refurbished at a cost of £75 million. (Demolition was considered, but would have been too difficult and expensive.) The external re-clad was carried out by Alternative Access Logistics with the use of a multi-deck space frame system to access three floors at once with the ability to move up and down the whole building. On 17 January 1996, during the repairs and possibly from the welding being undertaken, a fire started at the top of the building. 500 workmen were evacuated and smoke was seen coming out of the top of the building. A helicopter using thermal imaging equipment pinpointed the source of the fire, which was on the 45th floor in a glass fibre cooling tower. After refurbishment, NatWest decided not to re-occupy and renamed the building the International Financial Centre, then sold it.
Previous owners, UK property company Greycoat, renamed it Tower 42 in 1995, in reference to its 42 cantilevered floors. It is now a general-purpose office building occupied by a variety of companies.
Current tenants of the building include:
- Adjusting Services International Limited - ASi
- Boston Technologies, Inc.
- CEBS Secretariat
- City Osteopath Clinics
- Corporate Communications (Europe)
- Cuatrecasas, Gonçalves, Pereira (Lawyers)
- CSJ Capital Partners LLP
- Daewoo Securities (Europe)
- Davis & Co, Solicitors
- EUKOR Car Carriers Inc
- European Banking Authority
- Front Capital Systems
- Haarmann Hemmelrath & Partner, Solicitors
- Hong Kong Airlines
- So Deli
- Majedie Investments
- Meditor Capital Management
- Momenta Consulting
- Natexis Banques Populaires
- RMG Networks
- Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe, Legal Services
- Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman
- Piraeus Bank
- Private Dining 24
- Project Brokers
- R G A (UK)
- City Social (restaurant)
- System Access (Europe)
- Tower Trading Group
- Tower 42 Property & Estate Management
- Vertigo 42
In June 2012, a Capix LED multi media lighting system was installed around levels 39 to 45. This replaced the previous high energy floodlighting at the top of the building.
The lighting system is formed of thousands of pixels mounted on a chain netting that is affixed to the surface of the building. Each pixel is formed of three RGB LED units, allowing a variety of lighting designs and colours to be displayed. The system was designed by SVM Associates and Zumtobel.
Ranking among London high rise buildings
The National Westminster Tower was the tallest building in London and the United Kingdom for 10 years. At its completion in 1980, it claimed this title from the 175 m (574 ft) Post Office Tower, a transmission tower located at 60 Cleveland Street in Fitzrovia, London.
Tower 42 is now the third-tallest tower in the City of London, having been overtaken in 2010 by the 230 m (755 ft) Heron Tower and 122 Leadenhall Street in 2014. It is the eighth tallest in London overall.
Post Office Tower
|Tallest Building in the United Kingdom
183 m (600 ft)
One Canada Square
Post Office Tower
|Tallest Building in London
183 m (600 ft)
One Canada Square
|Tallest Building in the City of London
183 m (600 ft)
Previous buildings on the site
- Gresham House, built in 1563 by Sir Thomas Gresham. Gresham was a businessman who helped set up the Royal Exchange. Upon the death of his wife in 1596, Gresham House became the 'Institute for Physic, Civil Law, Music, Astronomy, Geometry and Rhetoric', as directed by Gresham's will (Sir Thomas died 17 years earlier). Students at Gresham College, described as the Third University of England by Chief Justice Coke in 1612, included Robert Hooke, Sir Christopher Wren and the composer John Bull. The building survived the Great Fire, and saw use as a garrison, a Guildhall and Royal exchange. The College moved to Gresham Street. Gresham House was demolished in 1768 and a new Gresham House was built in its place.
- Crosby Hall, built in 1466 and named for its builder, the London merchant and alderman, Sir John Crosby. Its most famous occupant was King Richard III. A famous visitor was William Shakespeare. A scene of his play, Richard III, in which the future Richard III, then Duke of Gloucester, plots his route to the crown, is set in Crosby Hall.
- Crosby Place, which was built in 1596, the year that Richard III was written
- Palmerston House was a building that survived from the 19th century, through both world wars. It was named after the Third Viscount Palmerston. It stood at 51-55 Broad Street. It was occupied for some time by the Cunard Steam Shipping Company.
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- List of tallest buildings and structures in London
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Tower 42.|
- Official website
- The Tower 42 Bird Study Group, which aims to study the migration of large birds of prey and other bird species over London seen from the roof during the spring (April - June) and autumn (August - November)
- Tower 42 at Structurae