120 Fleet Street, London, EC4

Alyson Jackson writes at the-silk-route.co.uk:

“Architects: Ellis and Clarke with Sir Owen Williams, 1930, with interiors designed by Robert Atkinson.

A style developed between the wars which seemed to reflect the mood of the times: a new beginning, simplicity, brightness and confidence in the future.

The name derives from the 1925 “Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs Industriels et Modernes” in Paris. Here was a new coherence of sleek design encompassing not just architecture but fittings such as lighting and handrails, fabrics and furnishings.

The look was characterised on the one hand by geometrical shapes, inspired by cubism, where features were reduced to minimal shapes such as the stepped ziggurat which lends itself to stepped rooflines and decorative features. Often a vertical strip of glass will be used in place of separate windows, especially in stairwells, to simplify the appearance.

The Streamline Moderne version of art deco was epitomised in car design as a visual representation of speed; akin to the cubism-inspired geometric art deco but with curves rather than angles, and a studied simplicity: sleek and aerodynamic without unnecessary ornamentation.

This is a stunning example of Streamline Moderne. The exterior of this beautiful minimalist art deco building is of  black vitrolite (pigmented glass), clear glass and chromium highlighting.

A nod to the ziggurat can be seen in the stepped layers of the roofline, though  this version is in pure art deco curves.”

From Wikipedia:

“The Daily Express Building (120 Fleet Street) is a Grade II* listed building located in Fleet Street in the City of London. It was designed in 1932 by Ellis and Clark to serve as the home of the Daily Express newspaper and is one of the most prominent examples of art-deco / Streamline Moderne architecture in London.

The exterior features a black façade with rounded corners in vitrolite and clear glass, with chromium strips. The flamboyant lobby, designed by Robert Atkinson, includes plaster reliefs by Eric Aumonier, silver and gilt decorations, a magnificent silvered pendant lamp and an oval staircase. The furniture inside the building was, for the most part, designed by Betty Joel.

The Grade II* listing relates not only to the architectural features but also to the massive reinforced concrete stacked portal frame structure designed by Sir Owen Williams.

As part of a redevelopment of the surrounding site the building was entirely refurbished in 2000 by John Robertson Architects. The foyer was recreated largely from photographs and the façade completely upgraded. The concrete portal frame structure was preserved.

The building, the paper and its best remembered editor, Arthur Christiansen (who in reality had already relinquished the role), featured in the British science fiction film The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961), in which actors Edward Judd and Leo McKern have leading roles. The satirical magazine Private Eye invariably referred to the building, in the days when it was occupied by the Daily Express, as ‘The Black Lubyanka’.”

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