Fleet Street's Art Deco Express Building Will Open To The Public - And With A Roof Garden Too

Will Noble
By Will Noble Last edited 30 months ago
Fleet Street's Art Deco Express Building Will Open To The Public - And With A Roof Garden Too
120 Fleet Street (left) with what will be its new neighbour, right
The art deco Daily Express Building at 120 Fleet Street (left) with what will be its new doppelgänger neighbour, right. Image: Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG)

With its swooping black Vitrolite and glass frontage framed in gleaming chromium, the former Daily Express Building cuts a singular figure along Fleet Street.

Seeing inside it is another matter. Unless you're fortunate enough to get a private tour of 120 Fleet Street, you'll have to make do with squinting through the semi-diaphanous curtains, trying to make out what you can of its decadent swirling oval staircase, handrails shaped like serpents, Eric Aumonier's sublime (if jingoistic) plaster reliefs of 'Empire' and 'Britain', and an explosive silver and gilt ceiling that would make Liberace reach for his sunglasses.

silver and gilt depiction of britain as a person, holding various symbols of the empire, including ships and elephant
The 'Britain' Panel from the Daily Express building foyer. Image: Steve Cadman in Creative Commons

Soon though, everyone will be able to admire this remarkable lobby, thanks to green-lit redevelopment plans, confirmed by the City of London Corporation.

The Express Building at night, wrapped into the new 120 fleet street building on the right
Another angle of the original art deco building (left) and the new office complex (right) Image: BIG

Neighbouring building, River Court — which was vacated by Goldman Sachs in 2019 — will be knocked down to make way for a 21-storey office-led development designed by Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG). It's been described as a 'direct homage' to the old Express Building, and given its undulating glass facade and stepped design, it's not difficult to see why.

a pocket park overlooking the steeple of st brides church
A pocket park on top of the original art deco building will open to the public, with views of St Bride's Church. Image: BIG

Some will argue that BIG should have gone with something more individual, rather than a pale imitation of the original, although others would say the Danish architects could have done a lot worse.

The old and new building will no longer be joined. A gap between them reveals st brides church
A gap between the the old and new buildings reveals St Bride's Church, across the road. Image: BIG

Anyway, for us, the exciting news is about the original art deco building itself; The City of London Corporation says the Express Building will become a "publicly accessible cultural destination with social and educational outreach" — and although we're not entirely sure what that means, Architects' Journal previously reported part of it will entail an exhibition space, showcasing the history of writing and communication (perhaps of Fleet Street specifically, which has a tale or two million to tell).

a multi-tiered roof garden overlooking the city of london
Another angle of the new 120 Fleet Street building. Don't think you get to access THESE roof gardens though Image: BIG

And not only will that extravagant lobby permanently open up, sating the appetite of deco-heads across the land, but a small roof garden on top of the building will be made accessible to all, with views over the City of London, and a unique perspective of the St Bride's steeple across the way.

Last Updated 26 October 2021

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