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Towering Folly At Liverpool St Station

February 2, 2023
by the gentle author

‘Where is the top part?’ I asked, when shown the lower portion of a model at the public consultation for the proposed redevelopment of Liverpool Street Station by Network Rail, Sellar & MTR . ‘We don’t have it,’ replied the developers’ representative. ‘So how can I judge the impact?’ I queried, growing suspicious and feeling I was being taken for a fool.

Then I was helpfully directed to a larger, much-smaller-scale, model of the surrounding urban landscape that included a great part of the City of London and in which I had to search to find the Liverpool Street proposal amid the forest of towers. The outcome was that while I could see this would be one more tower among many, the immediate impact upon the station and the former Great Eastern Hotel (designed by Charles Barry Junior and his son and partner Charles Edward Barry, 1883–84) was less discernible.

Yet I was swiftly disenchanted of my innocence when I saw the rendering of the view down Liverpool Street with an overwhelming tower of 11 storeys squatting on top of the fine Victorian hotel like a monstrous succubus in a nightmare. My feelings of nausea were compounded on learning that this would be supported by pilings through the grade II* listed hotel which would be converted to offices and replaced by a new five-star hotel in the block on top, boasting the advantage of City views.

London’s great railway stations – 19th-century cathedrals of glass and steel refracting the ever-changing changing patterns of light from our northern skies – are one of the architectural marvels of Europe. St Pancras, Paddington, Waterloo, King’s Cross and Liverpool Street are universally loved for their inspirational vaulted glass roofs. Euston, Charing Cross and Cannon Street exist as salient reminders of what has been lost through misguided redevelopment in the last century, removing the natural light by plonking ugly buildings on top.

When Liverpool Street Station (built between 1873 and 1875 for the Great Eastern Railway by chief engineer Edward Wilson) was last redeveloped between 1985 and 1992, the former labyrinthine palimpsest was clarified by the sympathetic extension of the 1870s glass roof over the platforms across the passenger concourse to meet the Great Eastern Hotel. Unfortunately, the new development proposes building over the concourse and replacing this part of the roof with a solid ceiling beneath the new office tower which itself will cast a long shadow, obscuring much of the daylight from the remaining Victorian glass vaults above the platforms.

The case put forward at the consultation was that passenger access to Liverpool Street Station needs upgrading and this ‘improvement to the public realm’ can be delivered at no cost to the taxpayer by sticking a massive office block on top of the station. Yet it is a false logic, because Network Rail – as a responsible operator — has a public duty to provide adequate access. It does not follow that such overdevelopment is either necessary or obligatory in order to achieve decent public access to the station.

My heart sank when I saw the artist’s renderings of the wild-flower meadow that the developers plan to plant on top of their block and the rooftop infinity pool which is to be open to all. These are cynical sops to the public. Architects Herzog & de Meuron presumably got this job because of their conversion of Giles Gilbert Scott’s Bankside Power Station into Tate Modern. The hope was that they would bring a similar magic to Liverpool Street Station, but the brief here is entirely misconceived.

Why is the City of London contemplating the construction of new offices at all when so many sit empty, post-Covid and post-Brexit? Flexible working patterns mean the financial industries will require far less office space in future. I see no evidence of the City advancing any cogent or enlightened vision that accommodates to this prospect.

Thankfully, Historic England are objecting to the new development and have revised and updated their listing of the station, adding the sensitively conceived 1985/92 vaulted-glass roof over the passenger concourse which was the result of a seminal conservation battle for the station in the 1980s. The hotel has also been upgraded from grade II to grade II* (the second highest level of protection).

I understand that, for the development to go ahead in its current form, this would have to be successfully challenged and overturned, so we must now brace ourselves for a mighty and possibly protracted fight over Liverpool Street Station. The planning application is expected to be submitted at the end of April.

This article was commissioned by Apollo magazine

Developers’ rendering of proposed redevelopment of Liverpool Street Station. This is the view along Liverpool Street looking east towards the Andaz (formerly the Great Eastern Hotel). Courtesy Sellar/Herzog & de Meuron

The proposed rooftop wild flower meadow Courtesy Sellar/Herzog & de Meuron

The proposed new entrance to Liverpool St Station Courtesy Sellar/Herzog & de Meuron

36 Responses leave one →
  1. February 2, 2023

    How sad, and it will probably happen. 🙁

  2. Rebekah Bristow permalink
    February 2, 2023

    Utterly appalling! Words fail me.

  3. February 2, 2023

    As you say, post-pandemic we do not need any more office blocks. This is ugly and unnecessary. Having retired to East Anglia, Liverpool Street Station is my gateway to the capital now. I join you in opposing this development, and thank you for flagging it up.

  4. Rein Roos permalink
    February 2, 2023

    Dear reader,

    The whole scheme is horrendous. What happened to the small shops opposite the Andaz hotel?

  5. Greg T permalink
    February 2, 2023

    This abomination must be stopped
    The earlier sympathetic rebuild of West side was magnificent
    We DO NOT WANT another gloomy, covered, dark hole as has happened to platforms 11-18, oops, 17.

  6. February 2, 2023

    Another monstrous carbuncle on the face of London.

    I acquired some blisters last Saturday wandering through the City on the trail of my ancestors. It was a relatively quiet day, as few work in the City at weekends. We meandered through as many old lanes and alleys as we could, loitered at the few 17th century pubs left (closed on Saturdays, unfortunately), trying to recognise old London – even the London I remembered from the 60s and 70s – through the oppressive jumble of juggernaut architecture London has become.

    I suppose those who spend their days there become used to it, but it saddened me to see the way beauty is dwarfed and crushed by the greedy corporatist race to the sky.

    ‘Why is the City of London contemplating the construction of new offices at all when so many sit empty, post-Covid and post-Brexit?’
    Presumably because, as usual, vested interests will benefit. Those who work near or travel from or to Liverpool Street Station probably won’t.

  7. Annie permalink
    February 2, 2023

    Pointless, greedy and ugly. Plus, I have stayed at the Andaz and it was quite luxurious enough. The present Liverpool Street Station is a positive joy – I recall it in the late 70s when it was dark and cold and unwelcoming – and cannot benefit in any way from these ridiculous plans. I will be delighted to add my voice to any protest.

  8. Christine Swan permalink
    February 2, 2023

    This is indeed another monstrosity for the London skyline. You are quite correct dear GA, in that office work can be conducted from home with ease and only flexible meeting spaces required. I’m also exasperated by the “rooftop wildflower meadow” it’s pointless. It is not a natural habitat as it doesn’t have any highway to another habitat. Birds could fly there I suppose- but really? I suppose beavers will be introduced to the swimming pool or am I being too cynical?!

  9. Steve Hanscomb permalink
    February 2, 2023

    As usual, money talks. This is why the City of London are contemplating this, someone is making a lot of money from this scheme. Same reason the Still and star in Aldgate could be destroyed. These people just see important, irreplaceable historic sites as an annoying stumbling block. They see every part of London as a blank canvass. Other cities in the world cherish their historic buildings, but London is woeful on this score.

  10. Winnie permalink
    February 2, 2023

    As you say, we do not need anymore office space especially ugly office space smothering any
    more historic places. It is weary- making that the fight has to go on.
    Slowly all the character is pushed out of a place. And as for the idea of a rooftop meadow and swimming pool….how many ordinary people and their kids (they are the ones needing a pool to enjoy with their families and peers) will realistically be using these things? It will be used by the workers in the office perhaps? The few that may actually be working in yet another unwanted office block? All seems ill thought out.
    What is forgotten by the architects is that people are attracted to an area and keep it going for those who live and work there by its history, beauty and friendly spaces. This area is teetering on the edge of being swallowed up by ‘the corporate city’ running along side it. And what for? Un-needed office space.This new proposal will not enhance. It is not a desirable solution. Along with facadism it is destruction dressed up as ‘improvement’. Yuk.

  11. Lorraine Whebell permalink
    February 2, 2023

    Totally agree GA…why can’t these wonderful places be left alone for goodness sake..everytime I emerge from Liverpool Street Station which isn’t very often now its saddens me how much this area has changed over the years.

  12. Paul permalink
    February 2, 2023

    I don’t get H+dM…I like big and modern, but why so loomy and oppressive looking?

  13. JaneB permalink
    February 2, 2023

    The Shard this isn’t but it certainly has too many of the hallmarks of Sellar’s Shard Place — that merely destroyed a wholly 1980s build, and now in terms of precedent threatens the GII assets opposite and the Georgian terrace alongside…

    So yes, its now shorter and as fat as they can make it (with little if any servicing margin within the curtilage, and therefore day to day operations by default displaced to the Public public realm…) — the very premise of “station overbuild”, much beloved of TfL and Network Rail, for being the ‘family silver’ Golden Ticket, where non-one has to endure the hassle of having to piece sites together one land-owner negotiation at a time, but instead the largest of all inner urban developments plots can be sold as one, big-eyed-developer block from the outset, with the added ‘selling point’ that ‘no-one’ has to pay the significant cost or suffer the extended lead-in time of demolishing and clearing +’make good’ the ground…

    With the next generation taking over (son and nephew) following the death of Irvine in 2017, Sellar, as Dan and James, undertook not to do the highly disingenuous “ground floor strata” model thing — having previously dismissed developer’s default assertion that this is all that, and how, the Public would be experiencing their buildings ‘typically’, so that’s all the Public should be expected to have an opinion on 🙂

    At their site next-door to London Bridge station, Sellar have been beaten down from 50+ storeys to a mere 10, and necessarily sold on the site to Aviva in the meantime (with Sellar now acting merely as ‘development partners’) — with the local authority’s consultation period for the Aviva-Sellar Application again extended, currently, due to admin errors etc…

    So let’s not give up on the Liverpool Street station 🙂 — the existing architectural form, near-exemplary 1980s sympathetic additions (showing that it can be done and that it should be), and the quintessentially-London heritage and, to this day, the lived amenity thereby provided, that we know and love because of the sense of place and grandeur they convey and instil.

    Herzop and de Meuron, shame on you. Bling and blight. Huge without any sense of grandeur, engaging narrative, timelessness or longevity

    Alderman Christopher Makin (Aldersgate) is one of the prominent City Residents taking a lead on this. And additionally his Deputy, Cllr Randall Anderson is a useful person to bring in on meetings and negotiations not least because of his roles chairing/actively inputing into various of the City Corporation’s Planning, Finance and Property committees…

  14. Peter Holford permalink
    February 2, 2023

    Keep us informed GA – I have no doubt you will. Perhaps the only plus point of Brexit is that more offices are totally unnecessary as businesses exit to set up in Europe, especially the financial services who need the toe-hold inside the EU.

    Stupid, greedy, venal. All logic says the development will be knocked back by the planning authorities. Hmm, logic may not apply. Other forces may propel it forward – £$£€

  15. Milo permalink
    February 2, 2023

    Ye Gods! More unnecessary disfigurement of the City. Is there anyone awake at the Heritage society? (Or whatever its called) These developers are becoming extremely adept at slipping these monstrosities past us before we know what’s happening but luckily you have noticed and with others voices and backing we can surely be all over this like a…dare i say it?…like a wild flower meadow.

  16. Janice permalink
    February 2, 2023

    If there is a petition against this, I will be the first to sign it. Absolutely horrific. I am of the same mind of Janet M though and it saddens me greatly.

  17. Michael permalink
    February 2, 2023

    Absolute horror
    Thank you for highlighting.

  18. Mark permalink
    February 2, 2023

    A neo-fascist futurists wet dream.
    Hedge funders will love it.

  19. Cherub permalink
    February 2, 2023

    I can remember the old Liverpool Street station, it was run down, falling apart and in need of revamping. At the time Broadgate seemed very futuristic, my husband worked for a company that did all the finishes on the aluminium curtain walling.

    I note the images are by Herzog de Meuron, they are based in Basel where I currently live and we have many of their fantastic buildings here. I personally like the diverse mix of old sitting with new, the mostly medieval part of the city at St Alban looks across the Rhein to the ultramodern Roche Towers and Museum Tinguely.

    Sometimes change is inevitable, post pandemic there is too much vacant office space all over. My husband’s old office is currently undergoing a 5 year feasibility study to see whether it will be cost effective to turn it into hotel and commercial, or whether it would be better to demolish.

  20. Jill wilson permalink
    February 2, 2023

    Yet more ghastliness!!!

    Let us know where, when and how to protest….

  21. February 2, 2023

    This bears repeating…………..

    “Is it not cruel to let our city die by degrees, stripped of all her proud monuments, until there will be nothing left of all her history and beauty to inspire our children? If they are not inspired by the past of our city, where will they find the strength to fight for her future? ……this is the time to take a stand, to reverse the tide, so that we won’t all end up in a uniform world of steel and glass boxes.”

    A quote from Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, who championed the rescue of Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan. The Terminal was later restored and revitalized; dare I say, better
    than new.

    Thank you, GA, for shining a light. Onward and upward.

  22. Adele a permalink
    February 2, 2023

    If the City of London continues with these monstrosities there will be nothing left of the charm of the place and the tourists will stop coming. Enough!

  23. Saba permalink
    February 2, 2023

    This all sounds like the far-downtown, Wall Street area of Manhattan now. Big towers squashed together and the little restaurants replaced by fast food outlets serving junk food which they buy in boxes and reheat. Yachts, belonging, I assume, to the residents of the towers, docked along the edges. Everything feels like some nightmare from the future, the mare hoping to gallop into midtown and finally ruin that, too.

    Sorry about the note of darkness and pessimism, GRs. I come to Spitalfields Life for the creative energy that we do still find everywhere in our great cities.

  24. Lizebeth permalink
    February 2, 2023


    I am on the Developers’ Mailing List, but so far I have found no way to contact anyone, despite their saying that this project is “open to public comment”. I wonder why (Ha). Can anyone tell me whom to write to?

    I think anyone using Liverpool Street Station who was fully aware of this development would be desperate to stop it, so some wider publicity about the proposal is definitely in order. I hope English heritage preservation groups are getting the word out?

    Not only is covering up Liverpool Street Station a terrible idea to begin with, but this lump of a styrofoam container is hideous, and overwhelming for the streetscape. One of your readers mentioned modern Manhattan, and I can attest that the more of this scale of building there are, the more unfriendly the area becomes to pedestrians. As many have pointed out, there is already a superfluity of empty office space in the City. I would like to point all of this out to the people (Planners?) who would have to approve this building?

    Just another instance of corporate greed, and totally unnecessary.

    Thanks for your help, GA and other readers.

  25. Marcia Howard permalink
    February 2, 2023

    It beggars belief!

  26. February 2, 2023

    It’s yet again another commercial venture neither needed or wanted to make a fast buck. Without any thought for the impact on the area or the environment. The quicker this monstrosity is rejected the better. It doesn’t benefit visitors, workers or the residents of Liverpool St at all just a rich quick scheme by investors.

  27. Ben permalink
    February 2, 2023

    I’ve lived in the City of London for 16 years, and they don’t give a flying thing about the local residence. They will push through whatever they want. The only have public consultation because they have to.
    I got several recorded exanples of the City of London’s manipulative and corrupt behaviour. Of course they are lovely and understanding when you are in a consultation or meeting with them, but as soon as you turn your back, the knife is well stucked

  28. Janet Clark permalink
    February 3, 2023

    I worked in Broad Street Place, which was next to Liverpool Street Station, in the early 1970s (I’ve no idea whether it still exists now). The City was a charming and interesting place then, but over the years developers have slowly destroyed a lot of it. We all need modernisation but this is utter desecration.
    I would love to be able to sign a petition against this latest monstrosity if there is one.

  29. Georgina Briody permalink
    February 3, 2023

    I have just signed petition with the Victorian Society to stop this.

  30. Jill Wilson permalink
    February 4, 2023

    On a more positive note I was pleased to hear that Griff Rhys-Jones is heading the protest against this carbuncle and that it was a major topic on the radio London breakfast show yesterday.

    Hopefully this will make more people aware of the situation, and give the campaign to stop it some much needed publicity…

  31. Janice permalink
    February 4, 2023

    Just coming back to say there is a petition on also.

  32. Mary Laiuppa permalink
    February 4, 2023

    You were right to be suspicious. And those artist renderings are horrid. I don’t understand how London or England for that matter can allow such destruction of their history. I know it all comes down to greed, but there must be some higher authority that can put a stop to such travesty. I hope the historical society is successful in protecting as much as possible and scaling back another huge folly that will sit mostly empty, be bankrupt within a decade but only after destroying another bit of England’s historic past.

    Do they really think people come to see their millennial architectural garbage? No! They come to see the lovely architecture of England’s past.

  33. February 5, 2023


  34. Sue M permalink
    February 6, 2023

    This is depressing. Why do some people want to destroy historic buildings in London, money of course. I rarely travel to London but when I do I am always depressed at the sight of huge modern blocks of concrete and glass. It is a struggle to spot the lovely historic buildings.

  35. Stephen Glover permalink
    February 13, 2023

    Greed is consuming this City .
    I will join you all anywhere to stop this abomination. We don’t stop this, where will it end?

  36. July 30, 2023

    What is wrong with the UK? Why does everything have to be smashed up and ghastly ugly new buildings replace them? Surely facades and parts of the older buildings can be incorporated into less offensive so-called modern buildings. We ought to remember that the UK is NOT America and we do not have to do EVERYTHING that they do!!!!!!!!!

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