And what I then realised in conversation as ever at a meeting with Peter Rees and his team….he said: ‘I like that. I like the tall building, but not for here. We want an urban block, and it should be part of the street’. I said the urban block, actually, and related it to various precedents. In the to-ing and fro-ing about where the shoulder of the street on Fenchurch should lie, I sort of negotiated between our clients that it was instinctively about an area and as ever the planners and the public realm. I instigated the idea of the roof garden, and that got grabbed and has been with it ever since, thankfully.
We also ran a landscape competition for that roof garden, as part of the planning process, involving planners as non-voting participants. And it was at that early stage that we with a building formed or big you know kind of in sectional character and matching formed we took on Latz + Partner. Indeed, I've been working with Latz on that scheme at Finsbury Square. The section 106 money? I don't know where it went without Islington. It was extraordinary how nothing seemed to happen. But you know the idea has always been the building and its setting.
That is the same with the Undershaft. Past that ugly ramp that separates you very hard pressed to Saint Helen’s Bishopsgate and then a ramp down. How could we change that? How can we open up the space, and hence the side court, hence the base of the building, hence the bracing of the external skeletal frame? So: everything falls from the thinking about the urban realm, actually, and how it's going to open up new perspectives. That includes the thinking about getting up to the top of the building, and it being a civic rather than commercial space. It should be a place for school kids which has kind of being taken over also by the Tulip. Indeed, the very school I’m referencing is my daughter’s school. So I think we were there long before Fosters with that idea with two classrooms in the air, directly accessible from the base. But it's part of civilising development. It’s very important that these things take time. You know, ideas don't happen overnight. There needs to be to be discourse and development, and 50 for me, has been a really interesting matrix of problems and constraints that could be turned on their head to advantage. Taking the obvious unrequited potential of the post-World War Two Livery Company HQ to put a taller, bigger building, but then to give the livery company a presence and embed them round the grade one listed tower of such significance. And then draw light in, and then the cascade of public spaces. It was the first virtual planning permission.
DT: Yes, it was
EP: That was really interesting and it was referenced that actually we are providing 36 times the public realm area that is on the site at the moment. So, with an increasing density of the city and questions of wind mitigation and environmental comfort, and obviously sustainability, it all kind of comes together in a really exciting way, in my mind.
DT: Last questions - would you agree that, given what we've been through in terms of the pandemic, that public realm has gone up the scale in terms of importance…
EP: Yes, absolutely…
DT … and secondly, there's quite a lot of office accommodation in these buildings. Have you cause to rethink anything about that in terms of the future office, and how it'll change?
EP: Yeah. I think that that there has been a sort of drive towards ever greater occupancy densities. I think that’s hit the buffers. I think that's a good thing. I think working patterns are going to be much more flexible. We just finished a building in Birmingham which is PWC’s headquarters there but it's also a major investment in terms of Argent but also you know for PWC as a key headquarters out of London. Looking at the way that quite high densities are managed with greater volume, so more generous sections, much more interest in the landscape, and a much greater sense of flexibility between where the individual is pitched and where a team is pitched, how the teams integrate, how vertical circulation works. There are so many exciting things that come out of this, like breakouts and wellness.
And actually one has to say certain things have been really ahead of the game - like Undershaft has something like 1700 bicycle spaces and all the showers and facilities associated with that. I think there are 6 car parking spaces for a million square foot. That's just going to be reinforced. It's such a joy to cycle around the City, particularly with the temporary cycle lanes that are going to become permanent. So I think we've seen a complete change in terms of the way we're going to work and navigate the urban context.
DT: And one that's permanent? That’s going to last, do you think?
EP: Yeah but it's not I don't think it's going to undermine the efficiencies and you know the kind of intensity of meeting and being in a common space. it's just going to be different.
DT: Brilliant. Thank you, Eric. That was really great.
EP: Thanks. Good to speak to you. Keep well!