Centre Point
Centre Point is a substantial concrete and glass office building in central London, England, occupying 101-103 New Oxford Street, WC1, close to St Giles' Circus and almost directly above Tottenham Court Road tube station. The site was once occupied by a gallows. The building was designed by Richard Seifert with engineers Pell Frischmann and was constructed by Wimpey Construction from 1963 to 1966. It is 117 m (385 ft) high, has 32 floors and 27,180 m 2 (292,563 sq ft) of floor space and is the joint 27th tallest building in London. It was one of the first skyscrapers in London. It is a grade II listed building.

Centre Point was built as speculative office space by property tycoon Harry Hyams, who had leased the site at £18,500 a year for 150 years. Hyams and Seifert engaged in negotiations with the London County Council over the height of the building, which was much taller than would normally be allowed and was highly controversial; eventually he was allowed to build 32 floors in return for providing a new road junction between St Giles Circus, Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road, which the LCC could not afford to build on its own. Hyams intended that the whole building be occupied by a single tenant. On completion, the building remained empty for many years. With property prices rising and most business tenancies taken for set periods of 10 or 15 years, Hyams could afford to keep it empty and wait for his single tenant at the asking price of £1,250,000; he was challenged to allow tenants to rent single floors but consistently refused. The prominent nature of the building led to it becoming a symbol of greed in the property industry. Some campaigners demanded that the government of Edward Heath should intervene and take over the building, and at one point in June 1972 Peter Walker (then Secretary of State for the Environment) offered £5 million for the building. Eventually Hyams agreed to let the building by floors but the arrangements were stalled. A more intriguing speculation was that the government was paying Hyams "a heavy but secret subsidy to keep it empty" for its own purposes. Various conspiracy theories circulated about what those purposes might be. One common theme was that since the building was 100% air-conditioned (a rarity in London at that time), and sited over Tottenham Court Road tube station and its deep tube lines, this would somehow make it useful to the government in the event of nuclear war. Most people regard this theory as far-fetched. Since July 1980, the building has been the headquarters of the Confederation of British Industry. In 1995 Centre Point became a Grade II listed building. Noted architecture critic Nikolaus Pevsner described Centre Point as "coarse in the extreme". In 2009, the building won the coveted Concrete Society's Mature Structures Award .

New ownership
In October 2005, Centre Point was bought by commercial property firm Targetfollow one of the UK’s leading private property groups with a £1 billion City Centre portfolio. Following extensive refurbishment of the 43-year-old building, this iconic London office tower is now fully let for the first time, following the letting of 413 m 2 (4,445 sq ft) of space on its 29th floor to software intelligence company Onalytica which is owned by the original founders of Bebo. At the time the company bought the building, it had 12 vacant floors, some 25% of the floor area, with a further 14 floors let on leases that were due to expire within three years and largely medium-sized IT sector tenants. Today Centre Point is a vibrant vertical village, which has benefited from a comprehensive £14 million Grade A refurbishment programme of 23 floors or 72% of the building over the past four years. Occupiers in the building now range from William Morris Agency the top US talent agency; Aramco - one of the world’s biggest companies and the state-owned national oil company of Saudi Arabia ; Petrochina - the most profitable company in Asia , and EA Games - a market leader in the electronic gaming industry. Its longest serving tenant is CBI . In 2009 the international news gathering agency Agence France-Presse moved to the 25th floor of the building. The company were the last news organisation to leave offices in London's traditional news heartland, Fleet Street.

Paramount Members' Club
In Autumn 2008, a members-only club, Paramount , was opened at the top of Centre Point. Occupying the top three floors of the building, Paramount was designed by British designer Tom Dixon, and includes event space on the 31st floor, exclusive bar and restaurant on 32nd, and a 360-degree viewing gallery on the 33rd floor - the top floor of the building. Views from the venue are described as spectacular , but would-be members must be invited and assessed by a panel including English actor Stephen Fry. Pierre Condou, owner of the club, negotiated a 35-year lease with Targetfollow on the 31st, 32nd and 33rd floors for the space.

The Centrepoint charity
At 5:30 pm on Friday, January 18 1974, homeless campaigners (two of whom had obtained jobs with the security firm guarding Centre Point) occupied the building in a protest that the building ought to be used to help London's housing crisis. The occupation lasted only until Sunday January 20 and is often said to have inspired the housing charity Centrepoint , which took its name from the building; this is not, in fact, the case, as the charity had been around for five years prior to this. In fact the charity was named for the fact that its first night shelter was at the centre of the Soho parish. The name co-incidence was accidental, but when it was pointed out to the founders, they were quite pleased that the confusion might raise awareness of the plight of the homeless.

The promised transport interchange and highways improvements were not delivered following the original plan. The pedestrian subway attracted anti-social activities. On June 19, 2006 the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment pointed to the building as an example of bad design, where badly-designed paving forces pedestrians into the bus lane as they try to pass the building and accounts for the highest level of pedestrian injuries in Central London. With the planned redevelopment of Tottenham Court Road Underground Station a framework has been adopted to redevelop the traffic island beneath Centre Point as an open space. The site of the plaza and fountains will be a work site for the Crossrail and station expansion works at Tottenham Court Road station. The plaza is being demolished and the fountains have been removed.

Cultural references
  • The Centre Point building is visible in the beginning of the music video for " Check the Meaning" by Richard Ashcroft. It also appears in the background of the music video for Midnight Madness by English electronic music band The Chemical Brothers, and during the music video of " Bang" by Blur
  • Centre Point is one of the locations Jim ( Cillian Murphy) walks past in the 'deserted London' scenes of UK horror film 28 Days Later (2002), Director Danny Boyle also references this (as "a famous empty/partially empty building in London") on the DVD commentary.


3 photos

Building Activity

  • OpenBuildings
    OpenBuildings removed a media and updated 6 media
    about 5 years ago via OpenBuildings.com
  • updated a digital reference
    about 5 years ago via Annotator