HSBC Tower, London

8 Canada Square (also known as HSBC Group Head Office, or HSBC Tower) is a skyscraper located at Canary Wharf in London Docklands, Borough of Tower Hamlets. The building serves as the global headquarters for the HSBC Group, the world's largest company by the Forbes Global 2000 in 2008 and houses around 8,000 staff.


The tower was designed by Sir Norman Foster's team of architects. Construction began in 1999 and was completed in 2002. There are 45 floors in the 200 metres (656 ft) high tower, the joint third tallest in the United Kingdom with the Citigroup Centre.


Proposal

With the movement of HSBC Group's headquarters from Hong Kong to London in 1993, the firm decided that having thousands of employees scattered across the City of London was not an ideal situation. Between 1995 and 1997 a number of proposals were considered, including the redevelopment of the previous Group Head Office at 10 Lower Thames Street, London, however the DS-2 plot at Canary Wharf was chosen for the location and space available.


Having been commissioned by the owners of the Canary Wharf Site to do the outline design prior to gaining site-wide outline planning permission, (and because he had designed HSBC's last head office at 1 Queen's Road, Central, Hong Kong), Sir Norman Foster (now Lord Foster of Thames Bank) was appointed as architect. Arup became structural engineers for the project, and Davis Langdon & Everest (now Davis Langdon) quantity surveyors.


Construction

Construction began in January 1999, with work beginning on the installation of the 4,900 glass panels commencing in summer 2000. The work was carried out by Canary Wharf Contractors.


Accident

During the construction of the building on 21 May 2000, a crane collapsed killing three construction workers. The Coronor heard that the three men died instantly from the impact of the 450 ft (140 m) fall.


Completion

The topping out ceremony took place on 7 March 2001, with the hoisting in of the final steel girder attended by bankers, journalists and contractors. The first HSBC employees began work in the building on 2 September 2002, with phased occupation completed by 17 February 2003, and the building's official opening, by Sir John Bond, taking place on 2 April 2003.


Surrounding buildings

Standing alongside the HSBC Tower are One Canada Square (popularly known as the Canary Wharf Tower); and the Citigroup Centre, which forms the British head office of the multinational US bank, Citigroup. It is also next door to Bank of America. The tower is not open to the public.


Financial cost

Counting from its official opening in April 2003, it was only four years before difficulties emerged in managing the building and its associated costs. In April 2007, HSBC Tower was sold to Spanish property company Metrovacesa, becoming the first building in Britain to be sold for more than £1bn. On 5 December 2008, HSBC Holdings re-acquired ownership of the building, declaring that the agreement had resulted in a £250 million ($368 million) profit in the second half of the year. However, on 13 November 2009, HSBC once again sold the building, this time to the National Pension Service of Korea ('NPS') for £772.5 million. HSBC's income statement on completion declared a gain of approximately £350 million resulting from the transaction, which was finalised shortly before the end of the year 2009. Whether HSBC will attempt to take ownership of the building again in future remains unknown, but at present the building is fully occupied and continues to serve as the main headquarters of the company.


Notable features

In line with HSBC's environmental principles energy efficient systems have been installed from the outset, along with recyclable furniture and equipment.


History Wall

A competition was held in order to select a feature for the ground floor lobby, unveiled by the then Group Chief Executive Sir Keith Whitson, the HSBC History Wall includes history, achievements and values of the Group from the 18th to 21st centuries. The wall is 6.6 metres (22 ft) tall, with 3,743 images, including documents, photographs, portraits and illustrations of staff, buildings, businesses and events. The wall was manufactured and installed by Supersine Duramark (SSDM) - a company specialising in commercial graphics and large-format printing in the UK.


Stephen and Stitt

8 Canada Square has a pair of bronze lions guarding the main entrance. These are copies of a pair nicknamed "Stephen" and "Stitt" which have stood outside the Bank's Headquarters at 1 Queen's Road Central in Hong Kong since 1935. The Hong Kong lions are named after yet another pair of lions that guarded the Bank's Shanghai headquarters on The Bund after it opened in 1923. The original Stephen and Stitt were named for A G Stephen, the then Chief Manager and the driving force behind the Shanghai development, and G H Stitt, the Manager in Shanghai. This was an in-joke: The lions face each other, and one (Stephen) is portrayed as if roaring, the other sitting quietly. Messrs Stephen and Stitt were said to have personalities as diverse.


The lions were cast within sight of the development by the Bronze Age Sculpture Casting Foundry in Limehouse.


Key facts

  • Office space — 102,190 square metres (1,100,000 sq ft).
  • Floors — 42 above ground.
  • Trading floors — housing the London treasury, capital markets and equities trading operations — are, at 4,180 square metres (45,000 sq ft), one of the largest such locations in Europe, able to house up to 570 staff per floor.
  • Staff restaurant — 850 seater facility is the largest of its kind in Europe, serving around 2,500 meals daily.
  • Concrete — 180,000 tons.
  • Steel — 14,000 tons.
  • Glass — 45,000 square metres or 484,200 square feet (44,980 m2).
  • The building was sold in 2007 to Spanish real-estate firm Metrovacesa for £1.09 billion. It is the biggest ever property deal in British history.
  • HSBC had bought back the tower from Metrovacesa for £838 million in 2008, but sold it to the National Pension Service of Korea in 2009.

Transport

The nearest tube station is Canary Wharf serving the Jubilee Line, which can be reached undercover via Canada Place shopping centre, and Canary Wharf DLR station serving the Docklands Light Railway. A bus service ran to London City Airport, now replaced by the Docklands Light Railway.

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