Projects: Centre Point - the ugly duckling

Centre point tower, fa ã§ade detail â© luke hayes (3)

Conran and Partners has converted Richard Seifert’s landmark Centre Point into luxury flats, completing the transformation of the central London tower from rejected pariah to paragon of sixties chic

Like all truly iconic buildings, Centre Point, which stands at the cross-section of Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Street in central London, earns the accolade not solely because of what it looks like but because of what it represents. Completed in 1966 by buccaneering heritage antagonist Richard Seifert and famously described by artist Eduardo Paolozzi as London’s “first pop art building”, the jazzy angles and geometric playfulness of its distinctive honeycomb facades give it an air that is as much mannerist as it is brutalist-lite. 

But what it represents is even more powerful. Culturally its height and articulation epitomise the carefree irreverence of 1960s Swinging London. But it became “carefree” in another sense, as it was kept empty because its developer, Harry Hyams, was determined to let the building only as a whole – turning down all offers to rent separate floors. Its resulting vacant state degraded it in many people’s eyes to a symbol of commercial greed. Indeed, it once maintained so pernicious a hold on the public consciousness that it is still widely (and incorrectly) assumed that Britain’s leading youth homeless charity was named after it. 

Today all this has largely changed. Grade II listed in 1995, its slow transformation from pariah to paragon has been completed with its radical conversion from offices to flats. For the past seven years Centre Point has been at the centre of a massive neighbourhood transformation. Rick Mather Architects has been responsible for designing the refurbishment of its lower-rise buildings and exorcising the abysmal public realm that formerly existed around it. This process will reach a touchstone conclusion at the end of this year when the new Tottenham Court Road Crossrail station opens at its base. 

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