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Piercy&Company completes stage 1 of iconic Exchange House revitalisation

16th March

Piercy&Company - working in collaboration with artists, designers and makers - has completed the refurbishment of iconic Exchange House in London’s Broadgate. The project, commissioned by developer British Land and GIC, set out to reinvent the ground floor spaces, improve tenant amenity and refurbish 82,000 sq ft of office space, embracing wellbeing, sustainability and circular economy principles. The Studio’s response celebrates the architectural heritage of the building whilst choreographing key interventions which warm, humanise and transform the building’s shared spaces.

The ten-storey Exchange House, originally designed by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM) was completed in 1990. Internationally recognised for its innovative engineering, the building features an expressed skeleton of four parabolic structural arches which spans the railway tracks below. Piercy&Company affectionately interpreted the frame’s geometry in a ‘theme and variation’ across the interior spaces and echoes of the expressed frames appear at unexpected moments - in bespoke joinery, washrooms and banquette seating.

At ground floor, Piercy&Company created a design around the concept of a ‘garden room’ - paired with the newly landscaped Exchange Square (by DSDHA) outside. The building’s original continuous ground floor glazing and double height offered a sustained visual connection with the garden and hinted at a grand Victorian civic conservatory. Responding to this condition, the Studio layered internal planting, natural materials and a colour palette drawn from the seasonal planting scheme of the garden outside.

To encourage new and active uses of the reception, spaces are zoned for a variety of interactions. Lounge seating, shielded from movement zones by timber shelving, faces the garden of Exchange Square; a curved banquette extends along the sweeping arc of glazing to the north with tables and chairs providing touchdown working and informal meeting space; and nearby lounge seating is backed by curtains to cocoon these quiet spaces. Throughout the ground floor, the aim was to warm, soften and humanise.

Applying circular economy principles, over 4,000 sq ft of existing Pentelikon marble floor was salvaged and reused. The marble was carefully lifted on site and cut locally before being hand laid to form the base of the new cementitious terrazzo reception floor. An efficient use of marble at ground floor meant only 40% of the existing marble was used at reception, allowing the marble to be subsequently used in the lift lobbies across floors 9 and 10 and in the vanity units within the office floor WCs and basement shower facilities.

Forming a centrepiece of the reception space are four 5.9m high tapestry works by London Based textile designer Kangan Arora. The tapestries are double sided and intended to be viewed from inside and outside, with the more intense colour palette visible from outside. Arora was interested in exploring the language of colour and the application of surface pattern in her tapestry works which abstract the distinctive structural elements of Exchange House’s parabolic arches, whilst the colours are again drawn from the garden outside.

The Studio also collaborated with English furniture maker Benchmark in the reception spaces to design a bespoke shelving system inspired by the building’s structure. The shelving is made of Scottish elm - chosen for its rich colour variation and sustainability credentials. Held within the elm shelving are a series of delicate raku fired porcelain spheres, balanced like totems, by ceramicist Nadine Bell.

Alongside the ground floor refurbishment, Piercy&Company have significantly upgraded the cycling and end of trip experience by providing high quality cycle storage and changing facilities within the basement as well as a newly upgraded cyclist route in and accessible entrances. Undertaking a Cat A refurbishment on Levels 7, 9 & 10, the studio revealed the steel trusses internally and coordinated its soffit with exposed services. The resulting office floors provide occupants with generous light-filled volumes, increased floor-to-ceiling heights and flexible and resilient spaces that can adapt to occupiers’ needs.

Works on a new 200sqm rooftop terrace, by Piercy&Company in collaboration with FFLO, are currently underway and will offer seating, working and hosting spaces for tenants in the warmer months. The roof terrace has been designed to promote biodiversity with a range of drought resistant and nectar rich plants to attract pollinators and bee hotels to house solitary bees.

Founder of Piercy&Company, Stuart Piercy said:

“The collaborative spirit of Exchange House expresses our ‘Design House’ approach. Our team was assembled from in-house disciplines - architects, interior designers and a curator. Artists and makers were brought into the project in a deliberate move to create the richness and a layering in the hospitality spaces. This process is both highly rewarding and creates a design response that recognises British Land’s fantastic transformation of the Broadgate Estate.”

Piercy&Company Director, Fiona Neil, said:

“Moments of connection to nature in the centre of London can be fleeting, but when we encounter them they offer a rare sense of calm and wellbeing. Exploiting the views over Exchange Square and drawing the connection to nature into the ground floor was fundamentally about humanising these spaces and lengthening the time spent in proximity to nature.”

Laura Hall, Development Director at British Land, said:

“It has been a pleasure to work with Piercy & Co and the wider consultant team to reposition this architecturally significant building with 82,000 sq ft of repurposed office space. The common parts have been significantly enhanced to create a warm and welcoming environment, with the new roof terrace adding a fantastic amenity overlooking the recently improved Exchange Square. Sustainability has been at the heart of the project, prioritising circular economy principals, improving the EPC rating B and achieving BREEAM Excellent.”

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