AIA/UK gathered at Skidmore Owings & Merrill’s London office on the 20th of September to celebrate the 2015 AIA 25-year award given to Exchange House. The evening featured a presentation on the project by Kent Jackson, Dmitri Jajich, and Graham Wiseman, all of SOM representing the architectural, structural and master planning aspects of the multidisciplinary design. The group then visited Exchange House (adjacent to SOM’s office), including a tour of the lobby, award plaque recently installed on the building , and drinks in Exchange Square.
The project was selected for the award by AIA National for its clear and elegant solution to the constraints of the site which spans over railroad tracks of Liverpool Street Station. Designed in an era when local planners favoured historicist buildings clad in stone which were sympathetic to the older buildings in London, Exchange House challenged this with a brave and direct expression of its structure.
The team showed design studies and development of the arch shape including different heights, curved and faceted profiles, and even an inverted catenary option. The final design was selected for its optimal structural efficiency. The arches on the two primary facades were held away from the building’s glass enclosure as a means of protection from fire within the building.
At ground level, the project helped to frame the new Exchange Square at the center of the Broadgate masterplan (also above the railroad tracks). Also, the building’s clear span has enabled a strong connection between Exchange Square and the rapidly-developing area of Shoreditch to the north.
Exchange House is the first project in the UK to win the AIA 25-year award. The project’s completion also coincided closely with the creation of SOM’s office in London , and the creation of AIA’s UK Chapter of which SOM was a founding member.