Campaigners sound alarm over proposals for Rock Townsend’s postmodern 1980s Angel Square scheme

AHMM has submitted proposals to radically rework Rock Townsend Architects’ postmodern Angel Square office development in Islington, north London.

The practice’s plans for Tishman Speyer would see the landmark 1980s development’s Italianate campanile-style clock tower removed, along with the structure’s brick facades, for a glass-focused makeover. The development is a stone’s throw from 1980s office block the Angel Building, the redevelopment of which saw AHMM shortlisted for the Stirling Prize in 2011.

Angel Square’s current three blocks provide 14,549sq m of office space and a pub, on the corner of Torrens Street and City Road. The building also includes the entrance to Angel Station on London Underground’s Northern Line.

AHMM’s proposals would reconfigure the buildings, the highest of which is six storeys, to deliver 21,701sq m of new office space, 255sq m of new retail space, and retain the pub.

Work would include adding two extra storeys to the building and infilling the existing courtyard at the centre of Angel Square. Documents submitted to Islington council said no work to the Underground station was proposed as part of the application, however they said discussions were under way over potential upgrades to the appearance of the station.

AHMM's plans for the redevelopment of Angel Square, seen from Liverpool Road

AHMM’s plans for the redevelopment of Angel Square, seen from Liverpool Road

US property investment firm Tishmans bought Angel Square from developer Derwent London last summer for a reported £86.5m. The firm counts New York City’s Rockefeller Center among its holdings, and owned Alison and Peter Smithson’s Economist Plaza in St James’s – now known as Smithson Plaza – until January last year.

AHMM said the Angel Square project would regenerate an existing building that had significant elements reaching the end of their intended design life, “transforming and re-imagining the building as a piece of exemplar architectural and sustainable design”.

The practice’s design and access statement said the makeover would “create a new identity” for the prominent site, at the junction of Upper Street and City Road, establishing “architectural quality” at the same time as respecting the area’s townscape and “heritage sensitivities”. The grade II-listed former Angel Hotel, which sits on the opposite corner of the junction, is one example.

It added that retaining the building’s original ribbed reinforced-concrete frame would save a significant amount of embodied carbon and ensure that the development’s whole-life use of carbon is minimised.

AHMM said the Angel Square project would replace the building’s existing “carbon-intensive” capital plant with a new all-electric system, complemented by sustainable energy generation, water storage and operable ventilation panels to aid natural ventilation, creating space.

AHMM's plans for the redevelopment of Angel Square

Campaign group the Twentieth Century Society said it would object to the proposals and called on Islington council to locally list Angel Square as a non-designated heritage asset.

It said that while the current plans would retain the underlying structure of the building, they would still see the complete removal of the brick and stone facade and all decorative elements, with the resulting demolition having a “significant “environmental impact.

The group said that pre-application consultation documents on the proposals had outlined issues such as a “tired interior” and “inefficient layout” with the existing Angel Square buildings, but little effort appeared to have been put into looking at how they could be upgraded.

“The proposals fail to explore any opportunity for a more understated reconfiguration of the building to address these issues, upgrading services and modernising thermally inefficient fabric where necessary, while respecting the buildings heritage value,” it said.

It urged Tishmans and AHMM to “pursue a more sympathetic and sustainable scheme”.


Source: Google Maps

Angel Square, pictured on the right, seen from St John Street. On the left is the grade II-listed former Angel Hotel