External features of postmodern Angel Square development to be stripped away and replaced with glass facade

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AHMM’s plans for 1 Torrens Street, above Angel tube station

AHMM’s plans to radically rework a postmodern landmark in Islington, north London have been given the green light.

Islington councillors voted to approve the transformation of the early 90s Angel Square development, which was designed by Rock Townsend Architects, despite protests from heritage groups.

Save Britain’s Heritage and the Twentieth Century Society had both objected to the makeover, which had been recommended for approval by the council’s planning officer.

The proposals will see the building’s external features, which include an Italianate campanile-style clock tower, stripped away and replaced with a glass facade.

Angel Square’s current three blocks provide 15,000 sq 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. 

The overhaul, designed for US invrestor Tishman Speyer, will add more storeys and around 7,000sq m of office space.

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The scheme has been designed for US investor Tishman Speyer

Islington’s design review panel had concluded that the existing building, formally named 1 Torrens Street, “falls well short of the required design qualities deserving of protection, including listing”, adding that AHMM’s replacement scheme was considered to be a “high quality design that is sensitive to its context”.

It also said that the plans would “speak a similar language” to the adjacent 1980s office block the Angel Building, the redevelopment of which saw AHMM shortlisted for the Stirling Prize in 2011. 

The panel said the two buildings would “through their quiet and subtle architecture, allow the richness of the historic architecture, form and detailing of the surrounding buildings and terraces to remain fully legible and visually dominant.”

However, councillor Benali Hamdache said: “I’d rather it spoke the language of the buildings we’re seeking to preserve at Angel rather than the slightly anonymous office building on a corner, particularly for a building at such an important junction.”

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Source: google

All external features of the existing Angel Square building, including its clocktower, will be removed

Calling for the scheme to be deferred, he added: “With the existing building I see the heritage and the inspiration it’s taken from the surrounding buildings, whether that’s the cupola or the interesting structure, and I look at this box, and I don’t see the inspiration it’s taken from surrounding buildings, and I don’t see that in 30 years’ time that we’ll look back at this building with much favourability, while we look at a building today that has interest…it might be marmite, it has problems… but I don’t think [AHMM’s refurbishment] meets the need for this important junction.”

Hamdache was unable to secure the support of a seconder, meaning that a vote on a deferral was not held.

Other councillors were lukewarm about the scheme’s design quality but praised its sustainability credentials and said it was an improvement on the existing block, which councillor Paul Convery called “an incredibly hostile building”.

Convery said: “What is being proposed is perfectly reasonable….this is not a demolition and build, this is taking off the frontage, using the existing concrete frame, and creating a new building out of an old building. 

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

“If anything that is a blueprint for how buildings ought to be modernised in great cities like London, and it will be, in sustainability terms, a very very much better building than what is there presently.”

Planning committee chair Toby North concluded that there was not reason enough to refuse the application, which he said included a number of public benefits such as affordable workspace.

Save Britain’s Heritage conservation officer Benedict Oakley said in May: “Angel Square contributes positively to the varied and historic character of Angel and Islington High Street and its loss, together with the bland and increased scale of redevelopment proposed in its place, will cause unjustified harm to the area if approved.” 

C20 said when the plans were submitted earlier this year that the design team had not considered how the existing building could be upgraded. “The proposals fail to explore any opportunity for a more understated reconfiguration of the building,” the group said.  

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View of the plans from Liverpool Road