From Insurance to Living: 2 Office Transformations in the Works

John Hill
30. June 2022
Lloyd's of London, at right, by Richard Rogers (Photo © User:Colin / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0)

The first bit of news, that the iconic Lloyd's of London building designed by Richard Rogers might be transformed into a hotel, was found at Dezeen, which relayed an article from React News, a UK real estate publication. The 12-story building designed for the insurance company and completed in 1986 in Central London is a Grade I-listed building, meaning any changes that might affect its "special interest" would need to be reviewed and approved. That the changes might dramatically impact the high-tech icon, regardless of its change in use from office to hotel, is aided by the original architect being involved: RSHP, which just rebranded from Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, following the death of Richard Rogers late last year.

According to Dezeen, Ping An, the current owner of the building, has hired RSHP for the conversion "to ensure that the building remains commercially viable should the insurance firm depart." That departure is not guaranteed, but some signs point to it happening. For one, Lloyd's currently occupies just 75% of the building, mainly from technological advances. Also, a decade ago the company was exploring a move out of its headquarters due to "frustrations" with its design. Nevertheless, just last year Lloyd's announced in a short film (below) that it would be transforming the Underwriting Room at the heart of its building, but that project was put on hold due to the impact of Covid on the workplace. So things could go either way, depending on which decision Lloyd's makes about its future in — or out of — its iconic home.

The second bit of news comes from MVRDV, which announced on its website that the Dutch firm is transforming the Centraal Beheer offices in Apeldoorn, Netherlands, as part of a "sustainable, green residential neighborhood that echoes the design principles of the existing building." Designed by Herman Hertzberger and completed in 1972 (the below video shows the occupied building in 1978), the building for 1,000 employees of the Centraal Beheer insurance company is based on a 9-meter cube that is repeated 60 times across the floor plan, arranged to form two central "'streets" as the social heart of the building. Though not as famous globally as the Lloyd's Building, Centraal Beheer is well known among architects and considered an important work of Dutch Structuralism.

The building is currently disused and, since 2015, has been owned by Certitudo Capital, which also owns the adjacent Pakhoedtorens and a total of three hectares around the buildings. The idea is to renovate the Centraal Beheer and Pakhoedtorens buildings so they contain "a variety of housing," with a total of around 650 to 800 in the whole development. The new buildings will use the office building's 9-meter cube as a planning module; this will continue the structuralist basis of Hertzberger's design to the present, but the new buildings will be made of timber to make them distinct. As part of the development, the Centraal Beheer offices will be named Hertzberger Park, in honor of the 89-year-old architect.

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