Above: Wide angle view looking north from the south side of Broadgate Circle, which was re-opened in 2015.
Broadgate is the name of a very large office development situated to the west and north of Liverpool Street Station. On the west side of today’s station terminus stood Broad Street Station, a terminus that was becoming less and less used in the 1970s. The land occupied by Broad Street Station and other pieces of land were all combined into a new development called Broadgate, opened by Queen Elizabeth II in December 1991.
With a collection of no less than 18 separate buildings grouped around several open areas, the 32-acre (13 hectare) site acts more like a small town than an office environment. It is, of course, right next to a transport hub – with trains, buses and underground – where in excess of 35,000 commuters arrive for work at Broadgate each day. Most of those people arrive by train from East Anglia. The large work force not only have their offices within walking distance of their arrival platform but they can also enjoy the extensive leisure facilities – like shops, cafes, restaurants, pubs and several gymnasia – just a short walk away. In the winter months there has been even an ice-rink. In addition there is indoor and outdoor public art and temporary exhibitions and special events throughout the year.
If you add to that the fact that 400,000 people walk through Broadgate, and millions of passengers use Liverpool Street station every day you can begin to get the bigger picture. Remember that this is just one small ‘corner’ of the City of London.
Until 2011 Broadgate Circle was a two-storey affair with shops and eateries around the edge of a large circular open space at first floor level. Between 2011 and 2013 a new office block was erected on the north side, replacing the ‘brutalist’ style one that had been built when the development was first opened in the 1990s. That meant that the ‘Circle’ was out of action for some time and, indeed, out of bounds to the public.
When Broadgate Circle re-opened, it was the same size and shape but the first floor level had been removed which meant that to get to any first floor outlets it was necessary to use newly built stone steps. Efforts had been made to have the original structure listed ‘Grade II*’ but that was all over-ridden and the Broadgate Circle has been considerably re-designed.
The ice-rink was in the centre of a two-level Broadgate Circle and it is not known if it will return for the winter months. During 2014 the two-level open space became a single-level open space with the original central level being lowered. The ‘new look’ Broadgate Circle opened in Spring 2015.
Above: The old style (pre-2012) Broadgate Circle, looking north.
It has certainly changed the layout of Broadgate Circle which now has a much more open feel to it. It has also provided more restaurant and cafe space so that within the circle of buildings there are many more individual premises and almost every kind of restaurant, including Lebanese, Chinese, Spanish, French as well as a large pub called ‘The Botanist’.
Some of the old features have been kept but the overall impression when you look at it and remembered the original is that it retains very little of the original 1990s feel to it. That is not necessarily a bad thing but the old buildings, softened by the growth of considerably foliage, made the area feel more ‘homely’. The new stark buildings do not have the same impact and make the whole design more banal and anonymous.
It is somewhat alarming to think that some of the buildings, only completed in 1991, have already become ‘old’ and ‘in need of replacing’. That is how developers regard buildings in these ‘enlightened days’ !