The first look at One Blackfriars
London’s landmark skyscrapers, specifically those in the corridor that stretches from the City to the South Bank, tend to be named after household objects or something you might find at the back of the fridge: the Shard, the Walkie-Talkie, the Cheesegrater or the Gherkin.
Often these nicknames evolve informally throughout the planning process, but “the Vase” – the latest addition to the capital’s horizon – has a more definite inception.
One Blackfriars, which will house 247 luxury apartments, was inspired by a piece of Fifties art: a Scandinavian glass vessel from the architect’s private collection.
The project, designed by the Rochdale-born architect Ian Simpson and being built by Berkeley Homes brand St George, is starting to take shape. The Telegraph takes an exclusive look inside.
As the hoist lift scales the building to the 27th floor (the highest level with windows so far), it pulses with the boom of concrete being pumped up 120ft to feed the steadily-growing core of the building.
The Southwark structure, at the most northerly bend of the Thames, is now up to 38 floors, and will reach 50 by the time it is completed in 2018.
Of the 5,476 glass panels that will create the continuous curvature of the building, 3,000 are already in place, and for Simpson this differentiates his London skyscraper from the others. Rather than an inanimate object, he sees the building as a dynamic form, playing on the reflection of light from above and the constant motion on the ground below.
“The asymmetrical vase gave me the notion that the edges of a building could be smooth and dynamic rather than rectangular and multifaceted,” Simpson says. There isn’t a single straight line on the building – in contrast to the Gherkin, which appears rounded but in reality has only one piece of curved glass on the whole tower. “It’s an elegant directional shape which has movement because it’s on the river and a very busy artery,” Simpson says, referring to the stream of people, cyclists, traffic and trains along Blackfriars Pier towards the Tate Modern, on Blackfriars Road, leading to the Elephant and Castle and Blackfriars Railway Bridge.
And it will change with the light. At sunset the building will glow red, taking on a blue sheen on a clear bright day.
The singular exterior, without the usual “extrusions” (by which Simpson means balconies) also has a bearing on the interiors. The sliding doors on the edge of each apartment open into your own private “sky garden”, an enclosed balcony within the curved glass exterior, with window slats that can be opened.
It’s designed to be warm all year round. That’s if you can afford to bag a One Blackfriars pad. Prices start from £1.15 million for a one-bedroom studio, £2.33 million for a two-bedroom apartment, while a three-bedroom home goes for £4.64 million (020 7871 7188; oneblackfriars.co.uk).
The Kensington Suite, which will cover almost 6,000 sq ft on the 43rd floor, is priced at £23 million.
New imagery of this five-bedroom apartment is being released today and the new sales and marketing show home on level seven was completed this week. Details of the 17,000 sq ft prized penthouse, which will take up the five top floors of the tower, will be announced in the spring.
The Kensington Suite interiors were created by Tara Bernard and Partners, the firm responsible for the redesign of the InterContinental Hotels Group, with finishes in stone, timber and glass.
Light will flood into the living area through the floor-to-ceiling windows and there’s a private gym with southfacing views. The sky garden juts out over the Thames on the other side of the apartment. Did you know 1. The lifts at One Blackfriars will have a speed of 4m per second; it will take only 40 seconds to get to the 50th floor.
One Blackfriars will have a total of 2,500 doors, six times as many as the White House.
There will be 9,100 panes of glass in the inner and outer facades, 13 times more than in the Louvre Pyramid.
At its peak, 1,400 people will work on construction of One Blackfriars.
On a clear day you will be able to see 28 miles from the top floor – as far as Brentwood, in Essex.
The 2,500 sq ft, three-bedroom show home is kitted out in Italian marble, Atlantic Lava stone and a polished Greek Venato Dark marble. It overlooks St Paul’s Cathedral – but should you ever tire of the view, there are inbuilt televisions in the bedroom and above the bath.
“One Blackfriars is very high quality, the level you would find in Knightsbridge or Mayfair, but with a design edge,” Simpson says.
Underneath the building is a three-floor basement the size of six Olympic swimming pools, which will house the spa, gym, cinema, golf simulator and winery. The Harrods concierge service will be on tap 24/7 along with valet parking.
The site itself, once home to the headquarters of Sainsbury’s, is just shy of 10,000 sq ft and will include a 161-bedroom hotel, shops, restaurants and units for local ventures such as yoga studios.
It’s expected to have a knock-on effect on local property prices. With Blackfriars Road leading to the huge regeneration scheme at Elephant and Castle, One Blackfriars is seen as the “gateway into Southwark, which will see increased prices ripple out,” says Michael Bryn-Jones, director at St George.
The project has absorbed 15 years of Simpson’s life. He had to make serious changes to the design when English Heritage pointed out that it blocked the view of St Paul’s from a heritage bridge in St James’s Park. “We had to lower the building and change all proportions,” he says.
Love or hate the design, each new skyscraper creates a previously unseen perspective of the capital and One Blackfriars is no exception, providing a unique vantage point over the Houses of Parliament, the City, Canary Wharf and across south London. And the reverse view, as Londoners look up at the Vase itself, will be pretty spectacular, too.
You know about the Shard, the Walkie-Talkie and the Gherkin. Anna White pokes around the latest: the Vase
Homely: The Kensington Suite, above, is on the 43rd floor and is priced at £23m; there are no straight lines on the building, left
Drawing from experience: the architect Ian Simpson was inspired by a vase