by Ron Bernthal
The Copenhagen-based architectural firm Henning Larsen, whose urban project, “105 Victoria Street,” is located just a short walk from Buckingham Palace, will contain not just office space, but a reinterpretation of the typical commercial building lobby as an urban plaza. A menu of indoor and outdoor amenities will enable a more active workday for building tenants and visitors.
After almost two years of flexible, at-home working conditions due to Covid-19, many have questioned the future of commuting to a traditional office building. But while many workers have found success while working from home, others have found that the lack of “adult” activity and social interactions have posed huge challenges to their mental and physical health.
As Henning Larsen’s first project in London, 105 Victoria Street is a prototype for what the active and social office of the future can be. To be located in the heart of Westminster, a vibrant inner borough of London, just a short walk from many of the city’s most well known attractions, the 470,000 square-foot Victoria Street building will not only be a mixed-use office building, but also a community destination with spaces for public forums, dining, retail spaces, cultural events and entertainment.
“Our ambition for this project is to create an active urban destination in the heart of London, a pocket of public space equal in energy and diversity to the city itself,” said Jacob Kurek, Partner-In-Charge at Henning Larsen.
With 105 Victoria Street’s central location and vast pedestrian flow, the project has a unique opportunity to become a popular public destination that enhances the urban setting. Instead of a traditional office lobby and reception area on the ground floor, the company is proposing a covered public plaza, called Village Square, as a large community hall that angles through the ground level, flexibly outfitted with a diverse group of small and large venues that will allow it to adapt for various building and city-wide events.
The Village Square is designed to be a vibrant market hall, a natural short- cut through the city where informal get-togethers can take place outside the urban rush on Victoria Street. With the ability to accommodate music events, fashion shows, and art exhibitions, in addition to the traditional food and beverage outlets, retail stores and co-working spaces, the project will expand the definition of what an office entrance is designed for. Supporting opportunities for health and wellness throughout the building were key drivers in the design of the amenity spaces.
Connecting the Village Square with the underground bicycle parking and workshop, gym, and multi-purpose event and conference hall, is a winding staircase and bicycle ramp wrapping around a small pocket of indoor greenery.
On the 10th floor, a looped indoor and outdoor “walk and talk” track connects a range of amenities and functions with landscaped terraces to enjoy the London skyline and while getting a moment of fresh air.
When designing Victoria Street, we thought not just about our goals for a sustainable and active office building, but what stops people from making those healthy choices now,” said Kurek. “By focusing on solving those problems, we are giving agency to the tenants and community around the building.”
The design also takes a macro view of sustainability and is designed to meet BREEAM ‘Outstanding’ standards and reach net zero embodied carbon by 2026, setting a high standard for future development in Westminster and London at large. The rigorous sustainability agenda of 105 Victoria Street takes a holistic view of environmental and human wellness, and the process of microclimate, wind, and acoustic research will create an environment that is as comfortable and healthy as it is energy and resource efficient.
The project is being developed by BentallGreenOak on behalf of the Welput Fund and is designed in collaboration with Adamson Associates Architects and KPF. Planning permission has been granted by the Westminster City Council, and construction is expected to begin in August 2022.