The Insurance Quarter

Insurance companies have traditionally clustered witin the southeastern corner of the City, in the streets around Leadenhall Street, Fenchurch Street, St Mary Axe, Lime Street and Mark Lane. In recent years a number of significant new buildings have appeared, driven in part by the larger internal space requirements of the IT revolution. Richard Rogers's Lloyds building was the first of the new breed, an iconic structure looking not unlike a sci-fi set with its lifts and service ducts on the exterior of the building. Others have followed and the area is fast becoming a showcase for new London architecture; Plantation Place, Minster Court, the Willis Building, the Lloyds Register and most notably the Swiss Reinsurance building (a.k.a. the Gherkin) at 130 St Mary Axe have all taken their place on the City skyline. There are still more to come; at the time of writing major new developments are underway at 122 Leadenhall Street, 20 Fenchurch St and 64 Mark Lane, the first two of which will be among the tallest and individually striking buildings in the City.  

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St Mary Axe

30 St Mary Axe from Bishopsgate and from Great St Helens

There are many buildings along the street called St Mary Axe, but one of them stands out above all others, both metaphorically and literally; no.30, also known as the Swis Reinsurance Tower, and popularly known as the Gherkin.

St Helens Court; 30 St Mary Axe and the Aviva Building

30 St Mary Axe is 590 ft tall and was constructed in 2003. It was designed by Norman Foster & partners and constructed by Skanska. The first new highrise in London for over 20 years, it was the City of London's response to Canary Wharf, a reaction to the slow but continual movement of the big financial institutions to the new, spacious buildings in Docklands. The Gherkin's striking cylindrical ellipsoid shape and its superb glass cladding have quickly established it as one of London's major icons. Its popularity has paved the way for several other iconic skyscrapers that will soon be joining it on the City's skyline.

30 St Mary Axe, a portfolio

Other buildings in St Mary Axe

30 St Mary Axe reflected in glass facades on nearby Bury St

  The 30 St Mary Axe website

The Lloyds Building

Lloyds of London, from Fenchurch Street

Lloyds of London is an institution dating bacck over three hundred years. It is, essentially, an insurance market and consists of a complex stucture of insurance underwriting syndicates, agents and brokers. Lloyds has operated from the present site since 1928. The building seen here is a replacement, designed by architect Richard Rogers, and was completed in 1986. The building has an "inside-out" concept in that all the services such as water pipes, cable ducts, stairwells and lifts are located on the exterior, leaving the interior completely uncluttered. The interior is in fact the building's real glory; its centrepiece is a 200ft high central atrium surrounded by galleries and lit via a vaulted glass roof. The Fenchurch St facade of the original building has been retained.

Exterior shots of the Lloyds Building

  Lloyds of London, and the Lloyds Building

The Willis Building

The three tiers of the Willis building from Undershaft

The Willis Building

The Willis Building is at 31 Lime Street, immediately opposite Lloyds of London to the east. Designed by Norman Foster for British Land, it was begun in 2006 and has recently been completed; at the time of writing it is being fitted out for its principal tenants, the Willis Insurance group. The most elegant feature of the building is its three steps, respectively 68, 97 and 125 metres (410 ft) high. Its other major attraction is the sheer curved wall of glass forming its western elevation, in which the Lloyds building is beautifully reflected. The development also includes a smaller building to the east with identical cladding. 

The west elevation and reflections of the Lloyds building

The Willis Building from Lime Street

Plantation Place

Plantation Place

Plantation Place from the west

Plantation Place, at 31-35 Fenchurch St, was built in 2004 and was designed by Arup for British Land. It occupies a whole city block between Fenchurch St, Rood Lane, Eastcheap and Mincing Lane, and is occupied by a variety of financial companies. The larger of the two buildings is 231 ft high. The detailing of the building, particularly the glass cladding of the upper floors, is magnificent; however, the building as a whole has been criticised as being excessively bulky. This bulkiness is most apparent in views of the City from the south bank.

The main building has a 150 ft atrium as its centrepiece and is said to feature three quarters of an acre of room gardens.

Plantation Place, the north elevation

Minster Court

Minster Court

Constructed in 1990 and designed by GMW Architects, Minster Court doesn't exactly hide itself away. A complex of three buildings occupying a whole city block between Mark Lane and Mincing Lane, it's either a building of breathtaking audacity or a gothic nightmare, depending on your point of view. Personally, I love it. The principal tenant is the London Underwriting Centre. I'm told that Minster Court featured as Cruella de Vil's mansion in the film "101 Dalmations".

Minster Court, A Portfolio

  The London Underwriting Centre

Fenchurch Place

Buildings on Fenchurch Place

The quiet little square formed of Fenchurch Place and London Street is yet another architectural showcase. The Victorian facade of Fenchurch Street Station opens onto the square yet it looks a little incongruous among the smart new developments; the AIG headquarters building at 58 Fenchurch St, the Lloyds Bank building at 60 Fenchurch St, and the Lloyds Register of Shipping at 71 Fenchurch St. The latter building, by Richard Rogers, is entered via St Katherines churcyard. Lloyds Register is entirely seperate from Lloyds of London, just along the road, but the two institutions had their origins in the same seventeenth century coffee house.

Lloyds Register, Lloyds Bank and the AIG building on Fenchurch Place

Another new building at 64 Mark Lane will soon be under consttruction on the south side of the square.

Richard Rogers's Lloyds Register webpage

Coming Soon

Two major projects have planning consent in this part of the city; 122 Leadenhall St, for which preparation works are already under way, and 20 Fenchurch St, where the present building is being demolished.

122 Leadenhall St is by Rogers Stirk Harbour partnership (formely Richard Rogers), for British Land, and when completed in 2010 it will briefly become the tallest building in the City of London (before being overtopped by the Pinnacle on Bishopsgate). It will be 225 metres (736 ft) high with 52 floors. The southern elevation will be tapered, with the result that the building will become slimmer towards the top. The base will feature a 90 ft public atrium.

The following images are artists' renderings of the building; these images are the copyright of City Scape.

The future 122 Leadenhall St (copyright City Scape)

   British Land's Webcams of the construction site
   Skyscraper City's 122 Leadenhall forum

20 Fenchurch Street is not yet definate though the present building is under demolition. Unlike 122 Leadenhall it is actually designed to be broader at the top than at street level. It has been designed by Rafael Vinoly for Land Securities. Earlier designs attracted great criticism but later redesigns have seen it become much more slender and pleasing to the eye. It will have 36 floors and will stand 525 ft high. A major feature will be the public roof gardens occupying the three highest floors.

These artists' impressions of 20 Fenchurch St are the copyright of Miller Hare.

The future 20 Fenchurch St (copyright Miller Hare)

   20 Fenchurch St official website
   Skyscraper City's 20 Fenchurch St forum

    Map of Fenchurch St / Leadenhall St and aerial photos by
    Back to City of London index page

This page last updated 2nd February 2008