Archive spotlight: 55 Broadway From the Tube Map to the iconic Routemaster bus, Transport for London has a history of bringing cutting-edge, innovative designs to the Capital.
No design was considered more radical than London Underground's former headquarters, 55 Broadway, located at St James's Park Tube station.
Even if you haven't heard of 55 Broadway you may have walked through it, because it's integrated with the station below.
Commissioned in the 1920s, The Underground Group wanted 55 Broadway to reflect its bold vision of the future for public transport in London. Architects Adams, Holden and Pearson were given the task of creating a groundbreaking design.
The site at St James's Park Tube station was challenging because of its irregular shape and a Tube line only 7.3 metres below. The solution was a cross-shaped layout, allowing pedestrians to walk through the ground floor of the offices, across the station booking hall, providing a short cut between Victoria Street and St James's Park.
The unusual layout was made even more radical by the striking appearance of the building. At the time of construction, 55 Broadway was the tallest office building in London, standing at 174 feet high.
A total of 700 reinforced concrete piles support the building, 19 load-bearing steel beams span the railway and special insulation is used to reduce vibration from the trains.
Above ground, the building was faced with 78,000 cubic feet of high quality Portland stone.
Although Portland stone is usually sanded to give a smooth finish, it was left as it was cut with the chisel marks still on it.
A work of art
Contemporary artists were invited to sculpt decorative features into the stone facade, carved on site. Two are just above street level and a further eight are above the sixth floor windows on each side of all four wings.
The sculptors were:
- Jacob Epstein
- Eric Gill
- Henry Moore
- A H Garrard
- Eric Automer
- Allan Wyon
- F Rabinovitch
Jacob Epstein's sculptures, carved just above street level, were condemned as primitive, ugly and indecent, so he offered his resignation. However, it was declined and in a gesture of compromise, Epstein chipped half an inch from the penis of the sculpted young naked boy.
The Royal Institute of British Architects awarded 55 Broadway its 1929 London Architectural Medal.
In WW2 the west wing received considerable damage as a result of bombing. It was rebuilt - without Portland stone facing which was not available at the time. The Portland stone was reinstated in 1963.
55 Broadway was refurbished in the 1980s. The exterior stone work was cleaned, the windows replaced with exact replicas, and a new street-level shopping mall allowed the reopening of the eastern entrance to the building.
To find out about 55 Broadway, or research our other designs, contact the Corporate Archives team.