Principal Tower and The Stage

If I look East, along a narrow angle, I can see two new tall buildings in Shoreditch: the “Principal Tower”, and “The Stage”. They are on adjacent sites, about a mile away.

Looking East: The Stage and Principal Tower

The Stage is the tall building on the left, under construction. Their website tells me this will be a “dynamic 37 level landmark for luxury living”. The reason it’s called The Stage is because the remains of the Curtain Theatre were discovered on the site. This theatre was a location for the staging of Shakespeare’s plays, and dates back to 1577. The tower is provides luxurious accommodation. The planning report says:

The scheme does not include any affordable housing, and the viability appraisal confirms that it is not possible to deliver any due to the financial burdens of excavation and archaeological work to the remains of Curtain Theatre in order to create a cultural facility.

planning report D&P/2975/02 18 December 2013, Mayor’s decision*

The architects are Perkins+Will. The developer cited on the planning application was Plough Yard Developments Ltd. That company was dissolved on 23rd Aug 2019. The current owner/developer is “The Stage Shoreditch Development Limited” according to the website “New London Development”.

The building with the truncated spire in front of The Stage is “Triton Court”, which is on the North side of Finsbury Square. The little dome is part of the same building. This dome in on the older, western, part, which was built in 1904-5. The taller part with the spire was later, 1929-30. It was the headquarters of the Royal London Mutual Assurance Society. The building interior was redeveloped in 2013-15 and is now an office development called “Alphabeta”

The tall block on the skyline to the right of picture is “Principal Tower”. This is a residential tower which, according to the website:

“..offers the opportunity to own an architectural masterpiece, equivalent to a priceless piece of art that will give constant pleasure and lasting value.”

from the sales website: PrincipalTower.com, copied on 2nd April 2020

The architect is Foster+Partners. The developer is Brookfield Property Partners. Alongside and beneath the residential tower are offices and shops, in a space called “Principal Place”. One tenant of the office space is Amazon.

Here are some pictures from the sales website:

Here are some maps:

My sketch map showing the locations of the towers in the picture
Map downloaded from the Principal Tower website. The brown dots are “cultural locations”. The red arrow shows the sightline in the picture.

The drawing took just over 2 hours. The colours are: Phthalo Turquoise (W&N), Mars Yellow(DS), Perylene Maroon (DS) and a bit of Perinone Orange (DS).

*The document is on the http://www.london.gov.uk site at this link: (downloaded 2nd April 2020) Planning Application 2012/3871

https://www.london.gov.uk/sites/default/files/public%3A//public%3A//PAWS/media_id_214919///the_stage_curtain_road_report.pdf

You can download the document here:

Buildings on Errol St

Sketching from home: here is a view of the chimney pots on the Peabody buildings of Errol St:

These chimney pots are interesting because they are all single rows. Also the chimney stacks are arranged in several different ways: along the ridge of the roof, across the ridge of the roof, up from the side of the roof, and along the structural wall between blocks. There must be a lot of fireplaces in these buildings.

Map showing the sightline of the drawing.

These blocks are part of the “Roscoe St Estate”, still managed by Peabody. I think this is blocks E and D, but I’m ready to be corrected. I don’t know what the tall industrial chimney is. If you know, please tell me.

This perspective was a challenge. Also the blocks are quite a distance away, and so it was hard work to pick out which set of chimney pots was which. After a while my concentration lapsed, and it all went into a blur. So this picture took about 3 hours elapsed time, including breaks for lunch, exercises, phone calls, and strolling about the flat.

Here are some photos of work in progress.

Colours used: Prussian Blue, Mars Yellow, Burnt Umber, Perinone Orange. I made the black for the guttering from Prussian Blue and Perylene Maroon.

Horizon panorama

Some time ago, I was given a Japanese sketchbook, which was in the form of a concertina of doubled paper. In the last few days I drew the world outside, as seen from the windows of this flat. It’s about a 270 degree view, mostly over West and North London.

During these days of indoor confinement, the weather outside has been beautiful. Stunning blue skies. So I put that in using Phthalocyanine Turquoise watercolour.

Then I made a videos. The first one, with the pointer, has an audio commentary. It’s quite quiet, you may need to turn the sound up. The second one is silent. This is the first time I’ve put videos on this site. Let me know if it works.

I added written captions also, as you see in the second video.

Here are still pictures from the panorama with captions.

70 St Mary Axe, and Finsbury Circus

I have wanted to draw this building for a long time. It has the most wonderful shape.

70 St Mary Axe, from the park by St Botolphs, 110 Bishopsgate is the tall building in the background.

It seemed like today was a good day: empty streets and sun. I found a view, and stood sketching with the sun on my back.

Three things happened.

  • A group of skateboarders chose the particular wide pavement on which I was standing to practise their sport.
  • People started to accumulate in the park nearby, with beer cans and music.
  • The sun moved, and I was in shade.

The skateboarders were skilful, and avoided me, but were a worry and distraction. The groups of people were definitely contravening current regulations on social distancing and made me uneasy. And then I was getting cold.

So I packed up my sketch, and moved on. The result is a rather dashed sketch, but somehow captures the mood, and is not unpleasing. What do you think?

There are more curves in this view than I normally encounter in an urban sketch. As well as the marvellous building, you can see the wiggle of the road called Bevis Marks, at the bottom of the sketch. That sinuous line is usually totally lost in the buses and parked cars. But it was visible today.

70 St Marys Axe is by Foggo Architects. It was finished last year. The interior design is also a sight to behold. I peered in through the glass.

I walked back through the deserted city and came to Finsbury Circus. Here was the most wonderful tranquil air and a feeling of light. I realised this was because a huge and tall Crossrail construction, which has been at the centre of Finsbury Circus for months, has now gone. The sky has reappeared. I could look back and see the buildings of the city though a fine mesh of branches and spring leaves. It was beautiful. I sat on the steps of 1 Finsbury Circus and drew it.

Phthalo turquoise (W&N), Burnt Umber (DS) and Perylene Maroon (DS), with some Mars Yellow (DS)

St Pauls and Bastion House

I am sketching the views out of the window.

Left to right: St Pauls, an office block on London Wall, Bastion House, tower in Vauxhall, South Bank Tower.

Just visible over the top of Bastion House is the top of “OneBlackfriars”. In the foreground: Mountjoy House, Barbican, on the right. Along the bottom is the Barbican Highwalk which joins Mountjoy House and Wallside.

I have drawn Bastion House before:

Bastion House, London Wall

I hastened to draw the magnificent Bastion House, on London Wall. It is due for demolition. In the foreground you see the balcony and privacy screen of the flat in Andrewes, whose leaseholder had kindly hosted me. The line of red brick, and what looks like chimneys, in the foreground are the rooftops of a … Continue reading “Bastion House, London Wall”

St Giles and Bastion House

Today Urban Sketchers London held a “sketch crawl” in the Barbican. So I joined them. An astonishing number and diversity of people assembled inside the entrance of the Barbican Centre at the appointed time of 11am. I counted about 35 and then another dozen or so joined. All shapes and sizes of people, tall, short, … Continue reading “St Giles and Bastion House”

This drawing took rather a long time as I stopped a couple of times. As a result, by the time I finished, the lights were coming on in the office buildings, and the sky was dark.

Click here to see my drawing of St Paul’s last year

HYLO Building under construction

Here is the “HYLO” Building on Bunhill Row.

HYLO, on the site of the Finsbury Tower.

It will be “premium office and retail space over 29 floors”. The developer is “CIT”:

Steve Riddell, Managing Director Developments, CIT, says [on the CIT website]: “As the line between corporate and creative becomes more integrated, our aim is to provide a workplace solution that offers flexible spaces that embrace collaboration and connectivity at the same time. We are excited for HYLO to become the defining destination in the Old Street district.”

The drawing also shows buildings associated with St Joseph’s Catholic Church, these are in front of HYLO, and dwarfed by it. The cube behind HYLO on the left is “White Collar Factory” and mixed-use office space on Old Street Roundabout. Offices on Lambs Passage are on the right. In the front, at the bottom of the drawing, are the extensive air conditioning ducts and roof apparatus on a building of Lloyds Bank. On the lower left is a YMCA, being rebuilt as accommodation for young homeless people. Here’s a map and an annotated drawing.

HYLO is on the site of the former Finsbury Tower. Here is what it looked like before:

Finsbury Tower 3rd August 2016
Finsbury Tower on Bunhill Row above Peabody Estate buildings. Finsbury Tower was a 1960s office building now undergoing extensive renovation. According to the planning application, the renovation will add 12 storeys to the existing 16, doubling the building’s height. 

Here are some other drawings in this area:

Lamb’s Buildings EC1

St Joseph’s Bunhill Row on right. From the church notice board: “A small chapel in the basement of a former school 1901”. Contains windows from St Mary Moorfields 1820. Remodelled 1993 by Anthony Delarue “in a vaguely Florentine Renaissance manner”. The crib is there until Feb 2nd, and the church is open Fridays 12noon to … Continue reading “Lamb’s Buildings EC1”

YMCA site, Errol St EC1

This site is a few minutes walk from where I live. There will be a “new home for young homeless Londoners”. “146 beds, 10 000 lives, 60 years”, says the text on the hoarding. There will be 146 en-suite rooms, an “affordable gym for the whole community” and a “social enterprise unit”. You can see … Continue reading “YMCA site, Errol St EC1”

South Bank, London

Here’s the South Bank seen from the Victoria Embankment on the North Bank.

South Bank near Blackfriars Bridge – Tate Modern, The Shard, One Blackfriars, South Bank Tower

Here you see the modern blocks, with the older wharves in front. The low red building towards the right is Oxo Tower Wharf, formerly a factory making OXO cubes, now a place with workshops for jewellers, a restaurant and various cafés. The building was designed for the Liebig Extract of Meat Company by Albert Moore in the 1920s. It was derelict in the 1970s. In the 1980s the Coin Street Community Builders saved it from demolition and with great determination gradually renovated it in stages over the next twenty years.

The tall tower on the right is the South Bank Tower, a residential block. Its height was increased recently, adding about a third on top. You can see the “seam” on the building, and I have shown it in the drawing on the right of the tower. One Blackfrairs is the asymmetrical tower in the middle, mostly residential, and completed last year.

Here is work in progress.

Here’s a map.

Street map. The arrow shows the sightline of the drawing.

There is a building to the South West of Blackfriars Bridge, labelled “HM Customs” on the map. This is next to Oxo Tower Wharf, on the river front in the centre of the drawing.

HM Customs and Excise were there from 1987, when the building was called “New Kings Beam House”. In an early part of my career they were a client of mine. This was the 1980s. I remember stepping over mud in my nice business shoes, and picking my way between derelict buildings with my briefcase, feeling rather conspicuous. After this hazardous journey, I was always glad to see the uniformed commissionaire at the door of New Kings Beam House. He was, of course, in full Customs uniform, with a white shirt and gold buttons. The entrance was from Upper Ground then. The meetings were in bright offices overlooking the river, fully carpeted and quite unlike the offices of any other of my government clients. HM Customs and Excise merged with the Inland Revenue in 2005 to form “Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs” (HMRC). They must have moved out of the building around then. It was refurbished in 2011, and is now called “Sea Containers House”, with a hotel and the offices of media and marketing companies.

This drawing took about an hour drawn leaning on a stone pillar on the Victoria Embankment. Phthalo Blue (W&N), Burnt Umber (DS) and a bit of Mars Yellow (DS) and Perinone Orange (DS).

I put more information about Sea Containers House in this post: From Oxo Tower Wharf. In the 1980s there were the gold spheres on top of the pillars facing the river. These have since vanished from the riverside façade.

Sea Containers House about 2010, showing the golden spheres. Note also the height of the Tower behind, which is now much higher, and is called South Bank Tower.

When I was sketching, I thought I could see one of them, hidden at the back. You can see it in the drawing, between the Oxo tower and South Bank Tower. Intrigued, I went looking for it later, and found a view of it from Upper Ground. It’s very odd that they kept that one, and discarded all the others.