Centre Point

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Centre Point
Centre Point London.jpg
General information
Type Office
Architectural style Brutalist
Address 101–103 New Oxford Street
Town or city London
Country England
Construction started 1963
Completed 1966
Height 117m (385ft)
Technical details
Structural system Reinforced Concrete
Floor count 34
Design and construction
Architect George Marsh
Architecture firm R. Seifert and Partners
Structural engineer Pell Frischmann
Main contractor Wimpey Construction
Fountains at the base

Centre Point is a building in Central London, comprising a 33 storey office tower; a 9 storey block to the east including shops, offices, retail units and maisonettes; and a linking block between the two at first floor level.[1] It occupies 101–103 New Oxford Street and 5–24 St Giles High Street, WC1, with a frontage also to Charing Cross Road,[1] close to St Giles Circus and almost directly above Tottenham Court Road tube station. The site was once occupied by a gallows.[2]

Designed by George Marsh of the architects R. Seifert and Partners,[3][4][5] it was built between 1961 and 1966.[1] The 398 ft tower stood empty from its completion until 1975.[3] One of the first skyscrapers in London, it is now the city's joint 27th tallest building.[6] Since 1995 it has been a Grade II listed building.[7] The building in 2015 was converted from office space to luxury flats.[8]


Centre Point was built as speculative office space by property tycoon Harry Hyams, who had leased the site at £18,500 a year for 150 years. Hyams intended that the whole building be occupied by a single tenant, and negotiated fiercely for its approval. Like American real estate developer Larry Silverstein's use of insurance, zoning, and other bureaucratic disputes with the City of New York and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to his advantage when bidding for the leasing rights to the World Trade Center Complex, Hyams was eventually approved to build 32 floors in return for providing a new road junction between St. Giles Circus, Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road, which the LCC could not afford to build on its own.

The building was designed by Seifert's partner George Marsh[3] with engineers Pell Frischmann and was constructed by Wimpey Construction from 1963 to 1966[9] for £5.5 million.[10] It is 117 m (385 ft) high, has 34 floors[11] and 27,180 m2 (292,563 sq ft) of floor space.

The precast segments were formed of fine concrete utilising crushed Portland Stone and were made by Portcrete Limited at Portland, Isle of Portland, Dorset. They were transported to London by lorry.[12]

On completion, the building remained empty for many years, leading to its nickname as "London's Empty Skyscraper."[13] With property prices rising and most business tenancies taken for set periods of 10 or 15 years, Hyams could afford to keep it empty and wait for his single tenant at the asking price of £1,250,000; he was challenged to allow tenants to rent single floors but consistently refused. At that point, skyscrapers were rare in London; in fact, the Royal Family - especially Prince Charles - has campaigned vigorously to preserve the low-rise, traditional nature of London architecture, and generally oppose tall structures. This, of course, has led to criticism of the Prince as "elitist" and "behind-the-times" when it comes to understanding actual daily life in a city. [14] However, the prominent nature of Centre Point led to it becoming a rallying symbol of the greed and social irresponsibility in the property industry.[15] Some campaigners demanded that the government of Edward Heath should intervene and take over the building, and at one point in June 1972 Peter Walker (then Secretary of State for the Environment) offered £5 million for the building. Eventually, Hyams agreed to lease the building by floors but the arrangements were stalled.

In January 1974 an umbrella group of Direct Action housing campaigners, including Jim Radford, Ron Bailey and Jack Dromey, organised a weekend occupation of Centre Point to highlight the fact that the building (and its luxury flats) was deliberately being left empty while many thousands were homeless or living in grossly overcrowded conditions across London. This successful occupation gained enormous publicity and increased the political pressure on the government and local authorities to press for the development to be occupied and used.

From July 1980 to March 2014, the building was the headquarters of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI). In 1995 Centre Point became a Grade II listed building. Architecture critic Nikolaus Pevsner described Centre Point as "coarse in the extreme". In 2009, the building won the Concrete Society's Mature Structures Award.[16]

The Centrepoint charity

At 5:30 pm on Friday, 18 January 1974, Housing Action Campaign activists and supporters (two of whom had obtained jobs with the Burns Security Company who were guarding Centre Point) occupied the building to protest about it being left empty while Londoners endured a housing crisis which saw many people living in miserable conditions while housing waiting lists grew longer. The occupation lasted until Sunday 20 January and achieved its primary objective of gaining massive (and mostly sympathetic) media coverage. The housing charity Centrepoint had been formed five years earlier, and was named for the fact that its first night shelter was at the centre of the Soho parish, but after the occupation, the coincidence of its name with the building led to it being associated with the building as a symbol of the plight of the homeless.

New ownership

In October 2005, Centre Point was bought from previous owners, Blackmoor LP, by commercial property firm Targetfollow for £85 million.[11] The building was extensively refurbished. It has since been purchased by Almacantar, who have received planning permission to further refurbish the building to plans by Rick Mather Architects.[10]

Occupiers in the building now include US talent agency William Morris Agency; the state-owned national oil company of Saudi Arabia, Aramco; Chinese oil company Petrochina; and electronic gaming company EA Games. Its longest-standing tenant was the CBI (33 years, 7 months).[6]


In Autumn 2008 Paramount[17] was opened at the top of Centre Point. Initially operating as a private members club, however this policy was changed in 2010 with Paramount opening its doors to the general public. Occupying the top three floors of the building, Paramount was designed by British designer Tom Dixon, and includes event space on the 31st floor, bar and restaurant on 32nd, and a 360-degree viewing gallery on the 33rd floor – the top floor of the building.

Centre Point Observation Deck

Views from the venue are described as spectacular,.[18] Pierre Condou, owner of the club, negotiated a 35-year lease with Targetfollow on the 31st, 32nd and 33rd floors for the space.[19]

Apartment 58

In February 2013, the global members club for creative industries, ‘Apartment 58’, launched APT58 at Centre Point. The members club, on the lower floors of the building, features a night club, meeting rooms, a locker and mail service and a young creative lounge. The venue also includes a late-license ground floor street-food concept restaurant.[20]


The Centre Point fountains have been removed as part of the demolition of the plaza for Crossrail

The promised transport interchange and highways improvements were not delivered following the original plan. The pedestrian subway attracted anti-social activities.[21] On 19 June 2006 the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment pointed to the building as an example of bad design, where badly-designed pavements force pedestrians into the bus lane as they try to pass the building and accounts for the highest level of pedestrian injuries in Central London. With the planned redevelopment of Tottenham Court Road Underground Station a framework has been adopted to redevelop the traffic island beneath Centre Point as an open space.

The site of the plaza and fountains will be a work site for the Crossrail and station expansion works at Tottenham Court Road station. The plaza is being demolished and the fountains have been removed.

Cultural references

  • Centre Point is featured in the 1977 horror film 'The Medusa Touch'. A Boeing 747 aircraft is seen to hit the top of the tower and destroy it. The resulting collapse engulfs the Dominion theatre next door.
  • Centre Point is one of the locations Jim (Cillian Murphy) walks past in the 'deserted London' scenes of UK horror film 28 Days Later (2002). Director Danny Boyle also references it (as " 'Centre Point,' the famous empty/partially empty building in this busy section of London") on the DVD commentary.
  • The character "Old Bailey" camps on top of Centre Point at one point in Neil Gaiman's novel Neverwhere. He describes it as an "ugly and distinctive Sixties skyscraper" and goes on to remark that "the view from the top was without compare, and, furthermore, the top of Centre Point was one of the few places in the West End of London where you did not have to look at Centre Point itself".
  • The building is mentioned in the sixth episode of the BBC comedy series The Thick of It. During an inquiry into the UK government's culture of leaking information to the press, Stuart Pearson, a Conservative spin doctor is asked about an analogy he has made between government transparency and the Pompidou Centre. A member of the inquiry suggests that rather than creating a "political Pompidou Centre," Pearson has created "the opposite, Centre Point - I mean everyone sees it looming over them but nobody has the faintest idea what happens in there." To which Pearson replies, "I think there's some kind of club on the top floor."
  • The building is also the location of the final battle scene and the headquarters for 'The Tower' in Kate Griffin's 2009 novel 'A Madness of Angels'.

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Historic England. "Centre Point (1113172)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 3 April 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Peter Ackroyd, "London: The biography", Chatto & Windus, London, 2000. ISBN 1-85619-716-6
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Cherry, Bridget; Pevsner, Nikolaus (1988). London 4: North. The Buildings of England. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. p. 316. ISBN 0300096534. Retrieved 5 October 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Stamp, Gavin (January 2011). "Seifert, Richard [formerly Rubin] (1910–2001), architect". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Online ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. Retrieved 5 October 2014. In truth, the best and most famous building attributed to him was not his own design but that of the second partner in R. Seifert & Partners at the time, George Marsh<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Cruikshank, Dan (January 1995). "Centre Point 1966-1995". RIBA Journal. Royal Institute of British Architects. 102 (1): 39–45. What is certain is that the first set of drawings to show Centre Point virtually as built are dated September 1962 and are all drawn and signed by George Marsh, the partner in charge of the job.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. 6.0 6.1 Targetfollow news archive, 11/08/09[dead link]
  7. Centre Point and Pond to Front, Camden, British Listed Buildings. Retrieved 8 December 2012.
  8. http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/jan/26/work-begins-luxury-flat-conversion-london-centre-point
  9. White, p. 26
  10. 10.0 10.1 Almacantar
  11. 11.0 11.1 Targetfollow news archive, 06/10/05[dead link]
  12. "Portland; an Illustrated History" by Stuart Morris, The Dovecote Press
  13. http://www.urban75.org/london/centrepoint.html
  14. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/theroyalfamily/5317802/The-Prince-of-Wales-on-architecture-his-10-monstrous-carbuncles.html
  15. http://www.urban75.org/london/centrepoint.html
  16. 43rd Concrete Society Awards
  17. Paramount
  18. Paramount Bar by Tom Dixon (London)
  19. Pierre Condou’s club at top of London’s Centre Point – The Condou set
  20. "APT58". The Handbook. 25 February 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. An architectural icon from the 1960s, Urban75, April 2012. Retrieved 8 December 2012.


  • White, Valerie (1980). Wimpey: The first hundred years. George Wimpey.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links