At the base of Centre Point in London, MICA has designed a new public square and retail space that celebrates the rich heritage and new future of the Grade II listed building. The architects paved over a road to make way for pedestrian friendly space on the busy New Oxford street junction also creating a new glass box for retail, opening up the original architecture at ground level for all to enjoy. MICA and photographer Andy Stagg documented the shell of the ground to second floor of the building, revealing the materials and redesign of the space before fit out.
While the blue neon light went out atop the Richard Seifert designed Centre Point sometime in the mid 2010s, it’s with surprisingly open arms that Londoners are welcoming the beacon back – albeit sans retro Tom Dixon designed rooftop bar. The 1960s building, listed in the 1990s, has been resuscitated by developer Almacantar which enlisted Conran and Partners to renovate and convert the whole tower, including designing 82 luxury residences. MICA was responsible for designing a fresh and open-minded public space and retail offering for the Centre Point Link and House, that also includes affordable housing designed by MICA.
A detail of a new staircase designed by MICA and inspired by the materials and design of the original Centre Point interiors. Photography: Andy Stagg
The pivotal part of the new ground to second floor design was driven by the decision to pedestrianise a part of the road that ran through the Centre Point complex, to create a public square instead. Where the road used to flow beneath, MICA created a glass box that preserves and reveals the original structure, creating a totally new experience for pedestrians. The design somewhat solves New Oxford street’s overcrowded pavements and connects to the Tottenham Court road Crossrail entrance designed by Hawkins\Brown.
‘It was major surgery, but with lots of respect,’ says Gavin Miller, founding partner at MICA, of the design, which involved reworking circulations for the retail spaces to make sure they each had access to the new square, as well as adding new stairs and lifts. Mezzanine levels were removed to make the spaces ‘grander’ and ‘reveal the sculptural qualities of the building’.
Small grey tile patterned like brickwork blurs the boundaries between interior and exterior. Photography: Andy Stagg
Seen in the photographs of the shell – before Vapiano and Pret move in – material details of the original architecture were given new life: ‘Where we could, we restored and reinstated, but we also did our own new versions. Unique details like the unusual columns and tiling, timber handles and terrazzo stairs were inherited from the architectural language of the building,’ says Miller.
Miller recognised the non-brutalist qualities of the building, such as the use of marble and decorative concrete, and brought this richness to the palette of the public areas, combining timber with glass and adding a small grey tile patterned like brickwork to the external and internal areas of the building and square, opening up the design and bringing back Centre Point to the people. §