New Court, Rothschild London HQ, by OMA

Design of court in London
A view from the travertine forecourt of OMA's New Court, looking towards St Swithin's Lane - the narrow medieval alley it faces. Designed for the Rothschild Group, New Court is Rem Koolhaas's first building in London
(Image credit: TBC)

Taken in from Wallpaper* HQ, OMA's new home for Rothschild (the practice's first London building) seems the most exciting addition to the 'City-scape' in years. What makes New Court such a winner, perhaps surprisingly, is its restraint in scale and effect. A ten-storey mesh cube with various annexes, topped by a two-storey 'sky pavilion', it displays a lightness of touch that is certainly missing from the Walbrook Building, Foster's still unoccupied heavy-metal blob it overlooks.

Nathan Mayer Rothschild first moved to the St Swithin's Lane site, just round the corner from the Bank of England, in 1809. This fourth headquarters for the family firm, now a financial advisory company, opened its doors at the tail end of last year. Last week, lead architect Ellen van Loon took us on a tour.

Given the lane is a skinny medieval cut-through, it's hard to take in the façade at street level. What you do get is a marble forecourt and, for the first time in 200 years, views through to Wren's St Stephen Walbrook church.

On the right is an oak-panelled archive and, to the left, a large new lobby. OMA were also commissioned to design the building's interiors, a rare privilege on a big City development. Here in the lobby, and in various meeting rooms, they have had some fun with the company's history.

There is plenty of metal - mostly aluminium and brass as a nod to the bank's long association with cold, hard commodities (the price of gold was, until recently, fixed at New Court). Metal walls are embossed with abstract impressions of the oak panels that were central to the old decorative order. Meanwhile, family portraits and Queen Anne furniture are installed in glass-box meeting rooms.

As one architecture critic pointed out, this does give the building the feel of a boutique hotel in places. Armies of wait staff trundling to and from the large kitchens and the director's dining room add to the effect (Not to mention the whiff of beef Wellington and Eton mess in the air).

This is a building that makes the most of its position, with incredible views across the City and towards St Paul's. And the best views come from the 'sky pavilion', each of its two storeys double height. It is already a popular event space with its just-lofty-enough aspect. In fact, the whole building seems perfectly pitched.

New court reception with long low desk

The travertine of the courtyard extends inside the glazed reception area at New Court. The horizontal desk was designed by OMA

(Image credit: TBC)

Walkway view with highly glassed side walls

The view across the forecourt to Christopher Wren's St Stephen Walbrook

(Image credit: TBC)

View from reception with metallic faux leather strips hanging from ceiling

The view from the forecourt of the reception area, with its curtain made of metallic faux leather strips on voile, designed by Inside Outside

(Image credit: TBC)

View of New court exterior design from bottom up

The structural steel façade with diagonal struts

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Side view of building with large windows

New Court's glazed central cube

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Looking up at the building with tree in front

A look up the building from the churchyard

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Multiple lift entrances from lobby

A bank of lifts in the lobby - only five in total travel up the building's core to the tenth floor. From there, specially appointed lifts bring visitors to each meeting room

(Image credit: TBC)

Old portraits framed in gold on the wall

Portrait's from the family's archive on a wall of the glazed tenth-floor meeting room. The Rothschild Archive has been rehoused in the new building, complete with a reading room for researchers

(Image credit: TBC)

View through glass at dining room with tables and chairs

A tenth-level dining room furnished in the Queen Anne style

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Old fashioned chair and portrait of Nathan Mayer Rothschild on wall

A portrait of Nathan Mayer Rothschild, the first of the family to occupy this site in St Swithin's Lane

(Image credit: TBC)

Transparent walls looking into dining areas

A view of the glass-box meeting rooms, which house family portraits and Queen Anne furniture

(Image credit: TBC)