Public space between buildings influences both the built form and the civic quality of the city, be they streets, squares or parks. A balance between the public and private realm is central to the practice's design approach. Buildings and their surrounding spaces should interrelate and define one another, with external spaces functioning as rooms without roofs.
It is the celebration of public space, and the encouragement of public activities that drives the form of the practice's buildings. It is the building's scale and relationship with the street or square that helps to encourage public activity and create a people-friendly environment. For example, the steps that lead to the Channel 4 Headquarters, the narrow passage that runs around the Lloyd's of London building, the small churchyard in front of Lloyd's Register, the close around the National Assembly for Wales or the square in front of the Bordeaux Law Courts are all examples where the relationship between buildings and public spaces demonstrate how the architect's responsibility can successfully extend beyond the brief to include the public realm.
The Pompidou Centre in Paris, designed by Richard Rogers in collaboration with Renzo Piano and completed in 1977, illustrates how a building can bring life to a rundown area of a city. The design deliberately dedicated over half of the site to a public piazza. The public realm, in this case, extends from the square up the facade of the building in the form of 'a street in the air' , a great diagonal escalator crossing the facade to connect all the floors. The Pompidou Centre, including its piazza has become the most visited building in Europe with spontaneous street theatre and other events in the piazzas complimenting the activities within the building.
The concern for public space continues to be firmly embedded in the vision for the practice's work. In a recent project located in the City of London, for a high-rise office building at 122 Leadenhall Street, seven of its 48 storeys are dedicated to cafés, restaurants and other public facilities within a large south-facing volume connected to an existing plaza which flows through the building uninterrupted at ground level.
The enormous scale of this space is unprecedented in London, and will become the focal point for the project as well as a major new meeting space contributing to the vibrant life of the City. The project is a fine example of how private and public realm can combine to contribute to the quality of our cities.
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