Look Into The Eyes of The Beast
One has to wonder if they bothered to have windows on the initial designs as those which are present seem to be almost begrudgingly in place, located only at the higher levels and surrounded by dark metal cladding. Taken later in the day the adjacent buildings can be seen reflected in these slit-eyes of The Beast that is Sampson House.
Never was a building more aptly named for this is Sampson House and what a beast of Brutalism it is. Like a great hulking mass of concrete... and concrete.. and yet more concrete. The theme here is concrete in abundance as even the windows are marginal horizontal slits, appearing only in the upper levels giving the structure the appearance of a giant hulk sitting on the South Bank of the Thames.
The building appears to have neither a care or thought for people and the surroundings as it has more the appearance of some kind of vaste industrial structure than commercial premises... it's more like a n expression of Brutalism and with it being adjacent to the Tate Modern one could easily justify this as a work of art...
..admittedly not to everyone's taste, and if you're called Prince Charles you probably have palpitations every time you even think of Sampson House and when you pass it on the Thames, turn your head towards St Pauls and think longingly of the architectural disaster that is Paternoster Square.
Just to divert momentarily onto that particularly location - Paternoster Square is a development which I just can't bring myself to photograph, even as an example of Architecture Gone Wrong. Much loved by the likes of Prince Charles, when you take a step back and look at it there is no cohesion - instead there is a mishmash of a number of architectural styles from Georgian windows through Italian arcades to, rather bizarrely, romanesque columns with greek heads on them, all positioned next to some rather unimaginative late 90's office designs.
I absolutely conceed that the previous development, while of a style I particularly like, was in completely the wrong place and was completely inappropriate for the location... but the replacement? Lummee. The only upsides are the nice big open spaces and the low-rise design.. but there it ends, as does my Paternoster Rant.
Anyway - back at Sampson House early one morning... yum. Nice. This has to be one of the definitive Brutalist monuments and a credit to the architects Fitzroy Robinson (insert a 'Aukett' at the beginning for a more up to date reference) who also designed, amongst other things, 50 Queen Anne's Gate and 200 Aldersgate Street, just down the road in my photostream. They clearly are the Marmite Architects as all these buildings generate highly polarised views of severe love or intense hate.
Built between 1976 and 1979 - must have taken that long for the concrete to set - the building was originally a processing centre for Lloyds Bank although there are numerous 'theories' of it being some kind of atom-bomb-proof vault for the nation's gold. If I were building such a vault I'd probably put it in a big hole a long way from London.
Today it's occupied by IBM (It's Better Manually - can't resist) and hosts one of Europes largest data-recovery sites complete with an Olympic-sized reserve of fuel to keep it chugging away for a month in the event of some kind of apocalypse...although why you'd want to have computers running when then world is ruined is a curious notion.
As you can see in the adjacent picture, the windows are located in giant structures which overhang the pavement below, giving the appearance of eyes... almost reptilian with their gold-coloured glazing. Look into those eyes... even if you don't like this place, know that in 30 years time all the funky stuff by the likes of Foster will be disliked just as much...