Under construction ...Centre Point.

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    Col. Richard Siefert's controversial Centre Point building nearing completion in 1964, seen from Oxford Street.
    I seem to remember that planning permission for the building was granted as part of a scheme to construct a new roundabout which would have resulted in the destruction of the area around St Giles Circus. Eventually the roundabout was shelved and a one-way system was substituted. Once it had been completed, Centre Point's owner, the tycoon Harry Hyams, allowed it to stand empty for many years, rapidly increasing in value in the 1960s property boom. Also, as long as it remained unlet, Hyams didn't have to pay rates on the building. His cynicism earned him a great deal of opprobrium ...a common fate of people who get rich quick while their accusers don't. Eventually he went on a charm offensive, placing full-page advertisements in the national newspapers in an attempt to paint his motives in a favourable light. In the advertisements Centre Point was described as "this very wonderful building". This was pounced upon by Private Eye and the phrase "very wonderful" became part of its vocabulary.
    Compared to most 1960s office buildings, Centre Point strikes me as slender, nicely fenestrated and not unattractive. From a distance it has a certain grandeur, but no modern architect seems capable of designing a building that is attractive close-up at ground level.

    locus_imagination, Morven, pop_spex, and 8 other people added this photo to their favorites.

    1. Old Sawley Youth 107 months ago | reply


      We concur once again:- "Shelter" used to campaign against Mr Hyams' specualtive venture, claiming that the space should be used to house the homeless. The name "Centre Point" became synonymous with greed.

      In contrast, the building itself is one of the better 'sixties structures in The West End, certainly more pleasing to the eye than the Park Lane Hilton Hotel, iconic though that may be.

      I detect touches of "Alpha Tower" in Birmingham, maybe not by the same architect, but a "distant relative" in style; a similarly large concrete structure made to appear strangely slender.


    2. Whipper_snapper 107 months ago | reply

      Funnily enough I shot the sign at the top of this building in colour a few weeks ago.

      Wasn't Hyams the original "unacceptable face of capitalism"?


    3. Fray Bentos 107 months ago | reply

      Yes ...I'd forgotten about that. I think he was. It was Ted Heath who first used the phrase ...or am I thinking of "economical with the truth"?

    4. Ian Fuller 106 months ago | reply

      I seem to remember that Harry Hyams's excuse was that he wanted to lease the building to one tenant. It would have had to have been a major company.

      What's the status of Centre Point now? I guess it's fully let to many smaller companies. Or is it a Government office?

    5. Bricklinfan 104 months ago | reply

      No....I'm pretty sure it was Tiny Roland who was unacceptable

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