Architectural and Structural Expressionism of the Lloyds Building, Lime Street, London

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This futuristic building looks like it belongs in a sci-fi movie rather than Lime Street in London. The award-winning Lloyds building (also known as the Inside-Out building) is an iconic architectural landmark and one of the most recognisable constructions on the London skyline.

Architect Richard Rogers was the brains behind the innovative design, which has its services – including water pipes and staircases – on the outside. Built between 1978 and 1986, the building also features 12 exterior lifts, which were the first of their kind in the UK.

-Twenty-five years young, the Lloyd's building is still shockingly new. Yesterday it was announced that this hi-tech City of London tour-de-force, designed by the Richard Rogers Partnership, has been listed Grade I by heritage minister John Penrose. The youngest to be granted that special status, it joins company with a select band of postwar buildings including the Royal Festival Hall and Coventry Cathedral.

Lloyds is also the first Grade I-listed building designed specifically for change. While listing protects historic monuments from insensitive alteration, the whole point of this late 20th-century reworking of Joseph Paxton's Crystal Palace, crossed with a North Sea oil-rig, is the flexible space it offers, and the promise that, one day, it might be re-arranged as easily as if it had been assembled from Meccano.

The inside-out, or "bowellist", look of the 88-metre high concrete structure, with its external wall-climbing glass lifts, exposed pipework and plug-in, stainless steel clad lavatory pods, is graphic evidence of the way this breathtaking ensemble was clipped together like a giant kit of parts.

Naturally, Lloyds has never been to everyone's taste – too much like an oil-refinery thumped down next to Wren's City churches and Neo-Classical banks clad in Portland stone – and its provocative design is all the more remarkable given that it was commissioned by and for apparently conservative, pin-striped City types.

With its soaring central atrium, the radical, open-plan interior is nothing short of sensational. Even then, it abounds in surprises. High up in the building, a door opens to reveal a complete Robert Adam boardroom of the 1760s, representing most people's idea of what Grade I listed buildings look like. Attitudes to modern architecture have clearly changed.

The biggest change of all since then, however, has been among conservationists themselves: in the 1980s, they tended to see Lloyds as a modern monstrosity. Now they love it.

Architecturally, the Lloyd's Building draws heavily on architect Richard Rogers' earlier Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris.

At the heart of the building is a huge atrium, 14 floors and 76 meters (249 feet) tall.

On the ground floor of the atrium sits the Lutine Bell, salvaged from the French frigate La Lutine which surrendered to the British in 1793. The bell is rung once for good news and twice for bad, and the expansive atrium carries the sound to everyone in the building.

This was the first in a trio of City office buildings designed by Richard Rogers; it was followed by 88 Wood Street in 1998, and the Lloyd's Register of Shipping Building in 2000.

Inside the glass and steel hides an unexpected treasure: the classical Italianate wood-panelled Adam Room. Used by the Council of Lloyd's, it was designed by Robert Adam in 1763 and was originally the dining room of Bowood House until brought to Lloyd's piece by piece.

Essential services are sited on the exterior of the building in six vertical towers, thus creating large and uninterrupted spaces within.

The building's height rises from seven storeys on the south elevation through a series of terraces to its full height on the north side.

Due to its original glazing system the building emits a warm glow visible from the exterior and is even more spectacular at night.

The building's extravagant design led to numerous awards, including Civic Trust Award, Concrete Society Commendation and Financial Times 'Architecture at Work' Award in 1987, crowned with RIBA Award in 1988 certifying its success and recognition.

The building takes its name from one Edward Lloyd who founded a coffee shop on this site in 1688, from where maritime insurance was conducted.

The external windows have triple layered solar control glass with a ventilated cavity enabling it to refract back artificial light into the interior. This helps to decrease the need for light after sunset.

The 12 external glass lifts were the first in Britain.

33,510 cubic metres of concrete were used in the building's construction, as were 12,000 square metres of glass, 30,000 square metres of stainless steel cladding, 5,000 square metres of anodised aluminium frame and 2,000 square metres of painted steel.

Incorporated into the building are 1,400 kilometres (864 miles) of window gasket seals and 80 kilometres (49 miles) of ducts and pipes.

The total possible underwriting area is 19,000 square metres.

The Lloyd's Building is one of the finest examples of British High-Tech architecture and has been described as a 'mechanical cathedral'.

The building was awarded the Eternit 8th International Prize for Architecture (special mention), 1988.

The building won the PA Award for Innovation in Building Design and Construction, 1988.

The imposing rostrum on the ground floor which houses the famous 'Lutine Bell' is fashioned from mahogany and was brought to the current building from the previous Lloyd's Building of 1928 designed by Sir Thomas Edwin Cooper.

Part of the original Sir Thomas Edwin Cooper-designed Lloyd's Building's retained façade along Leadenhall Street is incorporated into the current structure.

Construction costs at completion were around £75,000,000.

The building was opened by Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh on November 18th 1986.

The building is noted for its multi-storey, free-standing escalator array within the atrium; the mechanisms within are exposed and are punctuated in yellow.

Awarded the Supreme Award for Structural Engineering Excellence, the Award's highest accolade.

The atrium was influenced by Joseph Paxton's Crystal Palace of 1851.

Lloyd's Building

Lloyd's Building is the headquarters of the famous Lloyd's of London insurance institution. It has a unique design that stands out significantly against the backdrop of the other buildings that surround it at 1 Lime Street in The City of London.


Lloyd's Building was originally designed by Richard Rogers, an architect that had worked on numerous projects throughout the world. Rogers was one of two architects that designed the famed Pompidou Centre in Paris, France. Rogers began his design in the mid-1970s and was greatly influenced by Archigram's work.

Design and Construction

Lloyd's Building was one of the most innovative buildings of its time in London. To this day, it is still seen as one of the most unique buildings in London by many architectural scholars. It is comprised of six towers, three of which are considered to be the "main" towers. The other three towers are considered service towers. The design places the staircases, lifts, and service conduits on the outside of the building. This was intended to give the rectangular interior of the building a less cluttered feel. It also imparts an industrial and unique look to the outside of the building. There are a total of 12 glass lifts attached to the outside of the building.

The building is 289 feet tall and has a total of 14 floors. Construction began in 1978 and was completed 8 years later in 1986. It cost roughly 75 million GBP to complete the project and was contracted by Bovis Property Development. Ove Arup and Partners was the primary structural engineer on the project during the construction of all 14 floors.


The site where the current Lloyd's Building sits was once home to the original headquarters of Lloyd's of London. The original building was constructed in 1928 and was abandoned during an expansion of the institution during the late 1950s. In 1958, Lloyd's of London moved to another building across the street at 51 Lime Street. Lloyd's of London continued to expand into the late 1970s and found itself once again in need of an expansion to larger offices. This is when the prospect of creating a new building on the site of the original headquarters originated.

At this point, Lloyd's contracted famed architect Richard Rogers to create a design for their new building and to help redevelop the original site. The original building was demolished quickly and construction began on the new building in 1978. At the opening of the new building in 1986, Queen Elizabeth II herself was on hand to open the building.

Current Use

Lloyd's Building is the home of Lloyd's of London. Lloyd's of London is not a company by the standard definition of the word. It is instead a convergence of investors that pool risk as part of one of the most unique insurance institutions in the world. Lloyd's has become famous through most of the world over the years due in part to the sometimes unusual insurance policies it writes. For example, many movie stars' legs and voices have been covered by the company.


The closest London Underground Stations to the Lloyds building are Monument, Fenchurch Street, Aldgate, Tower Hill, Bank.

The building achieved instant fame for the way its stainless steel services and circulation are mounted on the outside of the building's concrete structure, creating open, flexible interior spaces.

"We were able to convince Lloyd’s that we would put the mechanical services on the outside because mechanical services have a short life," Rogers told Dezeen in an exclusive interview last year.

"[We] kept the floors clear because Lloyd’s said they wanted two things," Rogers added. "They wanted a building that would last into the next century - we met that one - and they wanted a building that could meet their changing needs."

Lloyd's became one of the most recognised example of the "high-tech" style of architecture, although Rogers himself said he was never keen on the term.

"I have no great love for high-tech," he said. "One would like to think one uses the appropriate materials, but of course appropriate materials are shaped by the time you live in."

"We thought Lloyd's was the absolute ultimate in the art of technology," he added. "When I look at it now, it's practically hand made."

Update: in a letter to the Sunday Times newspaper, Rogers said that a Lloyd's spokesperson had told the architect that the company had "neither intention of leaving – they are, in fact, negotiating their rent review with the building’s new owners – nor are they unhappy with the way the building performs."

"The building has proved to be very flexible and is still a highly desirable office that has attained some of the best rents in the city and proved to be a fantastic commercial success," said Rogers. "And we know that it will remain so."

The interview with Richard Rogers features in our new book, Dezeen Book of Interviews, which is on sale now.

In our next movie focussing on key projects by Richard Rogers, the British architect talks exclusively to Dezeen about his radical Lloyd's building in London and explains why he is not completely comfortable with the "high-tech" label that is often applied to his work.

"We thought Lloyd's building was the ultimate in technology, but it's practically hand made"

Richard Rogers of Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners. Photo copyright: Dezeen

Completed in 1986 for insurance company Lloyd's of London, Lloyd's building comprises three main towers, each with an accompanying service tower, which surround a central rectangular atrium housing the main trading floor.

"We thought Lloyd's building was the ultimate in technology, but it's practically hand made"

Lloyd's building in London. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

"So even St Paul’s was a shock of the new. We think its been there forever - certainly Prince Charles thinks it has been there forever - but it hasn’t. It was a risky building to build in those times, which is why it is great."

Rogers was speaking to Dezeen to mark the opening of an exhibition called Richard Rogers RA: Inside Out at the Royal Academy of Arts in London.

Watch our previous interview with Rogers about the exhibition »

See our earlier story about the exhibition »

"We thought Lloyd's building was the ultimate in technology, but it's practically hand made"

Rogers' sketch of Lloyd's building. Copyright: Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners