Wednesday 28 August 2013

One Kemble Street: The Sixties Space House

When in London last week, I turned off the Aldwych into Kingsway and caught a glimpse of this familiar building. I knew it from the nineties, when I was attending an evening class in the area at CityLit.

Completed in 1966 One Kemble Street used to be called the Space House and was designed by Richard Seifert, whose buildings included hotels, railways stations and office blocks. He was known for his 1960s and 1970s designs and for having been a big influence on London architecture during that period. According to Seifert “originally designed the building to be a proper tower almost twice as high that would have served as a luxury hotel, but objections from Camden Council saw it reduced in height to what has been built today.” I actually like its stubbiness and don’t think doubling its height would have added anything to its aesthetic.

While Seifert is most famous for Centrepoint (which I also like), and the Natwest Tower, now called Tower 42 (my favourite London building), there is something about the smallness of the Space House that makes it more subtle and less ‘grand’ than the other two buildings. It’s like the difference between a sinewy Greyhound and a stocky Corgi. Both are lovely, and you wouldn’t reject the Corgi simply because it is small.

Relates blogs:
The Sound of the Sixties: Brutalist Architecture


  1. I really like working in this building. The views are awesome and distracting!

  2. Having admired this building when I walked close to, driven by and parked outside it on many occasions I finally got inside it last week. The communal areas and walkways are wonderful but the bathrooms and some of the smaller offices let it down a little bit.

  3. I worked here when it housed NATS and CAA HQ. CAA HQ is now solely based in the office block in front but they were connected by bridges on the first and second floors.
    I was there from 1984-1989, 1991, and finally 2000-2004 when NATS relocated to the south coast.
    What I would give for a tour of the building inside. Back in the day I felt like I owned it!!

  4. Thanks for the anecdotes, both of you. I apologies for not replying to the May comment before. I must have missed it. I first came across the building in the 1990s when I went to do an evening class opposite. It's really well hidden in that small enclave off Holborn, isn't it. It's a shame it's not more visible as it's a real treat when you stumble across it. I would loved to have seen it inside. For this blog I actively sought it out, having remembered it from my past.