Urban landscape — 16 May 2017
Centre Point scaffolding

The scaffolding is being taken down and the building site given greater prominence as the developers plan to start selling the luxury apartments.

Centre Point, the Marmite of London’s buildings, and its developer has undergone half a century of controversy.

Harry Hyams was born in Hendon in 1928 he made much of his fortune developing office space in London during the 1960s and 1970s.

The self-made millionaire was the son of a bookmaker starting work at the age of 17 as an office boy in a real estate agency. By his thirtieth birthday he was a millionaire, at a time when being that rich was quiet exceptional.

His success was based on a simple formula. Developing much of the post-war bomb sites he managed a multi-million property empire, centred on the capital, with a staff of just six people.

His other mantra was to let the developed property to a single ‘blue chip’ tenant who would take on responsibility for all repairs and insurance.

The construction of Centre Point, inspired distantly by Le Corbusier, was achieved using a frame of precast concrete sections, claimed as the first in London which eliminated the need for scaffolding.

When completed the British Steel Corporation, the then nationalised steel company, had agreed to take tenancy of the whole building but the deal fell through and the building stood empty from its completion in 1966 until 1975. This empty building would give Hyams the reputation as the 1970s face of greedy landlords.

Scaffold

Since 1995 it has been listed as a Grade II and here is the irony of Hyams’ business model. It’s taken 12-14 scaffolders a year to encase the building as the work progressed. It must have been one of the biggest constructions of its kind, and the building is being transformed into 82 luxury flats with a public square surrounded by shops and restaurants. The antithesis of Hyams’ mantra.

Picture: Centre Point covered in scaffolding, image by Forum contributor Daveography

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