The Ark
Talgarth Road
London W6
United Kingdom

Ralph Erskine 1992

The Ark is an original and popular landmark greeting visitors to London as they drive in on the A4 through Hammersmith, from the west or Heathrow Airport. On a cramped site hemmed in by a concrete overpass on one side and a railway cutting on another, the Ark sits serenely if rather darkly, its brown glass hiding some long gaps between lettings.

Visually, the Ark is immediately striking both outside and in. Outside, it plays the Ark idea almost to the full, although early plans for a large ramp leading up to the entrance have not been fulfilled. The idea of such a ramp is still hinted at by the cutaway in the facade, where any metaphorical ramp would fold up into hull once the animal pairs were all on board. And real multi-level decks exploit the south-facing views over west London.

 

Inside, the bright, sky-lit spaces, floor-to-roof atrium, scenic elevators and white walls are a dramatic contrast to the dark skin - and indeed to the design of most open-plan office space.

 

The airy, open, deck-like layout inside is sumptuous and generous as office space - so much so that after Seagram, the original occupant, left the building, no other organization has moved in: an office concept so enlightened that it is struggling in the real world. The circulation and communal areas are wonderful, but at the cost of extraordinarily inefficient use of space in conventional office terms.

The Ark has achieved its completely original feel both inside and out while structurally building a surprisingly conventional building. As an ark, the structure cheats, as it is not contained within the 'hull of the ship'. The columns supporting the concrete floors rise vertically, and are outside the hull at ground level, faced in decorative brick and appearing as buttresses before they pierce the skin of the building. This detail occurs below the 'water level' of the A4 overpass, and is therefore scarcely visible while driving past.

 

 

Simon Glynn 2004 (updated 2007)


How to visit

The Ark is an office building (currently empty) and is not normally open to the public. It is worth visiting from the outside. It is on the south side of Talgarth Road, just east of the Hammersmith roundabout.

By tube, the Ark is just a few minutes' walk from Hammersmith station. The tube station is in the middle of Hammersmith roundabout. Exit on the south side and walk east (towards central London) along Talgarth Road. 

By car, for a quick visit the easiest place to stop is in the BP service station on the south side of Talgarth Road on the left just before you reach the Ark if you are heading west out of town. 

For metered parking, leave the Hammersmith roundabout in the south-west corner, taking a small road which called Queen Caroline Street, underneath the flyover. Metered parking is signposted immediately on the right, in Sussex Place. Walk back east (towards central London) along Talgarth Road to find the Ark.

While visiting, you may want to see the Hammersmith Bridge Road Surgery just one or two minutes' walk away.

To visit the interior, look out for opportunities in London's annual late-September 'open house' weekend (www.londonopenhouse.org). 


Books and other web sites

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London's contemporary architecture
Ken Allinson

The definitive guide to visiting contemporary buildings in London. Clear layout, color photographs, detailed but visitor-minded descriptions of 130 buildings. If you like galinsky you'll like this. 

  

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