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
Simon Glynn 2004
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
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.