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Time and Life Building

A Grade II* Listed Building in City of Westminster, Westminster

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Latitude: 51.5108 / 51°30'39"N

Longitude: -0.1434 / 0°8'36"W

OS Eastings: 528937

OS Northings: 180736

OS Grid: TQ289807

Mapcode National: GBR CD.ZL

Mapcode Global: VHGQZ.G9K4

Plus Code: 9C3XGV64+8J

Entry Name: Time and Life Building

Listing Date: 29 March 1988

Last Amended: 26 April 2013

Grade: II*

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1264063

English Heritage Legacy ID: 428782

Location: West End, Westminster, London, W1S

County: Westminster

Electoral Ward/Division: West End

Built-Up Area: City of Westminster

Traditional County: Middlesex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Greater London

Church of England Parish: St George, Hanover Square

Church of England Diocese: London

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Office building with shops at ground floor level.1951-3 for Time Life International, by Michael Rosenauer, with interiors supervised by Sir Hugh Casson and Misha Black, completed 1954. Refurbished 1983, 1991-3 and 2004.


Steel frame, with internal brickwork; floors are reinforced concrete on clay pots. The exterior is clad in Portland stone above the ground floor which is clad in buff polished stone above a dark grey plinth. Principal interiors are clad in travertine and hardwood.

Seven storeys, the top storey set back, all above a basement and car park. It occupies a corner plot on New Bond Street and Bruton Street, the main entrance being on Bruton Street. The building was designed to stand free of the buildings round it, and as there is no conventional lightwell, the open space between it and its neighbours, from the second floor upwards is important. Split level terrace gardens at 1st floor level at the rear and 2nd floor level facing Bond Street bring light into the building on all sides, and particularly as originally conceived, to the double-height reception area, now offices and show rooms. The central lift stack, with two opposing secondary stairwells wrapped round it, occupies minimum space.

The interior was set out as a series of spaces flowing from the entrance, through the foyer, rising via the main stair to the first floor reception area and thence to the terrace. From the entrance, steps rise to the foyer and stairwell, the latter since the 1990s enclosed behind glazed screens at ground floor level. A double-height inner foyer and stairwell, lit by a clerestory window, rises to the first floor landing and lifts. A glazed wall, installed in 1983, now separates the foyer from the former reception area. This double-height space is lit by two tiers of near full-height windows and by doors which open onto the terrace. On the internal longitudinal wall is a balcony, now enclosed. A further glazed screen wall added in 2004, and fully enclosing the balcony, created corridors at 1st and 2nd floor levels that give access to the main and westerly set of offices. First floor offices (now Hermès) overlooking New Bond Street, have been subdivided, according with the structural grid, and refitted. Office floors above this level are also refitted.

Deliberately measured rectilinear block, laid out on a rigorous 7.5m grid, the Bruton Street elevation in four bays, the entrance to the third bay; the New Bond Street elevation in five bays; three full-height bays, two bays of two storeys beneath Moore's structural screen. Ground floor currently divided into three shops. Upper floor windows are arranged in groups of five per bay and have replaced double glazed two-light units.

Enriching the New Bond Street elevation, the screen by Henry Moore - the integration of sculpture with the architecture - is formed of four colossal abstract figures within shaped, near rectangular openings. The outer faces towards New Bond Street are more deeply modelled than the flatter rear faces. Shops below have plain, rectangular, polished buff stone entrances and dark grey plinths and shop windows in moulded frames, some replaced or over-painted.

The main entrance to Bruton Street has a curved, polished, buff marble surround to a moulded steel door frame that includes a glazed overlight, the forms reminiscent of the inter-war period. Mounted on the transom above the entrance is a nickel bronze sculpture, 'The Symbol of Community' by Maurice Lambert RA (1901-1964), part of the original artwork and integral to the building. Ground floor display windows have ogival moulded polished bronze frames. On the west elevation is a raised geometrical abstract form in tooled stone.

In the foyers, designed by Sir Hugh Casson and Misha Black; walls, floors and stairs are lined in tones of grey travertine and Derbydene marble, contrasting with polished hardwood vertical panels with a dark hardwood fillet lining the stairwell, the lift stack and the door at the head of the landing. In some areas the hardwood is replicated in an applied and painted finish to match the original. The staircase balustrade by RY Goodden (1909-2002) and Ellis Miles, is finished in black leather, tooled and patterned with brass studs, and was designed to light up. Adjacent to the entrance, 'The Complexities of Man', a welded iron sculpture by Geoffrey Clarke RA (b 1924); opposite the stair, 'Spirit of Architecture', 1952 by Ben Nicholson (1894-1982); both were commissioned for the building and have been ruled integral to the building.

The first floor reception area, now offices and showroom, has reverted to a double-height space but is slightly reduced in length. The end wall, part of the inner wall and its integral doors and part of the inner wall of the upper balcony are lined in hardwood panelling, again with a darker fillet. The ceiling is coffered in rectangular panels inside a deep border which extends beyond the current confines of the room and above the balcony.

The focal point of the lower terrace is the Draped Reclining Figure by Henry Moore, again specifically designed for the building and ruled integral to it.

Elsewhere shop interiors and office spaces are completely refitted and are not of special interest. Likewise the basement and car park are not of special interest.


The Time and Life Building was built in 1951-53 as the European headquarters of the American corporation Time Life International, to house their British editorial staff, while also providing lettable space for other tenants. The building was largely finished in December 1952, but was not formally opened until 1953, and the fitting out of the upper floors was not completed until 1954.

Time Life was the first of a series of enterprising American companies to patronise good architects and designers in a way not matched by native entrepreneurs. The company wanted to 'reflect the character and style of the best in contemporary British design' (Architectural Design, April 1953) and the project benefited for being the first major commercial office building of the post-war period to be built without the restrictions applied to most projects at the time. For the shell of the building they used Michael Rosenauer, the architect appointed by the freeholder, Pearl Assurance, in 1950. However, for the interior they were free to choose their own designers, appointing Sir Hugh Casson, recently Director of Architecture to the Festival of Britain. He brought in Misha Black and many of the team from the South Bank, for example, Peter Shepheard to design the terrace, and Leonard Manasseh to design the dining rooms. No other building of the post-war period, save Coventry Cathedral, had artists of such calibre working upon it.

In the post-war period Michael Rosenauer (1884-1971), became a leading exponent of the design of commercial buildings. His book Modern Office Buildings, published by Batsford in 1956 became a standard work on the subject, this building illustrating the frontispiece. His background in designing working-class housing in Vienna gave him a reputation for compact planning. Here, the manner in which he minimised public circulation space, most notably by wrapping the requisite two stairs around each other, was much commended. He was also acknowledged for encouraging the integration of art with architecture, especially sculpture, in this working with Henry Moore. He collaborated with Moore on one other notable, although unsuccessful, competition entry for the English Electric Company on the Gaiety Theatre site in London. In April 1963 the publication The Studio claimed of the Time and Life Building that 'no other commission has integrated Moore's work in architecture so completely.'

Henry Moore (1898-1986) was probably Britain's leading modern sculptor at the time, with a truly international reputation. His award of the International Prize for sculpture at the 1948 Venice Biennale marked a turning point in his career. Other commissions associated with buildings were for free-standing pieces, making the sculpted screen here a rare example of his work in this form. His later work concentrated on the relationship between sculpture and landscape, making so urban a setting as this also a rarity. Moore wrote extensively on his two commissions for Time Life, welcoming this opportunity to integrate sculpture into a building:

'The fact that it is only a screen with space behind it, led me to carve it with a back as well as a front, and to pierce it, which gives an interesting penetration of light, and also from Bond Street makes it clear that it is a screen and not a solid part of the building.' (Henry Moore, Volume II: Sculpture and Drawings 1949-54, 1965.)

Moore later had the idea of trying to make the four components of the frieze revolve, but the building work was too advanced and the concept too expensive to carry out.

Above the entrance, Symbol of Community by Maurice Lambert RA (1901-64), son of GW Lambert ARA and brother of the musician and impresario Constant Lambert. Lambert worked in both stone and bronze, varying from portrait busts to more abstracted sculpted figures, for example for the liner the Queen Elizabeth.

The Time and Life Building was specifically designed to stand free of the buildings around it, and as there is no conventional lightwell, it is naturally lit from the terraced open space between it and the adjacent building on New Bond Street. In November 1951 modifications were approved for a double-height reception area which opened directly off the stairwell and onto this terrace. In 1983 the reception area was closed off from the upper landing and stairwell to create a conference room, reduced in height. The building was refurbished in 1991-3 by Elsworth Sykes Partnership, reversing the previous horizontal division of the reception area but further enclosing the room, and installing glazed screens in the ground floor foyer. It was the subject of a major refit again in 2004.

Sir Hugh Casson (1910-1999) trained as an architect, setting up in partnership with Neville Conder in 1946. He was appointed Director of Architecture to the Festival of Britain in 1948, a high profile job which led to prestigious commissions and for which he was knighted. Notable work included the masterplan and animal houses for London Zoo, where the West Bridge and Elephant and Rhino House are listed at Grade II and II* respectively, buildings at Birmingham University, the Arts Faculty buildings at Cambridge (Grade II), buildings at Lincoln's Inn and for London University, and with HT Cadbury-Brown and RY Goodden, new premises for the Royal College of Art (listed Grade II). He was perhaps best known as a public figure, administrator and teacher, in 1952 setting up the School of Interior Design at the Royal College of Art, which he ran until his retirement in 1975, and as President of the Royal Academy from 1976-1984.

The interior attracted attention when the Time and Life Building was opened in June 1953, when it was the subject of a seminar organised by the Institute of Contemporary Arts. After the perceived jauntiness of the Festival of Britain, the project provided the opportunity for a more serious and potentially longer lasting tribute to British design. More money and better materials were available, facts confirmed by the unusually high quality of the interior and diversity of its artwork. It was intended as a free-flowing space, using a muted palette of colours and natural finishes, a popular combination of the period. In the hall and reception area, by Casson and Black, grey travertines contrasted with polished hardwood. Opposite the stair, the relief by Ben Nicholson was carefully positioned to attract the best light and the eyes of visitors descending the staircase.

The work of Ben Nicholson OM (1894-1982) came to be seen, with that of Moore and Barbara Hepworth, to whom he was briefly married, as the quintessence of British modernism in art. Having studied at the Slade School of Art, his work was inspired by Post Impressionism and Cubism, producing his first geometric and abstract reliefs in 1933. He was aligned with the group of like-minded artists and designers who advocated the application of constructivist principles of mathematical precision, clear lines and lack of ornament to public and private art.

The staircase balustrade by R Y Goodden and Ellis Miles, finished in black leather, tooled and patterned with brass studs, was designed to light up. Set in the foyer was a relief in welded iron by Geoffrey Clarke RA (now in the ground floor reception area).

Clarke (b 1924) is noted for both his cast metal sculpture, particularly in aluminium, and for designs for stained glass windows. He trained at Preston and Manchester and the Royal College of Art. He showed at the Venice Biennale in 1952 and has since been included in major exhibitions of British sculpture, at the Tate in 1960, Royal Academy in 1972 and the Whitechapel Gallery in 1981. His work includes the nave windows for Coventry Cathedral and the Treasury at Lincoln Cathedral, and fixtures and fittings at Coventry and Chichester cathedrals and for the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths.

Other fittings included a wall clock, set within sun and lion supporters, and designed by Christopher and Robin Ironside (removed). Curtains in the reception area (later the conference room) were designed by F H K Henrion.

The cafeteria on the sixth floor was designed by Casson, Neville Conder, Patience Clifford and Robin Dunn. Three walls were glazed, the fourth panelled. Running above the plywood seating on this wall was a canopy, decorated on the underside with murals by the architect Oliver Cox (1920-2010), depicting the various courses of a meal. Cox's small line drawings were enlarged photographically, further worked on and coloured, to striking effect. The executive dining room and anteroom, identical in treatment, were designed by Leonard Manasseh (who designed the '51 cafe at the Festival of Britain) and Ian Baker. Panelling and cupboards were built up with dark wood and white marble, cut with grid-like precision and set against a background of Connemara marble. Offices on the second and third floors were divided by built-in bookcases and lined in hardwood panelling. The terrace was designed by Peter Shepheard, who landscaped the South Bank Festival site, with Moore’s draped figure as the centrepiece of the lower terrace.

In 1998 a judicial review ruled that the three works of art commissioned for the building, which at the time were under threat of removal, were integral to the building, namely: Draped Reclining Figure by Henry Moore, Complexities of Man by Geoffrey Clarke and Spirit of Architecture by Ben Nicholson. Astrolabe, the clock by Christopher and Robin Ironside and also under threat at the time, was not considered integral and has since been removed.

The Time and Life Building stands alongside other important buildings of the time in central London such as Congress House, the TUC Memorial Building, designed by David du R Aberdeen in 1948 and built in 1953-57 (Grade II*), which includes a war memorial in the form of giant sculpture by Jacob Epstein, set against a courtyard screen, and built-in sculpture by Bernard Meadows. Also, Sandersons, in Berners Street, of 1957-60, by Reginald Uren (also Grade II*) incorporated glass by John Piper. Time Life set a precedent followed by other international companies, notably the Cummins Engineering Building in Darlington by Roche and Dinkerloo (1962, listed Grade II*) and the Heinz headquarters at Hayes, Hillingdon by Skidmore Owings and Merrill (1962-65, listed Grade II*).

Reasons for Listing

Time and Life Building,1951-3 by Michael Rosenauer, interiors under the direction of Sir Hugh Casson, is listed at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:

* Architectural interest: intended as a showcase for British design, the interiors designed by Sir Hugh Casson, Director of Architecture to the Festival of Britain, and his Festival team;

* Integrated art: unusually rich integration of art and architecture, a rare example of sculpture by Henry Moore used in this way; augmented by works of art from the leading artists of the day, ruled integral to the building;
* Quality of materials and finishes: exempt from post-war building restrictions and employing designers of the highest calibre, it was detailed to a very high standard;

* Plan: designed to stand free of the buildings round it, without a conventional lightwell, the upper floors overlook and are lit by open terraced gardens;
* Interior plan: designed as a series of linked spaces moving from the entrance, through the foyer, rising via the main stair to a double-height first-floor reception room and thence to the terrace;

* Historic interest: built as the London headquarters for the American company Time Life, it was an expression of confidence in post-war Britain, and was the first major commercial building in London that was not subject to post-war building restrictions.

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