A Green Gem by the Gherkin

London’s skyline is graced by a cornucopia of architectural wonders. Among these is the captivating ‘Gherkin’, an icon of the city’s innovative spirit. Near this monument, on Bury Street in the City’s northeast, lies a hidden gem — Holland House. One of Europe’s most significant buildings, it carries a history that is as fascinating as its design.

Holland House: Europe’s Steel-Frame Pioneer

Holland House boasts an impressive claim: it may be the first building on the European continent to feature a steel frame. This innovative approach to construction is just one of the many factors that make Holland House an architectural treasure.

Built between 1914 and 1916, Holland House served as the headquarters for the Kroller-Mullers shipping company. The mind behind its design was Dutch architect Hendrik Petrus Berlage. He incorporated steel-frame construction into Holland House, inspired by his transformative visit to the U.S. in 1911, where he encountered the works of the esteemed Frank Lloyd Wright.

One of the standout features of Holland House is its unique facade, adorned with green tiles. This characteristic detailing imbues the building with a unique and distinctive appearance. Further enhancing its charm is a carved sculpture of a freighter, located on its south-eastern corner. This artwork, crafted by J Mendes da Costa, gives the illusion of a ship sailing towards pedestrians at the entrance, adding an engaging and interactive element to the building’s aesthetic.

The design elements and motifs hint at the Art Deco movement, suggesting that Holland House was ahead of its time in terms of design trends.

An interesting feature of Holland House is its division into two parts. This split is a result of its construction around another office block, erected in 1912 for a grain dealer. This addition imbues Holland House with an intriguing character, a blend of the old and the new, that further enhances its architectural appeal.

Historical Roots: Bury Street

Bury Street, home to Holland House, is steeped in history. Its name originates from the Abbots of Bury St Edmunds, who resided here until the Dissolution. The location’s historical roots serve as a reminder of the architectural and cultural evolution that has taken place over centuries.

Conclusion: An Architectural Icon Near The Gherkin

In conclusion, Holland House is an architectural icon, tucked away in the shadow of The Gherkin. Its innovative steel-frame construction, distinctive green-tiled facade, and unique split design make it a fascinating element of London’s architectural landscape.

Despite its low-key location, Holland House stands as a testament to the innovative spirit of its architect and the evolving architectural trends of the early 20th century. So, the next time you’re near The Gherkin, remember to stroll down Bury Street and take a moment to appreciate this hidden architectural marvel.

Ian McDiarmid is a qualified City of London Tour Guide who delivers guided walks and private tours in London. View all of Ian’s walking tours.


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