The iconic structure at 100 Victoria Embankment, fondly known as ‘Unilever House’, holds more than meets the eye. Its outward appearance gives off the charm of a curved 1930s architecture. However, it’s the transformative work done on the inside that’s truly remarkable. Recognizing this unique blend of old and new, Unilever House was honoured as a RIBA Award Winner in 2009.
Unilever worked alongside Bovis Lend Lease, Stanhope, and architects KPF and Pringle Brandon. The aim was to breathe new life into their workspace and public exposure. Maintaining connections with the past, including the site’s history and the original 1920s building, was a significant part of the renovation plan.
Unilever House: Embracing the Past while Looking Forward
The renovation project kicked off with the removal and recycling of a substantial portion of the original structure. This was followed by the careful restoration of listed facades and the creation of modern, open spaces for the company.
Interestingly, 95 per cent of materials from the original Unilever House were recycled. This included up to 5000m2 of original parquet flooring, which now lends a cosy touch to the modern staff canteen.
In an ingenious utilization of space, the top floor roof areas were converted into meeting, social, and catering spaces. These were previously situated at ground and basement levels.
Artistic Brilliance at Unilever House
The renovated Unilever House is also home to a unique piece of British art. Conrad Shawcross, renowned for his mechanical sculptures rooted in philosophical and scientific ideas, was commissioned to contribute an artwork for the new atrium.
Shawcross’ creation features rotating trumpets. These intriguing structures rotate on two planes and complete a full circle over a span of 60 days.
In essence, Unilever House is more than just a building. It’s a fusion of the past and the present, a testament to the power of thoughtful restoration and modern design. Its transformation has not only provided Unilever with a vibrant new workspace but also served to strengthen the company’s ties with its rich history.
Hazel Baker is a qualified CIGA Tour Guide who delivers guided walks and private tours in London. View all of Hazel’s walking tours.