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Facade with different levels

Facade with rounded corners

Stairwell

Main entrance atrium

Facade

Location

Bond Street, Bristol, BS1 3LG

Dates

c. 1982-4

Architect

BGP Group Architects

Style

Modernist with some Postmodern elements

Listed Status

None

Materials

Glass curtain wall on steel frame

Original Function

Office Building

Building type

Commerce

Visitor Access

The offices are occupied by Bupa Healthcare. Access to the exterior at all reasonable times to view the facade from Bond St.

Links

www.spectrumbristol.co.uk

Know Your Place

Key Facts

  • One of Bristol’s most controversial buildings
  • Bold, mirrored-glass cladding and innovative, futuristic shape
  • Makes a powerful Postmodern statement

This bold, modern building – containing office space to let – occupies a prime spot in the heart of the city, opposite Cabot Circus. There is a long, complicated story behind developing this site, stretching back to 1974. Many people got involved who didn’t want this kind of modern building, and today people still tend to either love or hate it. One striking feature is the blue, mirrored-glass cladding, which reflects the sky and everything around the building. Others are the blue-neon lighting at night and the futuristic, metal-framed shape.

 

The building has five storeys, dropping to three in places to merge with lower surroundings. Rounded corners and an arch-topped, conservatory-like entrance atrium are Postmodern in style. All of this was designed to provide a welcome contrast to the severe ‘glass cube’ approach of Modernism and to ‘brutalist’ 1960s and 1970s concrete office blocks.

Part of the reason for coming up with a very modern, quite ‘flashy’ design was to attract the interest of potential developers. Also, Spectrum House was originally supposed to create a strong focal point from the M32 but that effect is now less marked due to the re-routing of roads (2005–8) for the Cabot Circus development.

 

This was a tricky site because it also contains Georgian buildings ­– the frontages of Georgian buildings have been kept and extended at the back of this development, on Gloucester Street. Keeping just the frontages of older buildings was a controversial practice but much used in the 1970s and 1980s. Other notable features include a landscaped triangle at the front to soften the impact of the very modern design. Also, the offices are heated up and cooled by using waterways within the steel frame of the curtain walling. This was designed to reduce the likelihood of ‘sick building syndrome’.

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