Having completed Lloyd’s, Rogers found that attitudes in the City of London had changed, with a strong emphasis on conservation and a predilection on the part of the planners for ‘contextual’ - often Post-Modernist – designs where new building were concerned. Rogers, however, strongly favoured the retention of historic buildings of quality and agreed to advise the conservation group SAVE on its campaign to preserve the redundant Billingsgate fish market, owned by the City (which proposed to demolish it for redevelopment).
In the event, the market was retained and acquired by a major bank for conversion as a financial-services building. The client sought a large area of open dealing floor space – to which Victorian structure was ideally suited. Externally, the aim was to restore lost details and to clean and repair but to add nothing new. Inside, some changes were needed, chiefly to open up and use the huge basement vaults (which entirely lacked natural light). The main floor of the market was, however, uncompromised by the addition of the new galleries, lightweight and structurally independent of the existing building. One of the most striking internal spaces is the former ‘haddock gallery’, which was left intact and converted to office use. Close attention was paid to detailing to ensure an immaculate junction between old and new. Rogers commented on the scheme: ‘we sought harmony of modern with old in a single building’. Sited quite close to Lloyd’s, Billingsgate has come to epitomize Rogers’ views on urbanism.
Many old market buildings have been converted to new use, but few so successfully as this. Ironically, the completion of the scheme was followed by a reassessment on the part of the client of accommodation requirements and Billingsgate remained unused for some years. The vagaries of the market do not, however, detract from the achievement: this is an immaculate blend of old and new and the conversion has highlighted the quality of the original building.