Rothschild has been located at New Court since N.M. Rothschild established residence there in 1809. New Court is situated on the architecturally rich site of St. Swithin's Lane, a narrow medieval alley in the heart of the City of London, and is adjacent to Christopher Wren’s historically significant St. Stephen Walbrook church. The new New Court is the fourth iteration of Rothschild’s London headquarters on the site, each increasingly isolating the church of St. Stephen Walbrook. What began as a dialogue between two open spaces in the city – a courtyard and a churchyard – has, through three centuries of transformation, been reduced to an accidental proximity.
OMA’s design of New Court, lead by Partners-in-charge Ellen van Loon and Rem Koolhaas, reinstates a visual connection between St. Swithin's Lane and St. Stephen Walbrook. Instead of competing as accidental neighbours, the church and New Court now form a twinned urban ensemble, an affinity reinforced by the proportional similarity of their towers. New Court is comprised of a simple extrusion transformed through a series of volumetric permutations into a hybrid of cube and annexes: a ‘cube’ of open office space and appendices of shared spaces and private work areas.
The central cube of the building consists of ten efficient and flexible open-plan office floors, which facilitate views over St. Stephen and the surrounding City. This cube is surrounded by four adjoining volumes – annexes – with support facilities to the Bank’s operations such as meeting rooms, vertical circulation, reception areas, and a staff cafe and gym. The fourth annexe, a Sky Pavilion, sits at the top of this central cube. The Sky Pavilion is an open space largely free of vertical elements. This affords a clear view of Wren’s most famous London Church, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and the rest of the City, and provides an appropriately unique space for high level functions.
At street level, the entire cube is lifted to create generous pedestrian access to the tall glass lobby and a covered forecourt that opens a visual passage to St. Stephen Walbrook and its churchyard – creating a surprising moment of transparency in the otherwise constrained opacity of the medieval streetscape. Reconnected, the two establish a continuity that radically transforms St. Swithin’s Lane and the setting of the Church.