Friday, 10 July 2015


From 2015: Kent House and the redeveloped Kings Reach Tower.

I was over on London's South Bank yesterday and took the chance to snap this shot of a new addition to the skyline: the extensively refurbished (I would argue: basically rebuilt) Kings Reach Tower, former hope of IPC.

It's now known as the South Bank Tower and is being redeveloped for mixed use as retail, office and residential (imagine the view!) use. 

KRT was built in the early 1970s to house IPC's sprawling print empire (although printing itself was handled elsewhere) and allowed the publisher to concentrate their previously sprawling estate (built up by various acquisitions) onto one site.  The original tower was thirty stories, the replacement will boast forty-one.  

The Stamford Street icon will have been familiar to anyone who read 2000AD and SCREAM during the Star Age because it managed to house both Tharg's Command Centre (the whole building was basically a giant rocket... which may explain the need for extensive modifications now) and Ghastly McNasty's dungeon.  

Tharg was forced to decamp to less salubrious accommodation in the late Eighties when IPC management, realizing that comics were no longer going to be a mainstream cash cow and were evolving into a niche product unworthy of the conglomerate's attentions, flogged everything still in print to Robert (Money's no object) Maxwell in 1987.  The cast adrift Youth Group revived the Fleetway brand (originally created by Mirror Group when they acquired Amalgamated Press, based in Farringdon Street's Fleetway House, in 1959.  The brand was formally phased out, in favor of IPC, in 1968 although it continued to appear on the publisher's annuals for decades to come.  

IPC was sold to Time Inc (part of the huge Time Warner media mammoth notorious for its disastrous purchase of AOL in 2000) in 2001.  The rapidly contracting IPC decamped from the tower in 2007.  The IPC name was dropped, in favor of Time Inc UK, in September 2014.  

The white building to the left will be instantly recognizable to any Star Age Warrior who lived in London and watched TV at the weekends.  The 24-storey Kent House, opened in 1972, was built to house London Weekend Television, the ITV franchise holder that went on-air in 1968.  The iconic building survived the mergers and contractions (and the competitive franchise round which swept away fellow London operator Thames in the Nineties) and eventually (probably because they like the view) became the corporate HQ for ITV.  Most of the broadcaster's other regional centres closed as the business was streamlined.  

The tower has studios at the base and offices above (it's a sign of ITV's former complexity that a whole tower was required to house the operations of a broadcaster that only operated from Friday evenings to Sunday night... although programme making, of course, happened all week) but rumors persist that ITV plans to vacate the offices and make a killing by selling them for (you guessed it) residential use.  LWT's original bosses were smart enough (and well aware of the fragile here-today, gone-tomorrow awarding of ITV franchises at the whim of the ITA and latterly IBA) to design the building to make subsequent conversion possible.  Future proofing. 

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