1928: On London's Skyscraper

In images rivalling those of skyscraper construction in New York,  these men are building 55 Broadway - the headquarters of the Underground Electric Railways Company of London, a main forerunner of the London Underground.

Intended to be a bold exciting building to reflect the company's modern, progressive values, 55 Broadway was to be the tallest construction in London at that time.  There were problems to be overcome though - the ground had an irregular footprint and St James’s Park station was just 7.3 metres (24 ft) below the surface.

Architect Charles Holden designed the building and construction began in 1927, and it was completed in 1929. It was faced with Portland stone and several noted artists of the time were commissioned to provide decorative sculptures for the external walls.  Two of these, by Jacob Epstein, were considered scandalous owing to the nudity in one of the sculptures.  Epstein chipped about an inch from the penis of one of the figures and the matter was resolved.

The building is now Grade 1 listed.

( c)  Topfoto

(c)  Topfoto

'These apparently nerveless human flies who crawl about unsteady beams and girders at giddy heights call themselves 'Ironfighters''

- Original caption, 1928

(c)  Topfoto

 Text and curation: Amanda Uren