The BT Tower, viewed from Fitzroy Square
Dominating London's skyline for the last 50 years, the BT Tower has been closed to the general public since 1980! In this 50th Anniversary year, there have been several opportunities for members of the public to gain access into the now Grade II listed building once again. Last month, I was lucky enough to be one of the 4,000 people who were allowed in to visit this year.
From when it was built until 1980, the Post Office Tower (as it was originally named) was the UK's tallest building. Today it occupies the place of London's 11th tallest building, beaten by newer constructions including the Gherkin, the Cheesegrater, One Canada Square (Canary Wharf) and of course the Shard. During the 1960's and 1970's, it was the venue for fine dining and cocktails in the infamous revolving 'Top of the Tower' restaurant. It was the Burj Khalifa of it's day - welcoming around 4,000 visitors per day. Alas, following a bomb in 1970, extensive building works were carried out to repair the damage and in 1980 the restaurant closed and in 1981 all public access to the building closed.
As you enter the reception of the BT Tower, you're treated to a fantastic projection that quickly sums up what the building is all about. I made a nifty little time-lapse so you can see it!
The entrance to the BT Tower creates a fantastic ambiance - the heritage and the prestige of the building is all laid bare, iconic symbols of BT's past are cleverly worked into modern art pieces to help visitors really understand the importance of the building. The obligatory airport style security screening heightens the excitement!
I register with the reception team and I'm issued my very own lift pass! There are a few tell-tale hallmarks of tall buildings, and the BT Tower absolutely had them: Lift Pass: Check! Iconic Signage: Check! Lift Graphics: Check!
Obligatory tall building lift pass!
Loving the iconic signage
My inner geek loved the lights illuminating as we ascended and de-luminating as
Classic red phone box reworked into BT's new colours and made over into a funky sofa in the reception area. Above BT Sport (which is transmitted from the tower) plays behind me.
A selection of phone boxes have had makeovers and now reside in the reception area of the BT Tower.
The foyer area has been made over to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the BT Tower. As with the reception desk, a cool projection was set up to create a bit of a wow.
As a fan of architecture, I felt that my visit lacked the architectural geekery that I craved. The tour really allowed for a good look around the ground floor public space and the viewing deck which was the restaurant with revolving floor. We were lucky enough to experience a full revolution of the viewing deck (it takes around 30 minutes), but the formica finishings made me feel as though I had stepped back in time. I couldn't help but feel I'd stepped into a part of London's history, which made me kind of sad. With the advent of fibre optics and new broadcasting technologies, the tower's future is perhaps less pertinent than its past. Looking towards the city and all the shiny new skyscrapers, I felt a bit sorry for the tower. Having received a bit of a makeover and some new furniture, the interior felt muddled.
Cocktail stools and chrome & glass tables jar with the beige formica that lines the walls, leaving the restaurant feeling a bit like a BHS cafe
Ok, so I've done a full intro to the building, and I'm sure you're keen to know the important bit: what's it like at the top?! Well, in honesty, the building has amazing views of London. I mean breathtaking, and different to the views you'll get from other tall building experiences in London due to its location.
At the end of the hour, when the floor stopped moving, we were invited for another ride in the lift, back down to the ground floor and back out onto the streets with a whole new appreciation for this magnificent city, brought about by this formidable building.