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The Shard team is helping transform Old Street into a tech hub

JUST what blue-sky thinkers from America’s tech hubs think when they visit their London counterparts is anyone’s guess. Old Street roundabout is more 1970s concrete jungle than futuristic Tech City. Yet Old Street is where the great digital innovators of the capital congregate — and town planners are finally re-landscaping the area for them.

The roundabout is undergoing a £25million redevelopment and now a gleaming new 40-storey tower called The Atlas from developer Rocket Properties and built by the construction firm behind the Shard, Mace, is taking shape on the east of the junction, a mixed use development that will provide 302 luxury apartments — ranging from studios to three-bedroom penthouses.

The 152-metre Atlas replaces a run-down 1980s red-brick office block that was once home to National Insurance workers. It seems word has got out among the techie community — the 26 studios in the tower, which were all priced at around £500,000, have sold out, even though the Atlas is not due to be completed until the second quarter of 2019.

Aerial view: Flat owners enjoy a grand outlook

Of the other apartments in the tower, there will be four penthouses, including one full floor apartment, and 33 ‘premium’ apartments which have larger dimensions and better views. Prices for the one to three-bedroom properties in Atlas range from £800,000 to £3.5million. There are only 60 unsold. It will also contain an extensive range of amenities including a gym, spa, 15 metre swimming pool and cinema room, plus an underground car park with space for 28 vehicles and free provision for 350 bikes. The service charge at the Atlas Building is £6.07 per sq ft per year.

Rocket Properties has previously delivered City Road, the largest hotel in the City, and Premier Inn, a 251 bedroom hotel at Old Street, so they are well acquainted with the area.

Rocket Properties director Andrew Hawkins, says: ‘It has been well received in Asia. We have also had a lot of downsizers from Islington and, significantly, seven properties have been bought by architects.’

The builder’s view

AFTER the challenges of building the £309.7m Shard, any construction project might seem a breeze.

But, as Tony Veal, Mace’s project manager, points out, each skyscraper brings its own challenges. The Atlas Building had a few complications, not least building a high-rise block on a major traffic artery with a number of very busy bus routes.

‘We also have Moorfields Eye Hospital almost adjacent to the site, so we needed to ensure noise levels were controlled accordingly,’ he says.

Veal also points to the issues regarding nearby rail and tube lines.

‘We needed to ensure the work did not cause any movement to the tunnels. We were helped by the fact the site is north of the Thames where the clay is more stable than on the south side.’

The architect’s view

TRANSFORMING the Old Street roundabout into a gleaming gateway to London’s Tech City was very much the brief that informed the Atlas building’s architecture.

‘It starts with the sheer scale of the building,’ says Neal Collins of the Design Delivery Unit. ‘This is easily the tallest tower in the Tech City gateway area and it is also extremely unusual for a building of this scale. It is very solid for a tall building — most towers of this size have a lot more glass to allow them to blend into the background.

‘The Atlas building is effectively a series of long rectangular planes of solid material pulled apart with glass in between. It’s like a great big microchip.

‘Hackney Council is very thorough in its due diligence and this is very much a marker building in the borough. But they were happy with the scale, so long as the design was good.

‘Because of the small base area it was decided to put the swimming pool on the first floor, when you would usually put this in the basement. This gives residents the unique experience of enjoying the daylight when they swim.’