An Alessi kettle sits on a plywood coffee table surrounded by Eames lounge chairs on the penthouse floor of the new HQ for the Metropolitan Police, while a uniformed commissioner stands silhouetted against the London skyline. It is one of the seductive images submitted by architects Allford Hall Monaghan Morris (AHMM) in their entry for the New Scotland Yard competition in 2013, along with a picture showing their building as the dashing backdrop to a live TV news report. Another shot shows how it would look at night, its glazed rooftop pavilion transformed into a glowing blue lantern.
Image is clearly important to the Met but, four years on, it comes as a relief to find there are no £5,000 chairs or £150 kettles on the top floor of London’s new police HQ, a compact building about a sixth the size of its vast 1960s predecessor. In a move that is hoped will save £6m a year in running costs, Scotland Yard has downsized and returned to its handsome 1930s home in Westminster, a few doors down from the Houses of Parliament on the Embankment, in a symbol of the new-look lean policing.
“It’s all about agile working,” says Roger Harding, the Met’s director of real estate development, who, despite working on the design of the new building, doesn’t have a desk here. Instead, he works nomadically between the Tate, Royal Festival Hall and Starbucks. “We’ve gone from a building with 3,500 workstations to one with 550, so it’s taking some getting used to.” Fighting crime from cafes might sound like a risky business, but Harding insists the Met are simply “changing the IT footprint” to allow for secure working on the move, as detectives join the capital’s growing tribe of wifi workers.
The £58m extension and refurbishment of this neoclassical riverside pile marks the latest unlikely chapter in the Met’s almost 200-year history of moves. It has successively outgrown its premises since it was founded in a simple building in Whitehall in 1829. […]